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Strategies for Classroom Management
Sharon Longert

Effective classroom management comes from strategies that prevent acting out before it occurs. Students come to school ready to learn both content and appropriate behavior. We can give them the opportunity to achieve both in a structured and safe environment.

Students want to be assured that the classroom structure provides consistent rules with consistent consequences when the rules are broken. Establishing that structure creates a safe place where the students can focus on learning. Often acting out behavior is really a call to the teacher to set limits, maintain rules, and structure the environment so everyone can learn, even when learning is seen as “uncool.”

As teachers we come to the classroom with an intention of teaching and are aware of our role model position even though we may be lacking sleep, feeling unprepared, or thinking about our families and outside obligations. We need to get through to students in a firm yet soft, correcting yet inviting, respectful and dignified way so we can learn from each other. Strategies that improve student and teacher interactions also promote student learning.

Volume, Tone, Posture
Teachers always need to teach behavior! Be clear about what appropriate behavior looks like. Ask a student directly and quietly to put distracting material away and follow the lesson, or shift volume and tone to make direct eye contact with the student so that s/he knows that another behavior is expected. It is never a good idea to humiliate a student in front of his/her peers; allowing a sub–vocal comment from the student is the student’s way of saving face in front of peers ( as long as it is not abusive or inappropriate).

Developed by Raymond Wlodkowski, this strategy encourages the teacher to focus on the most difficult students for two minutes a day for ten consecutive days. Teachers engage in a personal conversation with the student about anything the student cares to discuss. Researchers found an improvement in the targeted student’s behavior and in the whole class as well. The student and the teacher develop a strong personal connection. “Not only does it help with the toughest students, but it also helps the teachers remember their humanity as they attempt to survive and thrive in the classroom.” (Wlodkowski) 

Small Steps
Content material is often better digested when broken into smaller steps or bits, the same is true for behavioral learning. Specific small steps work better than a large message. Instead of, “Clean up,” try guiding the student through smaller steps that get the job done. “Pick up the crayons and place them in the boxes. Place the extra paper in the correct bin. Place the project in a folder to be completed next time.” When the students are given very clear and easy-to-follow instructions, they will probably complete the task in the way you expect.

Behavior Rubrics
Often teachers tell students to use their “inside” or “outside” voices to control the volume in the classroom. A 1-5 rubric is more specific and gives more opportunities for a variety of school and social situations.  A 1 is appropriate for a quiet request to another student; a 2 or 3 for use during group work; a 4 for a debate in class; a 5 on the playground or the ball field. Students can be reminded by the teacher or another student when to go to the next lower volume level. Other behavioral rubrics can be created so students have a clear understanding of what they are doing and how it needs to change for various classroom situations.

Visual Reminders
Visuals are good reminders to students. Diagrams, drawings, photos, and overheads are cues for what is expected. A count down timer also gives an audible cue for completion of work and time for free activity.

“Assuming the best is an underlying orientation that enables us to treat both our students and ourselves with respect and dignity. It helps us understand that when students act out, they are sending us a message that they want a positive connection. Then we can start to see “discipline moments” as opportunities for teaching an essential piece that students want to learn.” (Smith)

Students are aware of what the elements for success look like, we are in the classroom to guide them to find success.

Smith, Rick and Lambert, Mary, “Assuming the Best,” Educational Leadership, September 2008.

Wlodkowski, R. J. (1983), Motivational Opportunities for Successful Learners, Phoenix, AZ: Universal Dimensions.

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail me.

See also: The Basics of Classroom Management by Charlene Davis

Teaching a Rule or Routine by James E. Dallas


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