I had an English teacher in high school who had classroom management techniques down pat. She could silence a class with the simple raising of an eyebrow. It wasn’t from fear—this teacher rarely punished her students, and I can’t even recall ever hearing her raise her voice. But she never needed to. Every kid in the room respected her and knew the expectations she had for them when they walked through her door.
Now as a teacher, I know how challenging classroom management can be. I’m always looking for fresh approaches to good classroom management. Here are seven I vow to try this year. Some aren’t new, but they’re worth remembering and finding a fresh approach to work in your classroom.
1. Make positive phone calls.
It’s very easy to get into the habit of calling home to parents when there is an issue to report. While these calls are necessary and worthwhile, calls home for celebration are equally if not more important. Every parent wants to hear positive news about their child, and this reinforcement almost always makes its way back to the student. Try to make a positive call home every single day, even if it’s simply to report on a nice comment a kid made in class. This means so much to parents and students. Then I promise it will translate to their behavior in class.
2. Demonstrate the behavior you want to see.
Early in the year I bring in another teacher or administrator into my class to have a conversation with as students listen. It doesn’t matter what the topic of conversation is, we are just very intentional about modeling class norms in front of the students. We make eye contact while talking, do not interrupt each other, keep our phones in our pockets, respectfully disagree at certain moments, and show students what good discussion looks like. It’s one thing to tell students what expectations are, but showing them has much more power.
3. Celebrate hard work.
Have something for students to work toward at least once a month. Maybe a donut party, game time, or even just a class period to rest. Whatever it is, make it clear to students that it is a reward for hard work, and hard work is required to achieve that reward. Celebrations are a great way to motivate. It’s also a great way to encourage kids to stay off their cell phones!
4. Create group contracts.
If students are doing group work, have them fill out group contracts that contain expectations they have for each other in the group. For instance:
- We will not be on phone during work time
- We will check in with group members if absent from school
- We will hold each other accountable
Encourage students sign off on these agreements, and let them come up with a consequence for violating them. This will empower students to take accountability into their own hands and manage themselves. Students are much less apt to disappoint each other than their teacher, and this is something teachers should leverage in their classroom.
5. Make class engaging.
A bored student is often a misbehaving student. This is why engaging curriculum is one of the strongest tools a teacher has in a well-managed classroom. Strive to create authentic curriculum that engages kids, sparks wonder, and requires hard work. Not everything needs to burst with excitement (not realistic), but the more compelling you can make your class, the more engaged your students will be.
6. Give students the power.
Create a list of norms with your students at the start the school year. Lead them through a discussion of what the class should look like and what behavior should be expected, and record their thoughts on a poster board that can be hung on the wall for all to see. Then students create the rules and standards, and they can have ownership over them.
7. Build relationships.
There’s nothing new about this classroom management technique, but it is hands down the most effective in any classroom. So if you haven’t been doing it, bring it back and give it a fresh approach. When a student can trust their teacher and know that they are cared for, they will also do their part. My English teacher with the “eyebrow raise” did not threaten with her look, but was reminding us who and where we were, and because of the respect we had for her, it was all that was needed to get us back into learning mode. I may not have always cared about Language Arts in her class, but I did care about her, and because of that I was able to learn some English.