Classroom management is a challenge that all teachers must face. Things that were going well in September-November may begin to fall apart in December or January. What happens then: Do you need to try something new? Do you need to be more consistent with the plan you are using? If these are questions you are asking yourself, you are on the right track. Strong classroom management requires a plan. Do not just assume that classroom management will “take care of itself”; that could lead to disaster. One element of a strong classroom management plan is being intentional in encouraging helpful behavior.
1. Play games to elicit good behavior: To encourage your class to work together when performing daily routines (ie: lining up quietly, walking in the halls quietly, treating each other with respect, working well with each other, etc.), inform your students that each time you see “helpful” behavior they will earn a letter towards a given word on the board. When they have earned all the letters to spell the word (for example: ice cream or extra recess) they will receive that reward as a class. You can tell the students ahead of time what word they are trying to spell, or you can keep it a mystery until it is complete (in which case you would put up the letters in random order). As a variation, you may decide letters can be taken away if there is non-helpful behavior.
2. Affirm and reward students: Have something available (such as an index card or cut out star) to put on the student’s desk, if you see helpful behavior. At the end of the lesson, collect them to be reused in the next lesson. I had little orange cones with the words “Way to Go” and “Thank You” written on them. By placing them on student desks, I encouraged helpful behavior without interrupting the flow of the class.
3. For struggling students:
a. For some students, it might be helpful to make an hourly chart to be filled out each day. This can help you identify patterns that may highlight underlying causes for the student’s struggle. My co-teacher and I did this for one of our students and noticed a pattern quickly. The student really struggled during the math lesson, which led us to ask- “Does s/he understand the material being taught? Does s/he act out because s/he is feeling insecure about the material being covered?”
b. Use a “ping-pong book” to communicate consistently with parents. Write a short note in the book to the parents at the end of each day. Have the parents read it, sign it and send it back the next day. Be sure to recognize “helpful” behavior when it is displayed! This also provides an easy way for the parents to communicate with you.
4. Establish a positive parent-student relationship: Be sure to call the parents when something goes well. Parents need to hear your voice at the other end of the line and not always think, “Oh, no! What happened now?” I sometimes would preface my call by saying, “Hello, Mrs. ______- this is a happy call!”
I hope these are helpful hints, adaptable for any grade level. As you think about your class and how these methods might be helpful, remember that classroom management should always be done in love and for the benefit of your students. Pointing out what students do well is a great way to motivate students and encourage them to develop into the people God created them to be. And of course, remember to smile!
Elementary Principal (currently on H.A.)
Black Forest Academy / CSK