Learn strategies for building positive, compassionate classroom communities that engage learners, and find and exchange tips for coping with disruptive behaviors and managing distraction.
6 Classroom Management Tips Every Teacher Can Use
Effective teachers are passionate about educating their students. They want to spend their time teaching, not dealing with classroom disruptions.
Here are some classroom management tips to help teachers settle problems, or prevent them from occurring, so that they can spend more of the classroom hour on teaching and learning.
1. Take Charge of Your Class
Get everyone’s attention before beginning class. That means the lesson won’t be started, the lecture won’t begin, and nothing will be written on the overhead until everyone is in his or her seat paying attention. It doesn’t take a shout of “Let’s be quiet” or “I won’t start until everyone is ready” to get them to focus on you. It can be just as effective to walk to the front of the room and engage them with something interesting to them such as “My thermometer said it was zero this morning. It must have been freezing out there waiting for the bus” or “How many of you saw the Hunger Games?” Open with couple attention getting comments and continue until everyone is with you. Remember, don’t start teaching until all eyes are on you and everyone is in their seat.
2. Focus on the Disruptive Students
If students aren’t paying attention or busy doing other things, get them focused by using nonverbal signals of disapproval. If they are talking, pause and look toward them. If in front of the class, continue with the lesson but walk toward the problem students and stop near their seats, while still teaching. Having you so near usually shuts off the unwanted activity as the rest of the class’s attention is directed toward the misbehaving students. If there is a discussion going, direct a question to the student who is not paying attention or misbehaving. For example, say “Kevin, would you agree that the Battle of New Orleans was the turning point of the War of 1812?” Hearing his name will snap Kevin back to the class activity having the same effect without embarrassing him as if you had said, “Kevin, pay attention!” Remember to use his name when you begin to speak, otherwise he may not hear the question. Calling on a person by name brings almost anyone out of his or her reverie.
If non-verbal cues are disregarded, the next step will be imposing discipline measures within the classroom such as having them stay a few minutes after class or changing their seat.
3. Let Students Choose Their Seats
At the beginning of the school year, let students sit where they want for a few days. Then about the third day tell them that the next class period they should find a seat that they will keep permanently all year. When students choose their seats, they have “ownership” in those seats and tend to behave well in order to avoid being moved.
4. Give Incentives to Do Their Best on Assignments
If an assignment will not be collected and graded individually, students may feel they have no reason to make an effort to do a good job on the no-credit assignment. For instance, a teacher will often do an ungraded warm-up exercise to begin the class hour.
Here’s a strategy to elicit better performance on an ungraded assignment: Tell students you will randomly collect one person’s warm-up assignment and correct it. If that paper has no mistakes, then the whole class will have a shorter (or no) warm-up the next day. If a randomly selected paper is perfect, that student instantly is the class hero.
If the student has not made a real effort, then that student will be given a short homework assignment, due the next day. He or she will be penalized if it is not done. (This homework cannot be done during class time.) In most cases, students will work for peer approval by doing the assignment.
Another strategy to motivate students to stay on task would be to have students who have not stayed on task remain after class for a minute. If there is no penalty for not working, they have no reason to work.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Students
Class goes so much better when you can see your students. Turn your back on them and you may get surprised. Position your so that most, if not all of the class is visible. Watch out for shelves, computer equipment or class supplies that can block your view. When teaching, try to be facing students as much as possible.
As you work with a student at his or her desk, place yourself so you can see most of the class. As you move around the classroom, don’t follow the same pattern. By varying your routine, it becomes harder for students to be disruptive if they don’t know where you will be.
6. Establish Consequences for Misbehaving
Good classroom management starts the first day of school. Once students learn there will be consequences for misbehavior, they usually come around.
Here are three steps to help you set up consequences:
1. Determine what consequences will be effective with your students. Ask yourself what students don’t want to have happen—for example, adolescent students hate staying after class, being moved from a seat they’ve chosen, or receive the disapproval of their peers. Make those your consequences. (The reverse is also true,” Find out what students want to have happen and make that a possibility.” Classroom management doesn’t have to be negative.)
2. Tell students that there will be consequences for misbehavior. First, you will put their name on the board. Tell them that how long they stay after class depends on how the rest of the hour goes. They now control their own destiny. If they behave, they will stay perhaps only a minute. If they continue to cause problems, they will stay longer. Tell them if they become a “model citizen,” you might even erase their name.
3. Follow through with consequences for misbehavior. Show students that you are serious and they will take you seriously.
Classroom management, especially with elementary and junior high age students, never ends. It is an ongoing process, but once the foundation is laid, it only takes occasional reminders.
Top 12 Proven Classroom Management Tips
Teaching is tough job, no doubt about it. And working with young children can be a little overwhelming at times, especially when class sizes are large. But many seasoned educators have a sixth sense when it comes to classroom management—what works and what doesn’t—and thankfully, many of their strategies are available on the web and in print to help other teachers achieve the same success. So check out our list of proven tips to help you manage your classroom more efficiently and effectively.
Tip #1: Establish classroom rules immediately and enforce them consistently.
Establish rules on the first day of class, and always follow through on the specified rewards for achievement and consequences for misbehavior. If you allow a student to get away with misbehavior without consequence even once, you’ve opened the door to future misbehavior and negotiation of rules. This is particularly important at the beginning of the year, when you’re building your students’ trust in you as their teacher.
Tip #2: Set logical rules and consequences.
Keep the goal of learning in mind and make sure students know why the rules are what they are: “We walk instead of running in the hallway because we want to make sure that everyone is safe.” And fit the consequence to the crime: If a student makes a mess of the art supplies, the logical consequence is to clean it up. Arbitrary punishments like losing recess, or something else unrelated to the offense, teach students that you are mean and trying to force a power struggle.
Tip #3: Use positive instead of negative language.
As soon as you tell someone not to do something, the first image in that person’s head is what you said not to do. I’ll show you: Don’t think about ducks wearing hats. Are you thinking about ducks wearing hats? Thought so. To avoid the meddlesome subconscious, opt for positive-language instead of negative-language rules. For example:
And use the word “consequences” instead of the extremely negative “punishments.”
Tip #4: Make your students feel responsible for their own learning environment.
Give your students agency over their learning environment, which gets them feeling responsible for their own learning. Create rules together as a class, encourage those with leadership personalities to direct the in-class discussion, and walk around instead of standing up front for the entire lesson so that you aren’t the funnel for conversation. Ask students to “check” themselves, as in “Check yourself to see if you are using your indoor voice,” which sends the message that you see the students as individuals who are capable of handling themselves.
Tip #5: Praise efforts and achievements for their own sake, not for the sake of teacher approval.
Give constant feedback about good behaviors: “I notice that Danielle has her book out and is ready to go. Now her whole row is ready!” But keep the emphasis on the behavior, not on the teacher’s approval. Avoid saying, “I like how…” because it doesn’t matter what the teacher likes. Students shouldn’t do things to please the teacher; they should do things because they are the right things to do.
Tip #6: Be mindful of different learning paces and keep the students occupied.
Not all students learn at the same pace. Stick with those who don’t understand the topic and check in with them regularly to help them keep up to speed and don’t get frustrated and act out in response. On the flipside, bored students cause problems. Make sure that you are challenging the students who move more quickly through the material by over-planning and preparing extra, quiet activities. For example, if a student has finished their still life painting with 20 minutes to spare, challenge them to step up to the next level — introduce an unfamiliar object and a clean piece of paper.
Tip #7: Avoid confrontations in front of students.
It is never a good idea to make an example of a student by shaming them in front of his or her peers. If you’re dealing with a misbehavior, speak to the student in the hallway or after class to resolve the issue instead of allowing an in-class confrontation.
Tip #8: Connect with the parents.
Make contact with parents early and often. Encourage attendance at parent-teacher conferences, if your school uses them, and demonstrate that you want to work with the parents to instruct their children to the best of your ability. If you develop a good relationship with the parents, you’ll open a dialogue between parent, student, and teacher that allows for a freer flow of feedback — and it always helps to have the parents’ trust.
Tip #9: Interactively model behaviors.
The first time you do something, show the students how to do it. Then ask them to share what they noticed about what you did. Then ask a student to do it, and discuss that action with the class. Then have the whole class practice. If you go slow the first time, you’ll be able to go faster later with the assurance that all the students know how to perform the action the right way.
Tip #10: Get the attention of every student before beginning class.
This doesn’t require shouting “Be quiet, class is beginning” — in fact, that’s almost sure to backfire. Instead, stand silent and wait until the students shush each other and settle. Or, if that’s not your style, redirect the beginning-of-class chatter by throwing out an engaging question, comment, or observation: “It’s been snowing for three days straight! Has anyone been playing in the snow?” Once you have everyone’s attention, proceed with the day’s lesson plan.
Tip #11: Use proximity and directness to your advantage.
If a student is misbehaving in class, continue your lesson but walk over and stand next to them. Having a teacher so close usually shuts down a student’s misbehavior. You can also use a direct question to snap them back into the lesson: “Kevin, why do you think Hamlet is so indecisive?” Be sure to start the call-out with their name so that they hear the full question.
Tip #12: Be organized.
Structure, both within a lesson and throughout the academic term, will help your students stay on top of their work. Write the day’s activities on the board before class. Hand out a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and stick to it; if you get off track, provide a revised syllabus so that students always know where they are in the course. During class, be prepared for each ensuing activity; lag time waste both your and your students’ time and introduces apathy into the classroom.