Effective classroom management begins with establishing a learning community in the classroom which includes the teacher as an active participant. One of the most useful classroom management strategies is providing interesting activities which keep children focused and engaged.
Learning groups must be carefully structured, and everyone should have a clear understanding of what their function is in the group. We call ours “Support Groups” which makes it very clear that we are, in fact, our Brother’s Keeper for our year together. To me it is the most important part of establishing a community of learners. Group leaders help keep members focused and on task, and I am always circulating among them, offering encouragement and monitoring group conversations which are so important to memory.
Any redirection from me is done privately, most often with a look or other nonverbal cue. This and the physical classroom environment contribute to a low stress workplace, and it truly makes a difference with children, especially middle school students.
Establishing and practicing procedures is an important part of effective classroom management because procedures help the learning community run smoothly. Consider traffic patterns in your classroom and try to maximize efficiency when deciding how papers will be turned in, etc.
One kindergarten teacher I know has her children walk a balance beam on the way to their seats each morning after moving a popsicle stick on which their names are written. This procedure incorporates the important coordination skill of balancing which is so critical to learning to read.
Students in my classroom do not have to ask permission to borrow or sharpen pencils or to move to a seat closer to the board in order to see better. These are necessary activities and addressing them individually tends to interrupt the flow of class.
Writing procedures down helps me remember to cover them at the beginning of every year. Practicing them really does help my classroom run smoothly and contributes to a calm learning environment with clear expectations and freedom of movement.
Centers are the best format I know for inviting students to learn in an interesting way. Incorporating the aesthetics – music, art, drama, and dance – is always a good way to get everyone involved which is key to effective classroom management.
For regular instruction, I teach in segments with lots of stops and starts, incorporating energizers and focus games as needed to fight brain fatigue. We love our Dance Parties and rhythm band, and getting involved myself helps energize me, too!
Conversation within learning groups is encouraged and expected and helps keep kids interested. Students must limit their conversation to the topic at hand and must converse only with members of their present support group. Restructuring learning groups several times during the year insures that students hold different jobs in groups and that they work with different people. Students learn a tremendous number of words from each other as they work together, and everyone’s vocabulary grows in the process.
It is essential that teachers remain active participants in the learning community. Playing focus games and participating in energizers are both really great team building activities.
Kids want to know that you enjoy spending time with them and that you value them. Your participation sends a powerful message that they are worth your time.
Circulating and commenting on center work and displaying their projects also shows them that you are proud of what they have done.
A smoothly running classroom has its price. Papers must be graded and emails attended to during planning or after school, but it is totally worth it!
LET THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
In my 30 years as a teacher, I have observed that most "behavior problems" occur when children are not busy or when there is no adult present.
So if I could only have two rules to follow as a teacher, they would be: