Classroom management and behavior management go hand in hand, but they are distinctly different strategies. Classroom management is the day-to-day running of the classroom through routines and procedures, such as having students line up in size order or raise their hands to participate in class. Behavior management is just that – managing student behavior.
You’ll need both to run a productive and safe classroom, but let’s start with behavior management. Without it, you’re not going have a class to manage. Consider these five pointers when establishing your behavior management plan:
Establish Class Rules and Consequences ASAP
Establishing rules can be done in collaboration with students – believe it or not, they have a good idea of the difference between right and wrong. Decide as a class on the rules. Facilitate the discussion in order to prioritize and simplify the rules. Display them in the classroom. Rules will vary from class to class, but these five worked for me year in and year out:
-Follow directions first time given.
-Come to class prepared and ready to work.
-Do not leave your seat without the teacher’s permission.
-Respect the opinions and property of other students.
-Do not eat, chew gum or drink beverages in class.
So what happens when the rules are broken? Make sure your consequences are just as clear. The consequences must be fair and consistent. Students must know the rules and what to expect if they break the rules. Here’s what worked for me:
-First time rule is broken: warning.
-Second time rule is broken: 10-minute time out.
-Third time rule is broken: conference with teacher or dean.
-Fourth time rule is broken: phone call home.
Deal With Rules Infractions Swiftly and Consistently
You can be sure if there is a rule to be broken, students will test it out. Ask students not to chew gum and at least one of them will be blowing bubbles soon enough. Ignore the gum-chewer and five students will be blowing bubbles in class before you know it. You lose credibility the moment you let even the smallest infraction slide. Don’t be afraid to be strict. If you invest the time and effort up front to enforce the rules, you’ll have fewer problems later on.
Don’t Confront Students in Front of the Class
We’ve all lost our cool in the heat of the moment. But try your best not to confront students in front of their peers. Said student will either try to save face by challenging your authority or feel embarrassed and/or angry. Ask a student to step outside the room or speak to him or her after class if need be. One strategy that worked well for me was using Post-It notes to keep students on task. If a student was talking, for example, I might walk by his or her desk and stick a note on it that says, “Please get back to work” or “No talking in class.” You’ll be surprised how well this trick works!
Use Positive Reinforcement
Think about it: We all respond to positive reinforcement. If your principal only pointed out things you did wrong – do you know one? – it would take the joy out of work. Students are the same way. By pointing out the things students are doing right – “Maria, I like the way you stayed on task today” – they’ll try to keep doing them. Many teachers use rewards systems to give students incentive to follow the rules. One of the most creative ideas I’ve seen a teacher use is BUGS. She would give out little plastic bugs to students who were Being Unbelievably Good. Students could later trade in the BUGS for rewards and prizes. Find the currency that works for your class.
Encourage Parental Involvement
Speaking to parents during parent-teacher conferences is not enough. Likewise, speaking to parents only when their children do something wrong is not going to win over student or parents. Stay in touch with parents even if it’s just a quick phone call or chat at dismissal. Other ways to keep in touch with parents is via newsletters (the students can help you write it), e-mail or notes home. Let parents know you are available to them. If parents know you care enough to go the extra mile, they’ll likely go the extra mile when you need their help. Teaches can’t do it all alone.
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