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
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!
Come across an outdated link?
Please visit The Wayback Machine to find what you are looking for.