Classroom management is when a teacher exhibits complete control over their classroom through a series of strategies and techniques that encourage positive student behaviour. The practice of effective classroom management turns your classroom into the optimum learning environment for students to engage with their studies and work to the best of their ability.
Establishing effective classroom management takes time, and differs from teacher to teacher based on their personality and preferred teaching style, as well as being dependent on subject and age group. There are many different types of classroom management, just as there are many different approaches to pedagogy.
Due to the fluidity of how classroom management works, there is no ‘how-to’ on securing complete control of your classroom, however there are guidelines and core components you should follow which will be explained in this article.
4. Lesson Plans
Importance of Classroom Management
Classroom management is at the very heart of teaching and, ultimately, affects your students’ learning outcomes and can have an impact on your wellbeing. Effective classroom management means a thriving learning environment and dedicated students.
Unfortunately - no matter how dedicated you are as a teacher, or how passionate you are about your students and subject, doesn't translate into good classroom management. There are a separate set of skills teachers need in order to successfully control their classroom.
Without this skills or understanding of what good classroom management is poor classroom management can take affect, and this is detrimental to student achievement and development.
Effective classroom management:
- Creates an environment for students that allows them to learn without distractions
- Is a classroom where teachers and students are respected and heard
- Caters to, and supports, students' individual learning needs
- Reduces poor behaviour and distractions so students are focused on learning
- Facilitates social and emotional development
- Promotes positive interactions between peers and decreases bullying
- Allows for more time to be focused on teaching and learning
Poor classroom management:
- Disruptive and chaotic classrooms which lead to teacher stress and burnout
- Lack of focus on teaching and a hostile environment for learning
- Students are unclear of what’s expected of them
- Overpraising of students for expected behaviours resulting in lowered expectations
- Lack of rules, routine and preparation
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The Core Pillars of Classroom Management
As previously stated, there is no ‘how-to’ on effective classroom management, there are however, common denominators which should to be taken into consideration when teachers approach how they want to exert control over their classroom:
Perhaps the most obvious, and arguably most complex, component of classroom management is good pupil behaviour. It’s no secret that the key to an engaged classroom and effective classroom management is well behaved students, but it’s not always easy to achieve this.
Before we look at how to achieve ‘good’ behaviour we must first define what we mean by this, again, this may differ from subject to subject (for example, the desired behaviour of a student in a physical PE class would be starkly different to that of a Maths class), however there are a multiple behaviours which are considered ‘good’ school wide:
- Listening attentively when the teacher or others are speaking
- Raising hands in order to speak
- Staying on task and not distracting others from their work
- Sitting in assigned seats unless otherwise specified
- Using appropriate language
- Coming to class on time and prepared
- Treating others as you wish to be treated
- Being respectful to staff and students
- Keeping your area/desk clean and tidying away after yourself
Depending on your teaching approach, there may be behaviours that haven’t been included in the above list or ones that you’d choose to omit, but regardless of what these positive behaviours are, the most tasking part of this area of classroom management is fostering them. Here are some guidelines on how you can ensure good behaviour in your classroom:
- Whether you’re starting a new school year, are an NQT, or have been assigned a new class, take some time to observe your students before fully implementing your behaviour policy. By doing this you’ll be able to identify the types of poor behaviour the class is inclined to exhibit, and tailor your policy accordingly.
- In order for your students to portray good behaviour, they need to be aware of what is expected of them. Clearly communicate the behaviour policy to your students and outline your rules and expectations, along with rewards and sanctions for following it.
- The crux of students behaving well often comes down to whether or not they respect their teacher. A way in which this can be achieved is through holding yourself accountable alongside your students - when communicating to your class how you expect them to behave, also provide expectations for your own behaviour and how you should act.
- When trying to encourage good behaviour, the way you hold yourself as a teacher is almost as important as the procedures you implement. Remain calm and in control of your emotions even when reprimanding students, and act confident even when you don’t feel it.
- Another way to encourage positive student behaviour is to build meaningful and effective relationships with your students, this helps to build respect between you and your pupils and helps you to understand them better. This includes why they’re misbehaving, what sanctions are most effective and what incentives work.
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Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. It’s a mantra we preach to our students, but it is also one that rings true for us teachers as well. If we walk into a classroom with no clear plan for what’s about to happen, we can almost guarantee the results will be a room full of unruly, uninterested and unengaged students.
Lesson plans and good classroom management are practically intertwined. When you have a carefully constructed lesson, it minimises the opportunity for classroom distractions and, if executed well, keeps students on-task and engaged.
Benefits of lesson plans on classroom management:
- Gives teachers confidence: Being confident in yourself and your material is important for classroom management. Spending time creating a lesson plan that hits all your success criteria, means you can walk into a classroom confident in the lesson you’re about to deliver.
- Keeps students on task: A carefully executed lesson plan will include intricate timings which allow for students to carry out activities and for teachers to deliver information at the right pace - this careful planning means there are no lulls throughout the lesson, so students don’t become distracted and instead remain on task.
- Come to class prepared: The beauty of a lesson plan is that it means before coming to class, you’re aware of the resources you need to execute a successful lesson and can come to class fully prepared. If your lesson includes technology, where possible give it a trial run before the actual lesson and also have a plan B - no matter how good the technology is that we use, there’s always rooms for glitches and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
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Student interaction has a huge impact on how well behaved your class is and as a result, overall classroom management. Seating plans are one of the best preventative measures a teacher can implement and one of the strongest influences they can have on student outcomes and behaviour.
Where students sit in class is critical to how well they perform and there are a multitude of variables that need to be taken into consideration when creating a seating plan and deciding on the layout of your classroom.
In order to fully understand how best to seat your students, allowing them to sit where they wish for the first couple of lessons will give you the opportunity to observe how they interact with each other, their behaviour and their preferred seat. Collecting this knowledge will then allow you to make informed decisions as to where best to seat your class. Key considerations to take into account when creating a seating plan for effective classroom management:
The way in which you decide to organise your desks is dependent on your individual teaching style and the layout of your classroom, however, there are certain factors that will be consistent across every classroom: all students need to be able to see the board clearly, you too need to be able to direct whole class from the front of the room, and there needs to be enough space for you to freely walk around the classroom and observe students whilst working.
Before organising your classroom, it’s important that you take into consideration any medical notes students may have - for example, those who are visually or hearing-impaired will need a seat closer to the board and front of the class. Students who have medical passes and need to leave the classroom more frequently are better placed close to an exit so they can leave with minimal disruption or attention being brought to them.
If when making seating plans you aren’t aware of students’ medical history, be sure to give them the opportunity to bring these to your attention by addressing the class and asking them to come to you at the end of the lesson if they aren’t happy with their seat.
It’s also worthwhile making notes on your seating plans relating to any medical issues that are brought to your attention, for example if any students have allergies or long term illnesses such as diabetes or epilepsy, this way you’ll be able to provide support if necessary. By taking this information into account you’re helping to create a learning environment in which your students are comfortable, and more likely to engage in the lesson you’re delivering.
Students’ learning requirements and personal data are important factors to take into account when creating your seating plan and help with general positive classroom management.
For example, seating higher and lower achieving students together doesn’t have a detrimental impact on either student, instead just encourages lower ability students through peer-to-peer learning and can encourage collaboration and knowledge consolidation for both.
When seating EAL students, avoid seating them together - if they’re sat with native English speakers they’ll have a better chance at learning and using English. SEN students should have enough space for additional support from Teaching Assistants or next to students who are good examples and will be able to provide a helping hand. Alternatively, they should be placed nearer the front of the class so you’re easily available to help them when needed.
Making learning enjoyable
As much as seating plans help you to manage student behaviour and disruptions, engaging students in their work and making them want to learn is equally as important when managing your classroom and where you seat students has an impact on this.
When creating your seating plan, take into account who in your class gets along - don’t purposefully separate friends who aren’t impeding one another’s learning. Equally, if you find yourself having to split up a talkative pair of students, don’t use one student as a breaker - they’ll end up talking over them and distracting them, instead fully separate the students.
It’s also important to take into account students’ personality, for example if you want a shy student to come out of their shell, don’t place them next to the loudest student in class as they may become overwhelmed. Instead, try seating them next to someone who isn’t afraid to speak up in class, who they get on with, and could help to ease them into contributing more in class.
Sharing your observations and notes with additional teachers can help you to achieve better classroom management throughout the school, and will provide NQTs and supply teachers with valuable nuggets of information, allowing them to come into class one-step ahead of students.
Seating plans are a core pillar of classroom management, seating students in a place that is best suited to them can help to orchestrate successful learning. The points outlined above are key considerations to take into account, however, the first draft of a seating plan rarely works perfectly.
Student habits come to light the more you get to know them, and you’ll learn to understand what works best for specific students, so tweaking or rearranging plans to achieve optimum classroom management is completely normal.
Positive behaviour is fundamental to good classroom management and one of the most effective ways of achieving this is through effective praise management. Praise, when used effectively, can improve not only the behaviour of students but also their attainment.
Praise can be seen as a universally positive tool to enhance classroom management and behaviour; however, it can be used ineffectively, and when done so, has detrimental effects on student behaviour and attainment.
One of the most common misconceptions about praise, is the more the better, and many a teacher can fall into the trap of overpraising students. We’ve outlined some of the negative effects of overpraising below:
- Loses meaning: When we dish out positive feedback in excess we run the risk of praise becoming meaningless to students. If students hear the same compliments and feedback consistently, it’s like white noise to them and becomes expected. Furthermore, it’s difficult to differentiate between generic praise and when they’ve done something that is really exceptional.
- Expectations are lowered: Too much praise can lower the expectations of students. When your class is used to hearing praise for even the slightest of achievements, it lowers the bar for praise and as such, students won’t seek the approval of the teacher.
- Behaviour remains the same: When used effectively, praise helps to reinforce positive behaviours in the classroom. However, it can have quite the opposite effect when used excessively - by praising students consistently the idea of positive reinforcement is lost and behaviour doesn’t improve.
Instead of using praise in excess, it is a much better technique for both classroom management and student progression, to use praise when it is deserved and in a way that makes the student believe that it is meaningful.
When recognising positive behaviour, it’s important that the feedback you provide to your students is descriptive - a generic ‘well done’ or ‘great work’ doesn’t encourage specific actions and doesn’t tell the student exactly what they’re doing right. By being specific with your praise it communicates to students which actions are good, and how they should continue to behave and perform.
Giving praise only when praise is due, is one of the simplest ways to ensure that students believe it is meaningful. Not only this, but providing students with positive feedback when they’ve put in real effort raises the benchmark for the quality you expect - encouraging students to strive for better results.
This includes giving praise to students that is specific to their strengths and performance - by doing this and steering away from generic praise, the student knows that they’re giving their best and excelling in their own right. Providing this sort of praise one-to-one can really make students believe the feedback you are telling them.
In terms of classroom management, arguably the most powerful use of praise is positive reinforcement for good behaviour. When we acknowledge and applaud positive actions as opposed to focusing on students who are acting out or misbehaving, we encourage those types of behaviours and for students follow suit, seeking the same praise and attention from the teacher.
Through the acknowledgement of good behaviour, teachers are providing students with a framework for what good behaviour looks like which students can begin to follow. When providing behaviour-specific praise (BSP), the praise should be specific, positive, verbal and in acknowledgement of positive social or academic actions. This improves student behaviour as it tells students exactly what they are doing right.
The encouragement of good behaviour can have a profound impact on your classroom - when students are well behaved, there are fewer disruptions in class which results in more time left for you to provide direction in class, students with more time to spend on-task and there have been indications that a well-behaved class has increased academic responses.
Successful use of BSP makes for efficient and effective lessons. Not to mention, that use of genuine praise, helps to build students’ confidence and helps them to realise their potential.
As with all aspects of teaching there is no exact guideline on how you can achieve complete classroom management. Teaching is affected by a number of external variables such as the students in your class, available resources and your personality as a teacher.
However, we have identified what we believe to be, the core pillars of classroom management; behaviour, seating, praise & feedback and sufficient planning. If you take these four segments into consideration when deciding how you’re going to approach classroom management you could results such as, an engaged classroom, material that is captivating and curriculum matched, a warm and enjoyable classroom environment, more time allocated to teaching and higher academic results.
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