You will know when you walk into a successful classroom managed by an effective teacher because these basic classroom techniques will have already been mastered by the teacher. The good news is that that implementing these seven basic techniques are not hard or labor intensive, but each one of them is equally important, so it’s imperative that you do not skip one or pay more attention to one than the other.
If your current classroom is in a state of disarray, and you seem to be at your wits end by the time the dismissal bell rings, then pay close attention because it does not need to be like that, nor will you be able to withstand years in this profession. Continuing on this path will only lead to teacher burnout, which will bring on survival mode. You can read more about survival mode in this previous post.
1. Be Prepared Every Day Before the Students Arrive
- Celebrate each day of school like it’s the first day. This means that you should be greeting your students (by name) as they come in through your classroom door.
- Example: “Good morning, Emma! Welcome back! How was your soccer game last night?” Wave, smile, shake their hand and welcome them back, even if you just saw them yesterday. Let them know you care by adding personal touches. It’s OK to let them know you are human. This makes all the difference.
If students get the feeling that you want to be there and you truly enjoy your job as an educator, then they will feed off your positive energy. Sadly, the same goes for a negative attitude. We all have bad days. I get it, but do whatever you can to keep that smile on your face.
If the students get a negative vibe from you, then you can just about bet that you have set yourself up for failure (for that day at least). A negative attitude spreads like the most invasive, malignant cancer. What you choose to focus on will expand, so choose to be positive. Click to download 10 of my favorite inspirational printables for FREE!
- Students also want to know what they are going to be learning about that day. They strive on routine, so I recommend posting a daily agenda on the white board right next to the performance expectation (aka I Can statement or objective). The I Can statement is a must, and most school districts require student-friendly performance expectations to be visible at all times, preferably in close proximity to your daily lesson plan.
- Students want to know that they are in the right place. If you poll a group of incoming freshmen, one of their greatest fears about entering high school is that they will get lost, enter the wrong classroom and be humiliated. You can help alleviate some of their fears by having your name and room number clearly visible on your classroom door.
- Have a warm-up question or bell-ringer posted on the interactive board for the students to begin working on immediately upon arrival to help set the tone for learning.
- If possible, make all of your copies a week in advance. I like to do this on a Friday during my planning period or immediately after school when all of the other teachers evacuate like the building is on fire. This allows me to prepare ahead of time so that I am not waiting on a copy machine minutes before the take-in bell (and you know it’s going to jam). Also, if you magically finish a lesson early you will have all of the necessary materials to move on to the next day’s lesson so that you are maximizing your instructional time.
2. Establish Credibility with Your Students
To establish credibility with your students, you must:
- Come to work on a consistent basis.
- Have a plan in place.
- Have high expectations.
- Dress professionally.
If you come to school on a daily basis looking like you just rolled out of bed with a messy mom bun, no make-up and a t-shirt, flip-flops and wrinkled pants, it may be harder for your students to take you seriously. I understand that you may not have the budget to do a complete wardrobe overhaul, but investing in some basic staple pieces that can be easily mixed and matched may make a difference. When I am dressed for success, I always feel more confident and it is evident in the delivery of my lesson. My students respect me because they see that I respect myself.
3. Create and Implement a Discipline Plan
One of the best investments of your time is the creation of an effective discipline plan. “I don’t care if my students misbehave,” said no teacher ever. Students want to know what is expected of them, and it is your job to relay that message to them with a set of written rules that clearly send the message as to what you deem appropriate behavior.
If your students are running amuck and you’ve allowed them to do so for an extended period of time without reprimand, then it will be much harder to change this pattern of inappropriate behavior than to reinforce established appropriate behavior. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but it will be a long road.
Be confident in yourself, and enforce your rules like you mean it. If the students see that the rules are important to you and that you mean business, you will hold the power. Once you have the power, hold on to it for dear life.
4. Have Clear Procedures and Routines in Place
Effective teachers establish rules, routines and procedures on Day 1 and remain consistent throughout the course of the year. Never have I ever began teaching any content on the first day or even the first few days for that matter.
Rookie teachers will want to dive right in, figuring they will just incorporate teaching procedures somehow when the time is fitting for them. Wrong. This mistake will cost that rookie teacher because without a clear set of rules, routines and procedures in place, they will begin to see disruptive behavior much more quickly. If you do not have a plan in place, then it will be much harder for your administration to back you up.
Do not get confused between a discipline plan and a classroom management plan. Although they do go hand in hand, your classroom management plan focuses on how you want things done without ties to consequences or rewards, whereas your discipline plan focuses on student behavior with direct ties to consequences and rewards.
Students want to know what to expect. They don’t want to guess, and when they are confused, then frustration sets in, creating problems and disruptive behavior. There is no procedure too small. I even have a procedure for sharpening pencils!
There is a direct correlation between student achievement and the implementation of an effective classroom management plan. It is this one plan that can make or break your success as a teacher, so focus a lot of attention on it.
5. Promote Cooperative Learning
In a cooperative learning environment, everyone has a role and contributes equally. Cooperative learning requires students to work in small groups based on ability to help one another complete an assigned task, allowing for the development of social and leadership skills.
Grouping does not have to be difficult, and it is important that student groups are decided ahead of time. You want harmonious transitions, and this will only come about if you have first taught grouping procedures (part of your classroom management plan).
Don’t be discouraged if the transitions aren’t seamless on the first try. It will take some practice. I have never come across a piece of research that has indicated that cooperative learning has ever lead to a decrease in student achievement, so keep at it until you find your groove.
6. Maximize Instructional Time
There will come a time (or two, or three) that you will encounter that student that just seems unreachable. They have no interest in learning or participating in the activity that you spent hours planning. The good news is that you can still reach this student, but the only way you will be able to increase student learning is by maximizing your instructional time.
Just like an athlete must practice in order to excel at their sport, the student must also practice their learning to excel academically. If you do all the work for your students, then you have done them a disservice, and your students will not perform well on tests because they haven’t learned anything.
Like I mentioned earlier, you must set the tone for learning immediately upon students’ arrival, and I do this with a bell-ringer or warm-up activity. Directly instruct procedures, routines and content to set your students up for success, and then you sit back and facilitate while they discover and take ownership of their learning. It’s possible. I’ve done it!
7. Make Assignments Clear and Concise
When directions are clear, whether verbal or written, and the structure of your assignment is easy to understand, you will maximize student understanding and therefore maximize student achievement. When you create assignments that are presented with a consistent structure, clear directions and is focused on one objective, you will maximize the frequency of student worked turned in, which will therefore lead to an increase in student achievement.
When I say to write your directions clearly, I mean so concise that even your students’ grandparents could help them with the assignment. When your assignment has a clear goal, you are setting the foundation for student achievement.
Students like pictures, so provide some examples that include illustrations, if possible. Many students are visual learners, and the picture that you provide may be the defining factor as to whether or not they make the effort to do the assignment.
Mastery of these basic classroom techniques, if implemented properly and consistently, will lead to a successful classroom. Don’t believe for one minute that just because you are a first year teacher that you cannot accomplish all of these. You can, and you will.
Ask your colleagues for advice and a copy of their classroom expectations and plans. They will more than likely be happy to help out because they were once in your shoes.
What are some techniques you have implemented in your own classroom that has helped you to remain sane? Whatever they are, shout them from the rooftops and share them with your colleagues. They will thank you.