MAT Blog

5 Do’s and Don’ts of an Effective Classroom Management Plan

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 14, 2014 12:20:00 PM

effective classroom management plan

Don’t make idle threats
When students are disruptive, it’s tempting to say things like, “Unless you quiet down, I am going to give the entire class a zero on the test.” But this is neither fair, nor is it something you could ever follow through with in good conscience.

Fairness and consistency are both critical to your effective classroom management plan. Never make idle and arbitrary threats, or issue blanket forms of discipline.

Do get your rules straight
I’ve heard many teachers proudly proclaim that they only have one rule in their classrooms: “Always be respectful.” This sounds nice, but what in the world does “always be respectful mean?” And how can you enforce something so general? You can’t.

Definitions of what it means to be “respectful” often vary from one person to the next. Students might disagree that texting during class is disrespectful; teachers, on the other hand, would argue the exact opposite. Rather than debate the nature of “respect,” circumvent the issue altogether by creating rules that are specific and enforceable.

Don’t take things personally
Disciplining yourself not to take things personally is essential to any effective classroom management plan.

It irks us when students fail to turn assignments in on time, when they talk through our lecture, when they goof off during an in-class exercise, and so on. But most of us are bothered by these things for the wrong reasons: because we take it personally, because a missing assignment is something else for us to keep track of, because we spent a lot of time putting together our lecture, because these things are important to us.

Taking things personally will only burn you out. Take yourself completely out of the situation and first understand why your students didn’t make the investment you asked for.

Do create a late-work policy
I have enforced no-late-work policies with college students, but in hindsight, I can see that this was a mistake.

Like any teacher, I want my students to take responsibility for their learning experience. In my opinion, taking responsibility means submitting work on time. On the other hand, I know that in the professional world, deadlines are often negotiated. The freelance writer and the client, for example, often negotiate a deadline that is conducive to both parties. That is not to say that the writer will not suffer the consequences when she misses her deadline. I’m simply suggesting that the “real world” often gives us an opportunity to negotiate, make good, and receive extensions—especially when we have a reputation for upholding our end of the bargain, consistently making deadlines, and turning in excellent work.

As someone who has tried (and failed) with the no-late-work policy, I would suggest setting a policy that maximizes student learning while emphasizing timely work completion. To illustrate what I mean, checkout Reed Gillespie’s approach by clicking here.

Don’t worry about your students liking you
You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and even if you haven’t, you know from experience that love and intimacy are basic human needs. We all want to love and be loved—but look, you’re going to do a lot of damage when you try to earn your students’affection by letting your classroom management slip.

It can feel unnatural, especially for young teachers, to be “uptight” or “nerdy,” but keep in mind that freedom is easier to give than take away.Your students already have friends—and let’s be frank, you’ll never be as cool as they are. You are an authority figure and a leader. Act like one.

If you're looking for more information on how to create an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, Pedagogy with a Personality. Inside, you'll find 20 ways to engage challenging students and create an effective classroom management plan.


Pedagogy with a Personality

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Press Pause: A Simple and Effective Classroom Management Strategy

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 22, 2014 9:39:00 AM

effective classroom management

Whether we’re out on a first date, or interacting with new acquaintances at a party, most of us tend to dread silence and awkward pauses in conversation. While we may not welcome silence in social situations, Rob Barnes, author of The Practical Guide to Primary Classroom Management, would argue that silence, when used deliberately and strategically, can be one of a teacher’s most effective classroom management tools. So what is Barnes’s Dramatic Pause Approach, and how do we put this effective classroom management strategy into play?

Press Pause: How to Put This Effective Classroom Strategy Into Play

The critical feature of the dramatic pause strategy is to use a deliberately-placed stop immediately followinga strong attention signal (this could be a clap, a bell, a sharp rap on your desk top). The idea is to maintain your pause and silently insist by using eye contact until all chatter and fidgeting stops.

If chattering persists, say—and repeat—something like, “I can’t see everyone’s eyes.” Now pause, repeat the phrase with slight surprise in your voice, and insist.

A note about your signal: Let’s say your strong signal is to clap your hands…in this case, always be sure that the pace of your clap is slow and dramatic. Otherwise, your three loud claps will really seem like one. Clap your hands at a pace of one loud sound per second, followed by a one or two-second pause before instructions. If the pause seems uncomfortably long, you’re probably executing the strategy just right!

A common error some beginning teachers make is getting sucked into responding to student questions after they issue their strong signal. The key is to ignore these questions and keep strictly focused. If you want to add a gesture, make a non-verbal “stop” or “pause” signal with your hand so that the student sees it. You’re not being rude, you’re simply saying, “Not now.” The last thing you want to do is encourage students to gain your attention when you’re trying to gain theirs!You need full attention, nothing else.

Remember, if you put up with chatter and speak loudly over your students, they will eventually conclude that you are willing to compete with them. Some teachers actually pause for extra effect once they have got attention. They also stretch a mid-sentence pause as long as they can. This is only acting, but it has a strong controlling effect on a class.

If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!

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An Effective Classroom Management Strategy: Turn Questions into Statements

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 18, 2014 9:58:00 AM

effective classroom management

Although the effect teachers have on student behavior is crystal clear, the way in which teachers elicit the kind of behavior they want from students often appears elusive—especially to those entering the classroom for the first time.

Why asking subtle, open-ended questions is not an effective classroom management strategy

Most teachers strive to be positive and polite, so very often they use subtle, open-ended questions in hopes that students will get the hint and change their behavior. Here are a few examples from Rob Barnes’s book The Practical Guide to Primary Classroom Management to help illustrate what I mean:
  • A beginning teacher who wants a student to take out her books might say, “Julie, would you like to get your books out, please?” to which the student might reply, “Nope. I’d rather read this comic book right now.”
  • A beginning teacher who wants a student to stop standing on his chair might say, “James, are you sitting properly? To which James might reply, “Yes, actually. I am.”

Turning questions into statements is a much more effective classroom management strategy

Eliciting the type of behavior we want our students to engage in starts by turning questions into statements. Notice how easy it is for students to skirt or respond sarcastically to open-ended questions:
  • “Would you like to get your books out?” (No, not really!)
  • “Are we all ready?” (No!)
  • “Can you sit properly?” (No! Yes! Probably!)
  • “Would you like to sit somewhere else?” (No!)
  • “Can you make less noise?” (No!)

Turning questions into statements of need is more effective:

  • “Bethany. Sit with both feet on the floor, please”
  • “Be thinking of a question about this when you quietly go back to your seats”
  • “Think of what you need to do to be ready to sit on the carpet”
  • “I’ll be asking questions, so think about what you’ve just heard as you quietly make a start”
  • I’m looking for a quality start, so think about this work with mouths closed”
  • “Maximum concentration on silent footsteps before you move quietly to the carpet”
Whenever you use a statement, you have a much better chance of receiving the desired outcome. As Barnes points out, “Classes quickly realize a rhetorical question because experienced teachers do not use them—or if they do, the class knows better than to shout in chorus.” You also begin to demonstrate that you know what you want.

If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!

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No More Interruptions: 8 Effective Classroom Management Tips

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on May 21, 2014 4:48:00 PM

effective classroom managementConstant interruptions are not only distracting, they’re wearisome. While most of our students outgrow their impulse to interject seemingly random thoughts during lessons or classroom activities, we’ve probably all encountered students who constantly vie for our attention. In lieu of  “calling out” these students in front of their peers—which only further disrupts the flow of your lesson and embarrasses the disruptive student—give a few of these simple, but effective classroom management tricks a shot.

  • Many students disrupt because they need to move around. If you can, find simple tasks or ways for these students to assist you with your lesson. If you are using a Power Point presentation, for example, give these students the opportunity to control the slides. 

    Another way to empower these students and re-channel their energy is by allowing them to be the “official writer on the board.” Instead of writing reminders and notes on the board yourself, have one of your energetic students take on this responsibility. 

  • In lieu of long lectures, provide opportunities for students to talk to one another and work in groups to solve problems. Provide each group with a detailed set of instructions and appoint those energetic students to be the “official secretary” for their groups. The secretary will be responsible for documenting the group’s conclusions and sharing them with the class once you come back together as a group to discuss the activity.

  • Provide energetic students with a notebook in which they can write down thoughts, questions, or anything that is unrelated to the lesson. At the end of the day, review the notebook and discuss with the student.

  • Provide students with “question tokens” (you can use anything from Monopoly money to Post-It notes) and explain that they have X-amount of tokens for the day. If students ask an unrelated question, they have to give up one of their tokens. 

  • Teach sign language symbols to all your students that reflect a question, comment, answer, restroom, water, wait a minute, etc. As long as you continue to stop and focus on the behavior you want changed, it won't. Consistency and patience with yourself and your students, along with positive reinforcement will help them to know how to get acknowledgement.

  • Set aside time each day where students can talk about or ask any question they want. Another thing you can do is set aside question time that is related to the topic you’re teaching. By doing this, you won’t have to deny students the chance to ask questions; instead, you can simply remind him or her to save the question for question time.

  • Take note of your students’ questions: Do you pick up any common threads? Do these questions give you more insight into what students are interested in? We bet they do. Use these questions to help you further develop your lesson plans or find books these students would enjoy reading on their own.

  • Try the “Parking-Lot” strategy. If students have something off-topic to share, they can write it on a Post-It and stick it up on the parking lot bulletin board. After the lesson, grab the Post-Its and take some time to answer the questions.

    If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!
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5 Effective Classroom Management Tips: Working Around “I Don’t Know.”

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 11, 2014 6:00:00 AM

effective classroom management“I don’t know” isn’t a four-letter word, but to most teachers, it might as well be.

While there are effective classroom management strategies we can use to engage students who say “I don’t know,” educational technologist and blogger Jeff Dunn may have the ultimate workaround:

He’s outlawed “I don’t know” entirely and provided students with a few alternative responses. 

Instead of “I don’t know,” students may respond with the following choices:

  • May I please have some more information?
  • May I have some time to think about this?
  • Would you please repeat the question?
  • Where could I find more information about that?
  • May I ask a friend for help?

All five of these questions provoke engagement and let students know that no one gets off the hook.

Jeff is a regular blogger over at Edudemic, so be sure to stop by and check out his collection of articles.

If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 15 Effective Classroom Management Apps for Educators!

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Order Without Fear: 4 Tenets of Effective Classroom Management

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 5, 2013 10:58:00 AM

effective classroom management planWhy do you think a Google search for “Effective Classroom Management” yields some 79,100,000 key-word related results? We have a couple of guesses.

First, because teachers know that out-of-control classrooms don’t work. Learning cannot take place in chaos.

Second, because we know that teachers who cannot manage their classrooms usually don't last.

Fear of losing control has led too many talented teachers to rule by fear. No doubt, structure and order are critical to our success in the classroom, but as Rafe Esquith suggests in his book Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, there are simple ways teachers can “ensure the class remains a place of academic excellence without resorting to fear.”

Effective Classroom Management Means Replacing Fear with Trust

Our classroom is built on trust. Of course, these words sound good to students, but they are vague. To better illustrate the point, Esquith uses the following example:

Most of us have participated in the trust exercise in which one person falls back and is caught by a peer. Even if the catch is made a hundred times in a row, the trust is broken forever if the friend lets you fall the next time as a joke. Even if he swears he is sorry and will never let you fall again, you can never fall back without a seed of doubt.

What is the lesson? Broken trust is nearly irreparable. Everything else can be fixed. Students may forget their assignment; they may break something in the class; they may disrupt a lecture or activity. No problem, all of these things can be fixed, but when trust is broken, the rules change. The relationship will be okay, of course, but it will never, ever be what it was.

Most students are proud of this trust and they’ll do everything in their power to keep it.

Effective Classroom Management Means that Teachers are Dependable

Too often adults make promises to children and don’t keep them. Here’s an example Esquith uses to illustrate the importance of fulfilling promises.

There was a well-respected teacher who once told her class on the first day of school, that at the end of the year she would take them on an exciting trip. Practically every day, kids who misbehaved were threatened with the punishment of not going on the special trip. Many students even did extra work to make sure they would be included. During the last week of school, the teacher announced that she was moving and would not be able to take them on the trip. This betrayal not only ruined anything good she had done with the kids that year, but soured many of them on school and adults in general.

Trust goes both ways. When you tell your students you are going to do something, do it, even if it is inconvenient and seems trivial.

Effective Classroom Management Means Fair Discipline

Most students want to be challenged. They don’t mind a tough teacher, but as Esquith puts it, “they despise an unfair one.”

Be fair. Be logical. If you’re not, students will see you as unreasonable—and once they see you as unreasonable, you’ve lost them.

Treat Knowledge as the Best Reward

Too often, teachers rely on rewards to manage their students’ behavior. In a way, this reliance makes sense. We’ve read B.F. Skinner in college; we know when humans are rewarded for behavior, they are more likely to repeat it. Rewards may appear to “work,” but their effectiveness can be deceiving. Consider Esquith’s example:

I have visited middle school classrooms in which the teachers use rewards to encourage their students to finish homework. One history teacher I met pits his classes against each other in a competition to see which of them can complete the most homework. The winning class gets a prize at the end of the year. Apparently this teacher has forgotten that knowledge of history is supposed to be the prize. When I spoke to the class that did the most homework, I learned that they were terrific at completing assignments, but their understanding of history was shockingly limited.

For an even more convincing reflection on the problems with a rewards-based classroom, check out an article by Dr. Richard Curwin.

If you're looking for more ways to develop a classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!

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