Welcome to a new series on Classroom Management!
You can find the previous posts in this series below:
Today, we’ll be discussing the 5 Keys to Effective Classroom Management. I love to hear from my readers, so if you have a few helpful tips as well, please leave them in the comment section below!
Running a successful classroom can be overwhelming and intimidating. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin and what methods to implement first. Perhaps, it seems that the more you read, the more you realize there are so many more things you COULD be doing. It’s easy to get discouraged and throw in the towel before you even begin. Remember, teaching and classroom management are a process. Good teachers are always improving and learning along the way. As Dory in Finding Nemo reminds us, sometimes you have to “Just Keep Swimming”. Here are the five key things that I’ve found most helpful in my classroom experience. Pick one thing to work on this month and once it you have mastered that technique, implement something new the next month. You don’t have to magically fix all your problems overnight. Slow and steady change will lead to lasting change.
#1 Never Leave Your Classroom Unattended
This is one area I really struggled with when I first started teaching Children’s Church. I would get about halfway through the lesson and realize we needed CRAYONS for our next activity!! I would randomly assign one child as “in charge” and then rush to my office for some waxy color sticks. By the time I got back, another kid would be crawling on the table and I would have to listen to at least 3 tattles before I could resume teaching. My train of thought was broken and the students certainly were less focused. In order to prevent this, not only did I start making a list of supplies I needed as I lesson prepped, I also started keeping a stash of essential supplies in the classroom. Because all of our classrooms are multi-purpose rooms, I can’t keep a lot of things in the class, but crayons, glue, construction paper and scissors are certainly on the list.
#2 Do Not Create a Teacher’s Pet
Ah, the teacher’s pet. That student who is ultra helpful, ultra good, and a constant source of affirmation to our souls! When first getting started in the classroom, it’s hard not to gravitate to that student – calling on her every time she raises her hand, making an exception for him if he needs to get a drink, or choosing to ignore behavior that you might not tolerate in others. Not only does this set up the teacher’s pet to become prideful and snobby to her classmates, it also disrupts the class community. As you teach and assign jobs, try to mix things up so everyone has a chance to help and really shine. Using Popsicle sticks or note cards with student’s names written on them is a great way to keep things random and even (check out this article from Coffee, Kids, and Compulsive Lists for full instructions).
Flickr via DiamondBonz
#3 Organize Your Classroom to Create Order
One of our Wednesday night small group leaders had quite a handful of kids to manage each week. The four or five kindergarten boys would find any and every excuse to get up and run around the classroom. In order to corral their movement and their energy, Miss Jen would flip three tables onto their sides and create a fort for the boys. Not only did the kids find this totally fun, the structure also kept them seated and together as a group. Miss Jen, an elementary teacher by trade, knew the power of classroom arrangement and used it to her benefit. Likewise, take a look at your classroom this Sunday. Identify any corners that might lend themselves to side chatter. Think about the things that you are consistently correcting the kids about and redesign the room accordingly. Are the kids always tipping chairs backwards? Take the chairs out of the room or place them all against a wall. If you have trouble with kids touching or playing with all the supplies, make sure they are not somewhere the kids have to walk by in order to get to their seats. For our Wednesday night club, we meet in the church gym. For a few weeks, we coned off the designated seating area in order to keep the kids close and corralled. You get the idea.
#4 Expect To Be Tested by the Students
Kids will test any new rule that you introduce into the classroom. You will have to stand firm for a time, but kids will quickly learn and adapt to expectations. Decide ahead of time about the consequences you will need to enforce and how you will reprimand a child during class. Think of a way that keeps you and the child on the same team and creates an easy path for them to re-enter the class in a productive way. Setting yourself up as an enemy to the kids will not help anyone. While you should not tolerate inappropriate behavior, you should also not take it personally. Be prepared to be tested and have a game plan mapped out in order to keep things calm and smooth when testing does occur.
Recently, I browsed through the book, 1,2,3 Magic for Teachers written by Thomas W. Phelan PhD and Sarah Jane Schonour. While I don’t agree with most of the things in the book, the idea that no discipline will be effective unless the adult is emotion-free rings true. In order to really maintain control in your classroom, you first need to maintain control of your own emotions. Getting angry and frustrated with kids will not produce long-term results. Firm boundaries and no-negotiation consequences are key to good classroom management.
#5 Be Prepared
You cannot expect to maintain control in your classroom if your eyes are glued to your lesson book. I’m sure you have experience the vast difference a little preparation does to both the classroom experience and your level of comfort in teaching. Take time to prepare, practice and gather supplies ahead of time. This will help you tremendously in creating the type of classroom you want. If you need a little improvement in this area, I would recommend taking a look at the book, The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School: Transformational Techniques for Reaching and Teaching Kids or you can find a preparation checklist in this post.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
How do you maintain or create order in the classroom?