15 Classroom management strategies to overcome teaching difficulties
You’re not the first teacher to have a rough day. It can be draining when our outstanding students seem incapable of staying on task and getting work done. We know the feeling.
So how do you keep your students on task and out of trouble?
When negative student behavior begins to bubble to the surface in your classroom, it’s good to have a strategy that will help you stop that energy from erupting into a full-blown eruption.
We’ve collected some of the best strategies to help you improve behavior in your classroom… and, hopefully, keep bad behavior at bay.
Before class: Making a pre-emptive strike
Ever heard that failing to plan is planning to fail? Effective planning can eliminate many behavioral issues before the students walk through the door.
“Effective teachers have a classroom management plan with all the procedures necessary for a classroom to run consistently and smooth for learning to take place.”
~ Harry Wong.
|1. Reflect on your instruction||2. Set clear expectations||3. Set up your classroom|
|4. Use settling activities||5. Make your lessons consistent||6. Ensure students are prepared|
|7. Decide on fair consequences|
1. Reflect on your instruction
Across the world, studies consistently indicate that teacher reflection is crucial to better classroom management. Reflection is about improving teaching practice and learning from experience. Becoming a more effective teacher is facilitated by:
- Increasing self-awareness
- Promoting action planning
- Analyzing teaching practice
- Expanding professional knowledge
- Sharing ideas/experiences/difficulties
- Collaborating with colleagues
Reflection will help you stop internalizing your students’ poor behavior and start thinking about what they’re actually communicating.
Are they bored? Is the work too difficult? Do they need extra support?
2. Set clear expectations
Researchers regularly state that classroom rules are integral to effective classroom management. Keeping your students aware of expectations can be supported by:
- Outlining a small number of rules
- Describing desired behavior
- Teaching the rules to students
- Consistently communicating with students
- Using visual displays
- Tying rules to positive/negative consequences
Encourage your class when they’re meeting expectations and remind them when they’re not.
3. Set up your classroom
You can use your classroom layout to your advantage in various ways to make teaching easier for you. When setting up your room, it’s highly worthwhile to consider:
- Seating plans for students
- Freedom of movement
- Accessibility of resources
- Visibility of rules/agenda
- Engaging elements for students
- Integrating technology
Finally, don’t allow students to move the furniture around unless they have permission. Teach them to always leave the room as they found it.
4. Use settling activities
After lunch and Friday afternoons can be difficult periods for students to focus. Starting these classes off with a settling activity will help your students get into the mindset for classwork. For example, have a built-in warm-up activity to get students focused before you begin. Here are some low-prep examples:
- Reading and comprehension
- Watching an introductory video
- Vocabulary spelling quiz
- Re-writing sentences correctly
- Googling three facts
- Defining keywords
To calm things down for 5-10 minutes before diving into a lesson, try dimming the lights and leading mindfulness activities.
5. Make your lessons consistent
Consistency in your daily routine creates a sense of safety. Our students should be able to predict what will happen in their classroom and feel safe. Being consistent in classroom management requires a commitment from you to:
- Respond the same way every time
- Keep things simple
- Do not hesitate
- Respond, then move on
- Practice, practice, practice
Consistency also means having your activities ready to go before the class starts and implementing procedures to keep each lesson running smoothly.
6. Ensure students come to class prepared
Students consistently failing to bring the required equipment to class is frustrating. While the expectation should always be come into class prepared to work, try teaching them a procedure to follow that includes:
- Students handing out/collecting books/equipment each lesson
- Borrowing from a friend first
- Borrowing from you (include consequence)
- Keeping their work organized
- Calling home if the problem persists
Your school may even decide to include a portion of each subject’s final grade for students coming prepared.
7. Decide on fair consequences
- See the link between their behavior and the consequence
- Reflect on their behavior
- Predict and prevent re-occurrence
- Think about how they treat others
- Fix their mistakes
- Maintain their dignity
Be firm but fair because students will quickly learn how much they can get away with and which teachers will let them. And always be consistent, so if it’s good for one, it has to be good for all.
During class: Dealing with low-level classroom management and behavioral issues
Serious issues should be sent up the flagpole; however, professional teachers will be expected to deal with the everyday issues as they arise during a class. The following strategies are aimed at assisting teachers with minor issues that arise during class.
|1. Laugh||2. Simply wait||3. Communicate||4. Proximity|
|5. Check-in||6. Positive reinforcement||7. Reflect and communicate||8. Build rapport|
What you already may know about the benefits of cracking a dad joke in the classroom is backed by plenty of evidence. Research indicates that humor in the classroom can facilitate student engagement and learning. Further, laughing as a management strategy works because it:
- Relieves tension
- Increases motivation
- Creates a positive learning environment
- Facilitates communication
- Improves focus
- Builds rapport
- Encourages resilience
Finally, a comprehensive New Zealand study found that the humor used in your classroom must remain appropriate, so always use your professional judgment and maintain respectful boundaries.
2. Simply wait
Waiting for your students to quiet down is not just a funny meme. Think of it more as an alternative to constantly calling out every negative behavior (the students will probably ignore this anyway), which can exacerbate problems with your students. It’s better to stay calm, be patient, and just wait. Trying the following strategies out can also help:
- Using a five-second pause
- Teaching clap and repeat
- Acknowledging the number of quiet students
- Changing seating arrangements
- Reteaching the management plan
- Reinforcing routine
After a minute or two they should start self-calming and re-focus. Resist the urge to engage in verbal battles. If you refuse to be drawn in, students will learn that there’s no point baiting you.
The louder you get, the louder they are going to get. Talking clearly, calmly, and confidently will encourage students to quiet down and hear what you are saying. Dr. Bill Rogers offers detailed advice to teachers, including:
- Using verbal and non-verbal cues
- Using tactical pauses
- Repeating clear, calm instructions
- Avoiding requests/pointless questions
- Reinforcing expectations
- Ignoring secondary behaviors
Don’t be embarrassed to practice this in front of a mirror.
We also have some great videos in our library for teachers interested in improving their communication with students with autism and people with disabilities.
Still not focused? Walk quietly and position yourself close to disruptive students. Your position in the classroom will impact the behavior of your students, so it’s worth considering:
- Having clear pathways in your room
- Being accessible to every student
- Developing non-verbal cues
- Walking around without hovering too long
- Crouching to the student’s level instead of standing over them.
By circulating naturally, you imply a sense of confidence and comfort, and you can be more observant of what’s happening in your classroom. Try to spend as little time as possible sitting at your desk.
If you know of some students who have problems settling in general, check in with them and ask if they understand the instructions or require help. Checking-in allows you to:
- Build connections
- Refocus the student
- Check understanding
- Provide clarification
- Support progress
- Encourage appropriate behavior
Ask them how their day has been going. Give them a moment to respond and when they’re attentive, re-focus them to work and be available to help them if needed. Keep interactions positive as much as possible.
6. Positive reinforcement
Students will constantly seek the attention of their peers or teacher. There is growing evidence that acknowledging and rewarding positive behavior is effective in motivating student compliance. Positively reinforcing students involves:
- Using frequent, specific, and genuine praise
- Making incentives meaningful
- Acknowledging effort
- Ignoring negative behavior
- Making real-world connections
- Working on engagement
If students want your attention, teach them that they’ll only get it if they’re doing the right thing. Devise a reward system to motivate students if it’s appropriate for your school.
7. Reflect and communicate
When you have had a chance to decompress after a stressful day, it’s important not to internalize things. Taking proactive steps to help address behavioral issues can include:
- Making a list of unwanted, recurring behavior
- Focusing on the behavior, not the student
- Seeking assistance from colleagues
- Co-developing management strategies
- Sticking to your plan
- Talking one-on-one with the student
Schools that come together to address behavioral issues get the best results.
8. Build rapport
“When you are faced with resistance you never win on the strength of your argument, you win on the strength of your relationship.”
~ Dr. Xavier Amador
This one will take time but think beyond the classroom when dealing with your students. Building genuine connections is making an effort to:
- Ask them about their interests
- Greet students at the door
- Support students at school sports
- Say hello in the playground
- Use fist bumps and high fives
- Be empathetic
Whether your class is small or large, the strength of your relationship with each student directly influences their behavior. It’s worth putting in the effort.
Obviously, teachers need to be well aware of and abide by their school’s behavioral policies. Remember to be patient. Nobody becomes an expert in classroom management overnight, and by practicing strategies and building consistency, you will see results. Remember, too, that they are just kids. Don’t sweat a moody teenager—it probably isn’t personal. Don’t worry if they take several lessons before they learn to quiet down—you will get there. Vent. Talk things out with your colleagues. Teaching is a challenging career, and ClickView is always here to help you meet those challenges.
Good luck and stay sane!