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The Best Classroom Management Strategies for Teachers

Classroom management can make or break a lesson, solve behavioral issues, and improve your students' odds of success.
By 
Jordan Pruitt
 | 
March 14, 2022

Two classrooms in the same hallway. Both teachers teach the same subject. They follow the same pacing guide. They have access to the same resources. They are observed and evaluated by the same administrator. They have students who come to school from the same neighborhoods from similar backgrounds.

One class is engaged, and productive. The other always seems on the verge of chaos, if not already there. 

What's the difference? Why is one set of students on task and the other not? 

This isn’t meant to disparage one class as much as praise another. If you are a veteran teacher, you have likely taught classes similar to both of these. You already know the difference, one was set up for success, and the other needs some additional planning to reach that sweet spot between engagement and chaos. There are a lot of ways to get that ship righted, the tricky part is choosing what works best for you and your kiddos. 

Keep reading the best classroom management strategies to set up your lesson for success.

What is Effective Classroom Management?

Effective classroom management is the instructor’s ability to create a learning environment conducive to success for the lesson.

Classroom Management is a very broad term for the range of skills and techniques classroom instructors use to keep students organized, on task, on pace, and safe. 

So what qualifies as “good” classroom management? (Note this doesn’t mean we are only striving for compliance. The goal here is to create the best learning environment you can for your students, so they are engaged in the lesson and thus engaged in the learning.) 

We all know that keeping your class quiet and in their seats isn’t the same thing as teaching them. As a former science teacher, I often said that the best learning happened right on the verge of chaos. It may be a little messy at times. But the goal is learning, not necessarily a quiet room. 

Your writing lesson may require quiet, introspective thought. The strategy to set up that learning environment is going to look different than my Newton’s Laws inquiry lesson. That's ok! Plain and simple: can you achieve your learning target in the environment you have created?

Effective classroom management tips can separate a successful lesson from a dud. The best teachers have the best facilitation skills. They can prime the room and the occupants for exactly what they want to happen, and they have the skills to adjust when they sense the tides have turned for the worse. 

This is people management more than content delivery. It is the basis of our craft and thus should be the foundation of your teacher toolbox. So let's add to that toolbox! 

Best Classroom Management Strategies

Keep reading to find effective classroom management strategies you can use to solve those issues and improve your students' odds of success.

1. Modeling Behavior

Problem: Slow starters. Students are slow to transition from passing time to instructional time.

Solution: Emphasize and model the behavior you want. Have a bell ringer up on the board ready to roll the second the bell rings, including a timer so students know they need to get started. Start on time, every time.

2. Assigning Roles

Problem: Engagement. Students are compliant but not invested in the learning.

Solution: Try assigning roles, let students assist in all the various pieces of the lesson. If they have a role to play, they will feel more involved and then more likely to participate in the academic objectives in your class.

3. Goal Setting

Problem: Students lack motivation

Solution: Motivate with goal setting. Set specific and attainable goals to give students a roadmap to success. Chunk it up!

4. Giving Feedback

Problem: Students still aren’t motivated.

Solution: Motivate with meaningful feedback, get creative in how you deliver feedback. Praise the behavior and results you want to see more of!

5. Restorative Circles

Problem: Peer-to-peer small conflicts quickly escalate to large conflicts.

Solution: Try Restorative Circles. When done well, they create a classroom community and give you a quick meaningful method to dissolve disputes.

6. Behavior Management

Problem: We don’t know what we don’t know. You are making decisions based on feelings and opinions, not facts.

Solution: Track classroom behavior. I recommend a behavior management system like Live School, which will allow you to track and monitor students' behaviors so you can make informed decisions based on factual data.

7. Sign In/Sign Out

Problem: Hall passes are leading to lost instructional time or even skipping referrals.

Solutions: Decide on protocols for when they are appropriate and when they are not. Be clear about this and communicate it well. Then utilize a sign-in/sign-out sheet so you have a layer of accountability to the process. Even better if this process is electronic so you can easily track the times the student is gone!

8. Setting Expectations

Problem: How do you prepare a new group of students for your classroom?

Solution: Set clear expectations and follow routines. Use slides, and be specific. You will get only what you emphasize and follow through on!

9. Digging Deeper

Problem: Failing to triage an issue. Small problems become big problems.

Solution: If a student shows consistent small behaviors, dig deeper to find the cause before it escalates into an issue that derails a lesson later on.

10. Interest Inventory

Problem: You're struggling to create relationships with students

Solution: Start an interest inventory! Take a survey and use the results as your secret weapon to engagement. Your toughest kid's favorite food is pizza? Sounds like pizza needs to be the subject of your next math word problems!

11. Monitoring Technology

Problem: Students misusing school-issued technology (like a 1v1 to Chromebook)

Solution: Talk to your admin team about software solutions to help you monitor the screens in your classroom. There are several affordable options out there and they are game-changers if your school relies on tech for lessons.

12. Mini Breaks

Problem: Students have trouble maintaining high engagement throughout the entire lesson

Solution: Try setting mini-breaks that your class knows are coming and can help them recharge and refocus during the class period.

13. Planning Ahead

Problem: How to deal with an argumentative student

Solution: Don’t sweat the small stuff, ignore the minor muttering if you can. Address academic deficits first. Anticipate when this student may be a challenge and change it up. Assign him as a helper or a sub for instance.

14. Empathy

Problem: Students lack empathy, leading to inappropriate and immature behaviors

Solution: Cultivate empathy. Be intentional about teaching body language, affective statements, and reflective listening skills

15. Restorative Practices

Problem: School-wide policies often miss individual student needs

Solution: Build restorative support, talk to your leadership team about incorporating Restorative Practices into your school culture

16. Tracking Incidents

Problem: You are making discipline decisions in the moment, from a place of frustration and heightened feelings

Solution: Document classroom behavior incidents. Track the student with the behavior and dates of incidents; you can use a classroom or behavior management system. This way you have a log of small infractions to discuss and apply solutions to, which will prime both you and the student for a difficult conversation and allow you to approach that from a place of facts and reasoning.

17. 5 R’s

Problem: Students are out of dress code, how to address without escalation

Solution: Remember the 5 R’s of restorative practices: Relationships, Respect, Responsibility, Repair, and Reintegration. 

18. Downtime

Problem: How to deal with downtime in the classroom.

Solution: Don’t have any! Structure extension opportunities into your classroom like STEM challenges, quiet reading time, Daily Journals, or self-directed learning opportunities

19. Teaching Expectations

Problem: Students often ask you for directions after a task has begun

Solution: Teach your expectations with as much fidelity as you do your favorite subject.

20. Questions to Ask Yourself

Problem: Your lesson plans don’t include facilitation plans

Solution: Ask these 3 questions before planning each lesson:

Set Expectations First

Of the 20 solutions listed, number 20 is by far the most important. If your goal is student learning you need to address those 3 questions in your planning. 

How will you teach what you want students to do? Not what you will teach, or what you want students to do. But how will you teach them to do it? In other words, are you prepared to emphasize your expectations? What are you going to do if they don’t meet your expectations? 

This will save you some regrets. Anticipate problems before they arise, and have a solution on hand. This will keep you from operating out of frustration. 

Bonus points here if you do a good job giving clear expectations to the students on what will happen if they don’t meet expectations! 

And lastly, How are you going to resolve situations? Does your class have a structure in place to support and resolve minor disputes? Like restorative circles or reteaches? Do you know who to call if the scope of the situation goes beyond what you can handle immediately in the room? 

Your school should have a method of contacting the admin or a behavior specialist if needed. 

Your Classroom Management Toolbox

Remember not all classes should look the same, and not all lessons should be treated the same. Sometimes you need calm and quiet to accomplish a task. Sometimes you need controlled chaos to maximize the learning in your room. 

Your task is to decide what conditions are needed and then use your expertise to facilitate an environment that meets that criteria for all students. This is in no way an all-encompassing list of effective classroom management tips.

The toolbox of our master teachers is rather deep, and they know what tools to utilize in what situations. If you are a new or struggling teacher, find a mentor who has worked with similar students in your subject area. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are a veteran teacher in your building, don’t be shy about sharing that knowledge! Also don't overlook the value in motivating your students with some well thought out classroom rewards.

The better our classrooms function, the more opportunity for our students to learn! I hope this list proves helpful in your quest for classroom bliss. If you would like help in your specific grade level check out kindergarten classroom management, elementary classroom management, middle school classroom management, and our guide for incorporating pbis and classroom management.

Learn more about the author, 
Jordan Pruitt
 

We believe positive student behavior comes from the right school culture. Do you?

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We believe positive classrooms come from the right school culture. Do you?

Join a community of 1,000+ schools who use LiveSchool to improve their classroom management with school-wide points tracking.
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We believe positive student behavior comes from the right school culture. Do you?

Join a community of 1,000+ schools who use LiveSchool to improve their culture with school-wide points tracking.
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We believe PBIS improves school culture. Do you?

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