Elementary classrooms are dynamic places where teachers and students work together to master new concepts, explore the world around them, and gain important knowledge. Each of these is fostered by clear and concise classroom management.
Central to quality classroom management is the teacher's ability to establish a set of boundaries for the classroom and ensure that they are being followed. However, some of the boundaries you set in the beginning of the year may no longer apply as the year progresses.
With roughly three months left in the school year, now is a great time to re-evaluate a procedure or rule that isn’t quite working for your class. Ask yourself these simple questions to help assess the effectiveness of your classroom management:
- Are you thinking like a student? As a teacher, you view the classroom through your own lens, focusing on how the classroom is operating from your perspective. When considering boundary setting for elementary students, try viewing your classroom management from the students' vantage point. What boundaries would children find necessary? Do your rules and procedures hinder or encourage interaction? Get down (on your knees, if necessary) to your children’s level and see how your classroom might look and feel completely different from a child’s point of view.
- Are you asking students for feedback? A teacher can create a list of boundaries and post it on the wall, hoping that students will fall in line. But we’ve found that when students are given the opportunity to participate in setting classroom rules, the boundaries become more authentic, give students more incentive to behave, and help create a classroom community where student input is valued. You may be pleasantly surprised at the feedback you receive from the students. All you have to do is ask.
- Do you focus on the positive? It’s easy to generate a long list of "don'ts" that you hope your students will obey. Don't run in the hallway. Don't be mean to your friends. Don't interrupt the teacher. However, rewording these commands into positive statements helps students perceive boundaries as positive reinforcement. Always walk. Practice kindness to other students. Please wait for your turn to talk.
- Do you take the time to teach it? Just like any other skill or concept you want students to master, setting and following boundaries must be taught via direct instruction. There are many approaches you can use to teach the boundaries and help boost your classroom management. Consider having students create visual representations of the boundaries, role play what a boundary does and doesn't look like, and participate in small group and classroom discussions.
- Are you consistent? Boundaries can be applied across a variety of classroom situations, and with all students, when they are clear and concise. As you enforce boundaries, be careful that your response is consistent regardless of the student involved or the specific situation. This will help students understand what will happen when boundaries are crossed and what the consequences will be. If students suspect partiality, your classroom management efforts will surely crumble. Teaching with integrity is key to a smooth-running classroom.
If your classroom management could use a boost of energy, download this free classroom management guide. You just might discover a refreshing hint or two to get you through to summer!