Have the classroom management blues? We’re here to help!

By Mark Higgins

We know the feeling… We know you’ve put a great deal of effort into planning your lessons and that everything you do is for their benefit. It can be draining when our wonderful students seem incapable of staying on task and getting work done, but rest assured, you’re not the first teacher to have a rough day. We have collected some strategies teachers can use to improve their classroom management skills. We know there are a million and one things that can affect the dynamic of a classroom at any one time, but try these out.

Before class: Making a Pre-emptive strike

Ever heard that failing to plan is planning to fail? Effective planning can eliminate many behavioural issues before the students walk through the door.

1. Reflect on your instruction

As you become more experienced you will improve your teaching practices and your students will respond to you better as a result.

2. Set clear expectations

Keep students aligned with school policies, and communicate them to students regularly. Visual displays of these policies in your classroom can serve as helpful reminders during lessons.

3. Set up your classroom exactly how you want it

Organise seating arrangement plans to separate students who don’t work well together. Ensure you can move freely through your classroom and have easy access to resources that you will need. Don’t allow students to move the furniture around unless they have permission. Have them leave the room as they found it.

4. Use settling activities

After lunch and Friday afternoons can be difficult periods for students to focus. Start with a settling activity like reading, watching an introductory video or mindfulness exercises. Dim the lights, calm things down for 5-10 minutes before diving into lesson activities.

5. Make your lessons consistent and organised 

Have your activities ready to go before the class starts and make the start of each lesson consistent so you don’t waste time trying to settle students. Teach your class that when they enter the room they are to sit down and work on what is written on the board. Recognise and reward students who settle into work without prompting.

6. Ensure students come to class prepared

If students consistently fail to bring the required equipment and resources to class, collect their books at the end of each lesson to be safely stored in the classroom. Have a designated student hand out the books or distribute books on desks at the beginning of the lesson. Supply pencils for writing if necessary but enforce the expectation of coming into class prepared to work and follow up on students who consistently do not have their own equipment.

7. Decide on fair consequences

Let the students know what actions have what consequences and stick to them. Students will quickly learn how much they can get away with-with any teacher. They also will call foul if you’re not consistent, so if it’s good for one, it has to be good for all.

Dealing with Low-Level Classroom Management and Behavioural Issues

Most teachers will commonly come across these difficulties. Serious issues should be sent up the flagpole; however, professional teachers will be expected to deal with the everyday issues as they arise during a class. The following strategies are aimed at assisting teachers with minor issues that arise during class.

1. Laugh

If possible and appropriate, make light of the situation to relieve tension and build positivity in the classroom. Dad jokes are OK! Being a dag may make them roll their eyes, but it shows students that you’re not afraid to make fun of yourself and to have a bit of fun. Humour goes a long way in building positive rapport with your students.

2. Simply wait

Sometimes they just won’t be quiet. It’s rude, it’s frustrating and it sucks away precious teaching time. Instead of constantly calling out every negative behaviour (the students will probably ignore this anyway), stay calm, be patient and just wait. After a minute or two they should start self-calming and re-focus. Resist the urge to engage in verbal battles. If you refuse to be drawn in, students will learn that there’s no point baiting you.

3. Communication

The louder you get, the louder they are going to get. Talking clearly, calmly and confidently will encourage students to quieten down and hear what you are saying. Use verbal and non-verbal cues to initiate calm and focus. Don’t make requests like “Would you please settle down?”. Avoid pointless questions such as “Why are you out of your seat?”. Use calm, constant directional language and give cues to the whole class; “Settle down for now. Eyes and ears here. Some students are out of their seats. It’s very distracting. Eyes and ears here” until you have their attention. Wait until everyone is settled before progressing.

4. Proximity

Still not focused? Walk quietly and position yourself close to disruptive students. Use calm, non-verbal gestures like placing a hand on their desk lightly, make the “shhh” sign or count down with your fingers slowly. Try not to stand over a student. Crouching to their level is less threatening and confrontational.

5. Check-in

If you know of some students that have problems settling in general, check-in with them, ask if they have understood the instructions or require help. Ask them how their day has been going. Give them a moment to respond and when they’re attentive, re-focus them to work and be available to help them if needed. Keep interactions positive as much as possible.

6. Positive reinforcement

Instead of calling out negative behaviour, acknowledge and reward positive behaviour as it happens in your classroom. If students want your attention, teach them they’ll only get it if they’re doing the right thing. Devise a reward system to motivate students if it’s appropriate for your school.

7. Reflect and communicate

Make a list of recurring behaviours that your students are getting away with. Thinking of solutions to these problems can be difficult so it is often worth seeking assistance from your colleagues and executive staff. See who has experienced similar problems (you absolutely won’t be alone) and develop better management strategies together.

8. Build rapport

This one will take time but think beyond the classroom when you’re dealing with your students. Ask them questions about their interests, support them at school sport competitions or extra-curricular activities they are involved in, or say hello to them on playground duty. Try to have positive interactions with them wherever possible to help build genuine rapport with them and you will see the benefits in your classroom.

Obviously, teachers need to be well-aware of and abide by their school’s behavioural policies. Remember to be patient. Nobody becomes an expert in classroom management overnight and by practicing strategies and building consistency, you will see results. Remember too, that they are just kids. Don’t sweat a sweaty teenager—it probably isn’t personal. Don’t worry if they take several lessons before they learn to quieten down—you will get there. Vent. Talk things out with your colleagues. Teaching is a challenging career and ClickView is always here to help you meet those challenges.

Good luck and stay sane!

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