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Monday, November 14, 2011

Top 10 Classroom Management Tips for Teachers

What is classroom management?  Wikipedia gives a classroom management definition as:

“A term used by teachers to describe the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite disruptive behavior by students.”

Listed below are several techniques, ideas, resources, and tips for teachers to hone the right skills to conquer their classroom:

1. Start the year tough.
Many teachers make the mistake of starting the school year with a poor discipline plan or without any classroom management plan at all.  It is so much easier to start tough and then lighten up, then to start light and discipline more.  At the beginning of the year, students quickly assess the situation and realize what they will be allowed to get away with.  Starting the year tough will give you control and flexibility.

2. Be fair to all students.  
Students are the first to recognize a teacher’s favorites or biases. This is dangerous because it could lead to disruption if they sense that a teacher has favorites.  Treat all without partiality and make sure all are included and engaged in class material.  Without fairness, knowing all of the best teaching methods and strategies will be useless.


3. Be prepared for disruptions---and don’t let them phase you.
Students often amplify their teacher’s reaction to disruptions—be ready for them and be ready to calmly and quickly pick up where you left off.  Having a joke or interesting comment ready to bring attention back to you will allow you to transition back to the material.  It is also good to be prepared for emergencies.

Taking the time to structure your lessons and units around specific objectives will keep students focused and prevent them from drifting off topic. Organization permeates every facet of teaching and classroom life. From knowing where classroom materials are located to understanding how you want to plan lessons, organization can make the difference between a smooth or rocky classroom.

4. Instill high expectations
Expect that your students will behave, not that they will disrupt. Reinforce this with the way you speak to your students. When you begin the day, tell your students your expectations for the day and they will have the goals engrained in their head and will be less likely to cause trouble.

It’s never too early to encourage students to act with personal responsibility. Show them that there are consequences, both positive and negative, to their actions and decisions. Include them when possible in creating rules and methods of evaluation in the class, and provide them the opportunity to lead class discussions. They will approach these situations more seriously if they can claim a sense of ownership.

5.  Incentivize good behavior.
Motivating students though rewards like no homework, watching a video, ice cream, or free-activity time can help students by giving them a goal.  This can also help students hold each other accountable to class goals and stigmatize negative behavior even more.

Always understand that young students are not adults, but they will feel empowered and motivated that they possess independence and individuality in the classroom, which can provide lessons and skills that will benefit them well after they have left your class.

6. Overplan.
Make sure you have plenty of activities to cover classroom time.  It is wise to have several go-to activities to do if and when a lesson finishes early.  It is sometimes the point of no return when students realize they are done with planned activities.

Consider the best way to present lesson plans to students, whether it’s through syllabus handouts, daily updates on your whiteboard, or through using computer resources. By being organized, you and your students will look back at year’s end and feel accomplished at everything that’s been done.

7. Have a clearly expressed disciplinary plan…with consequences!
Make sure students know the disciplinary ladder well.  Any hint of ambiguity can leave a loophole for excuses (and students are great at making excuses!).  Warn students when they are close to breaking a rule so there will be no ambiguity when that line is crossed.

Strong, direct communication is pivotal in establishing rules and explaining assignments, but it is also just as important when addressing poor behavior in the classroom. If a student is acting out, use clear, decisive language when communicating to them about what they have done wrong. Failing to be direct lessens the impact of the discipline and risks other students questioning your authority because they see there is little consequence for acting out. You strive to establish strong communication with your students, and it is important to use it when necessary to correct misbehaviors in the classroom.

If you constantly raise your voice to get the attention of the class, consider investing in a classroom amplification system which can save your voice by projecting it. 
Teachers love amplified classroom systems because they make it easier to get the attention of the whole class and stick to curriculum. 

The iPod Portable PA system is a great system for classrooms because it features an iPod dock that simultaneously plays and charges your iPod and also has outputs for a projector.

8. Focus on relationships.
A teacher than can connect positively with their students will make students behave and easier to manage because students will regard the teacher much like a friend.  Using positive reinforcement to build a positive reputation for the child gives the student confidence that their teacher believes in them and will make it harder to disappoint the teacher with bad behavior or work ethic.

Parent-teacher conferences, open houses and other school sponsored events are great opportunities to interact with parents and talk about how their child is doing in class, but it also pays off to reach out directly beyond these events. Taking the time to share both areas of strength and areas of improvement about their kids will build trust with parents, and create a strong channel of communication that will have a positive impact on the student. Fostering a relationship with parents can go a long way in anticipating and addressing any problems that may arise both in and outside of the classroom.

9. Be careful about confrontation.
Confrontation needs to not humiliate nor does it need to be done in front of others.  A bad confrontation situation could cause turn a teacher into an enemy in the eyes of a student.  This will only amplify bad behavior.

As a teacher, you are the unquestioned leader of the classroom, and it is vital you set the tone for the year by establishing rules to follow and the expectations you have for students. But it is also important to engage with students and allow them to ask what they expect from you and the class. Students will feel empowered knowing that they have a voice, and will also feel more confident tackling the work ahead because they understand what to expect going forward.

You will have a stronger understanding of classroom dynamics, and may even be able to prevent misbehaviors and problems from occurring because you have established a two-way channel of communication and feedback. Direct engagement with students about these matters will ensure both you and your students are on an equal level of understanding going forward.

10. Be patient and keep practicing.
Don’t worry if things don’t go well right away…controlling your classroom is learn-able but will always be a challenge with some students.  
Whether you are teach a kindergarten class, at an elementary school, middle school, or high school, it is best to “Expect the Unexpected” and be ready for adversity!

For more information on classroom discipline, classroom behavior management, or organization please check back at blog.ampli.com or visit the AmpliVox YouTube Channel.

By Kevin Halloran

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