Between the internet and your neighborhood bookstore, there is no shortage of information on how to manage a classroom. Thousands upon thousands of words that explain (in theory) how to create the perfect learning environment to maximize student achievement exist within the covers of nicely-shelved and occasionally dusty manuscripts.
That’s why I’m not here to do that.
Instead of giving you more of the same, I decided to provide you with a series of questions to consider as you get into the groove of the new school year. These questions are introduced with a quick tip and are for you to check your classroom plan and ensure that you have considered multiple vantage points.
The list is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, but it does get you on the right track to creating a masterful, comprehensive classroom management system. Remember that it takes a few years or more to perfect it (and you’ll still change things year to year), but today is a perfect day to start.
Making and Assessing Your Plan
Have a standard plan for your daily procedures in the classroom. This includes but is not limited to beginning/end of class, transitions, restroom breaks, walking down the hall, sharpening pencils, etc.
Interaction & Assignments
- How will your students offer answers? (Raise hands, shout out, etc.)
- How will they submit assignments?
- Will you use class period folders, a single assignment folder, personalized folders, etc.?
- Is submitting classwork the same procedure as submitting homework?
- If you assign homework, when is it due? (Beginning of class, end of class, first 20 minutes, etc.)
- How will students transition between activities?
- When working in collaborative groups, will you introduce jobs for each member?
- How do you create accountability?
- What are the group norms?
- Is it okay to have off topic conversation as long as they’re working?
- How will you grade group assignments?
Cell Phones & Technology
- For older grades, what is your cell phone policy?
- Does it match the campus/district policy?
- Have you communicated this to students and parents?
- How many different forms of communication have you used?
- Are you consistent with your policy?
- Are the consequences reasonable?
- Are you fair and equitable in the distribution of consequences?
- Will you use cell phones in class for research or clicker technology?
- Will you allow students to use their headphones & listen to music while working independently?
- Will you allow students to take notes/use other mobile devices (iPads/tables) or laptops?
- What are your technology norms for the classroom?
Think about your classroom choreography. The way you design your classroom space contributes greatly to your overall classroom management plan.
Furniture & Stations
- Are you using rows, partnered desks, grouped desks, tables etc.?
- Can every student see from where they’re seated?
- Have you sat in every desk to be sure?
- Is your LCD projector and board in an optimal location?
- What is the lighting like in your room?
- When you’re projecting things, how will you dim the lights?
- Should the classroom library be next to the computer station?
- Where are your classroom supplies located?
- Have you separated supplies/folders/composition books by class period?
- If so, are they clearly and largely labeled?
- Will students’ line of vision be blocked if others are getting supplies while you speak?
- Do you want students to be walking while you speak?
- Where are your trash cans located?
- Do you have one in the front and one at the back of the classroom?
- When can students discard waste?
- Do you have anchor charts and posters on your walls?
- Are these resources relevant and useful?
- Can students read what is posted?
- If you use “parking lots,” where should you place them?
- Is there enough color?
- Is there too much color?
- Will your posters be distracting to the learning environment?
- Is your classroom space too sterile?
- If you class completes labs, have you posted expectations?
Never underestimate the impact your lesson planning has on classroom behavior.
Lesson Hooks & Essential Questions
- Is your lesson hook effective?
- Does the hook connect to your essential question (EQ)?
- Do your students know what the EQ is?
- Where is it posted?
- How often do you refer back to it?
- Do your students know that they should be able to answer the question by the end of the lesson/unit?
- Have you ensured that every student understands the relevancy of your lesson?
- Do they know what the end result(s) will be?
- Is your lesson transparent?
- Are your lesson activities well-connected?
- Are they interesting and challenging to students?
- How do you know this? Have you surveyed your students to find out?
- Do you have built-in accommodations for learning differences (this includes advanced students)?
- Do your students know what to do if they finish early?
- How many times have you repeated this so that they are aware?
- Have you planned for students who might finish very early or late?
Lesson Closures & Classroom Cleanup
- What is your plan for the last ten minutes of class?
- Does your closure activity use the time completely?
- Will you take the final three minutes for classroom cleanup?
- When will you allow students to pack their backpacks and prepare to leave?
- Should they sit at their desks or stand by the door? (Please be clear with this one.)
Be consistent in using your management plan. If you are not faithful to your system, your students won’t be either. Many classroom management issues surface because of incomplete or nonexistent planning or because teachers don’t stick with it. Even though we cannot plan for every possible outcome, we surely can anticipate student responses, especially if we reflect on previous school years.
These questions may seem trivial to some, but each builds upon the next. That is how a winning classroom management plan comes to life. Do you need to write down all of these answers? Of course not. However, if there are questions you cannot answer, I challenge you to think about how you will answer that question this school year. Consider the potential student behavior concerns that could crop up for each question you cannot answer.
I want teachers, especially novice ones, to recognize that effective classroom management means having a solid plan in place and understanding that classroom management is the entire system–from planning to lessons to exit. When your students know what to expect, you drastically reduce the possibility of behavior concerns in your room. You’re also able to pinpoint why a student might be acting out when you’ve mastered the art of managing a classroom.
Your success is in the details.