Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Is Classroom Management? Five Steps To A Well Managed Classroom

Students in class, circa 1950
Students in class, circa 1950 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Wayne Sheldrick

There are literally thousands of people "Googling" the phrase "classroom management" every day.

They are really seeking strategies for dealing with students who misbehave.

Ironically if they did spend more time on classroom management they would have fewer students who feel the need to misbehave.

Let's take a look at what classroom management is, and some strategies to make your class a better place to be.

As the phrase implies classroom management is all about the way you manage your classroom. What procedures and routines you have put in place for the smooth running of your class.

How students are to enter and leave the classroom

First let's examine the routines that everyone in the school will be following. If you are teaching in the first six grades your students will arrive at school and come to your class. They will also leave for and return from recess, lunch and perhaps some speciality teachers.

Intermediate and high school teachers will also have students coming and going from class but they will be different groups of students each time.

The first procedure you we will need to put in place or your students is how to enter and leave the classroom. You will need to establish the classroom entering procedure on the first day. Some schools and teachers prefer their students to line up outside the classroom door and wait to be invited in to the class.

On the first day, before your students enter the class, meet them at the door and have them wait in a line until you ask them to enter. After they are in the class for the first time explain why you had them line up. This is critical! "Because I said so" is not going to get a very positive response and will not produce a good first impression.

If you explain that it is a safety issue, or that you want to give them instructions for what to do when they get to their seats, or maybe it's because you want to be able to say hi to each one of them as they arrive. Students will more likely accept a new procedure if it is accompanied by a reason.

Next you can explain what the procedure will be for leaving the class. Will you expect everyone to be packed up and wait at their desks to be dismissed by rows or groups? Or when the bell rings will you have a final word for the students and then allow them to leave when they are ready? The choice is yours but explain it, give your reasons and then be consistent yourself.

Just before the end of class review what the students are to do when they next arrive for class next time. After you do this, review the dismissal procedure. You may even want to practice it with them before the bell rings.

Establishing these two procedures early in the year is critical. If you can start each class promptly because the students have entered the room in an orderly fashion and are ready to work, you are almost guaranteed to have an excellent time with them.

That is classroom management strategy number one. Have a procedure that everyone knows and is able to follow to get the students into class and out again in an orderly fashion. Now let's consider procedures and routines that will help make the time between the bells more effective.

What students are to do when they first arrive at their desk

Once the students have entered the classroom and gone to their seats with minimal noise and disruptions, how will you start the period? If it is first period in the morning there will be things to do like attendance and listen to announcements in addition to collecting homework. Make sure the students know how this is to work.

Do you want homework handed in before they go to their desks, or do you prefer to have it open on their desks so you can see it while they listen to the announcements? Whichever you prefer make sure the students know about it and are able to do it. If there are no "school" tasks that need to be done what are your expectations?

After you greet each student at the door what are they to do? That first day you should tell them as they enter the classroom to find a seat and take their books out while the others are entering.

Once they are in their seats that first class explain your expectations to them. "When you enter the class I expect you to go directly to your desk and ... (get your books out, put your books away, take out your homework ready to correct, solve the problem on the board in your math books ...)", whatever you want them to do.

Before they leave class review what you want them to do the next time they come to your class. When they do arrive at class next time, and for a few more days or as needed, remind them as you greet them when they are entering the class what they are to do. It won't take long for the habit to become established.

How materials are to be handed out and collected

During class time what will the procedure be for handing out and collecting materials? You might like to appoint one person from each group or row to assume that job for a week. Pick someone new for the next week. Make sure that the required materials are easily accessible and ready to go before the class arrives.

How students are to get assistance from you

As the students are working what procedure will you have for them to get your assistance? In the primary grades you might end up with twenty-five students lined up at your desk, in high school it will more likely be twenty-five students yelling out "Hey Miss!" Neither one is acceptable.

One of the many benefits of having students work collaboratively is that you don't have to be their first option when they have a question. The "Ask Three Then Me" strategy is very effective. When a student has a question they should ask one or two or three of their peers before they consult you.

If they and their three peers don't know the answer then you can work with them all at the same time rather than having to answer the same question four times. This strategy will lead to a little more "noise" in the class, but it is a positive noise, it is the noise that learning makes.

How to prepare the classroom for dismissal

What must be done to insure that the classroom is ready for the next group to enter? Depending on the subject you teach and the activity for the day you may want to start winding down the lesson five or ten minutes before the bell rings.

At the very least you should start a count-down so they know how much time they have left and what needs to be done. Have the materials collected and put away. Have each student clean up their "work" area.

The students need to know how they are to exit the classroom as well. Will you have them standing with chairs under desks before the bell goes, or will the students be expected to stand up and leave the class in an orderly fashion when they hear the bell? Either way you should be sure to be at the door as they leave to say goodbye and make certain that they do leave in an orderly fashion.

Yes this does sound like an unnecessary task when you want to be preparing for the next class but the personal touch you give as they enter and leave the class will make a significant impact on the relationship you will have with these students. Each student needs to have a sense that they belong and are an important part of the class. You are the best one to start to develop this in your students.

Wayne Sheldrick PhD

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