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NYC Helpline: How To: Get Started
How to Home
NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: How To Get Started

Some Classroom Management Tips
Judi Fenton

New teachers often think that there is only one way to handle discipline in the classroom. The reality is that each group of kids is different and will respond to your classroom management efforts in different ways. I have taught classes where clapping my hands would produce immediate silence. I have also taught classes where I had to go around the room and ask each child individually to pay attention in order to hear the next instruction. That method took a lot more time!

Experienced teachers aren’t magically “better” at management. They have learned to read each group of students and they have acquired a variety of strategies to address the needs of that particular group. It’s similar to differentiating instruction. Assessing your students individually and as a group is the key to figuring out what works.

Here are a few management tips that have served me well over the years. They take into account ways you can treat individual students and groups differently, so that the conditions for a productive classroom environment can be achieved.

  • Create class norms (or rules) with students. You’ve probably heard conflicting advice. You should create rules with your students. You should create the rules yourself, without student input. I have found that it is most useful to include students in setting norms about how we all wish to be treated in the class. (See my article Setting Norms with Your Students.)

  • Go over the class norms and expectations often. Within the context of the day, point out to students how they are living up to the norms (for example, being kind to one other, respecting one another’s opinions, listening carefully to each other, etc.) This reinforces how you and the class want to be treated and helps students internalize the norms.

  • Measure the behavior against the norms. Don’t make yourself into the bad guy enforcer by saying that the behavior must stop because you won’t allow it, but refer to the norms. “Look at our class norms. How does your behavior fit into the way we all decided we want to be treated?” It’s hard to argue with rules or norms that one has had a hand in crafting. Using this method also helps because it identifies the specific behavior as a problem without labeling the student as a problem.

  • Don’t confront or embarrass the student. When a student is disruptive during class, yelling at that student to stop disrupts the whole class and embarrasses the student. I know that when someone embarrasses me, the last thing I want to do is what they want me to do! Instead, try one of these approaches:

    • walk quietly to the student and touch him or her on the shoulder
    • speak quietly to the student
    • simply stand next to the student.
  • Some teachers I know communicate in writing with their students. An index card placed on the student’s desk with a written request to stop the behavior can be very effective. The same teachers also use this method to reinforce positive behavior. Students seem to love this index card method.
  • If you have a child who consistently disrupts or breaks rules, you can create a system of nonverbal communication with that student. The student can signal to you (with a tug on the ear, for example) that he/she feels out of control and needs your attention or needs to leave the room for a moment to settle down. You can have a secret signal to tell him that his behavior has to stop. Students feel special having a secret communication method with their teacher—it makes them feel as though you understand them.


  • Remember that you are the adult in the situation and you are ultimately responsible for your students’ well-being. I understand that as a beginning teacher we are often not much older than our students. But we are not their friend, even though we sometimes act as a friend. It is our responsibility to ensure that our students are safe and feel safe in our classroom. If they feel that you are unable to handle any disruption or incident, they will not trust you with their physical well-being, or with their learning. So it is important for you to project a feeling of calm confidence, even if you don’t feel calm or confident inside.

Please email me with any management questions you have. I’ll try to help!

 

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