Managing difficult classroom behavior is a universal challenge faced by today’s teachers. Those who are now teaching have plenty of experience with it. And those who are preparing to teach should be forewarned: You can threaten, punish, withhold, and reprimand. Yet none of this will work to change difficult behavior. Only applying one proven strategy will: Good classroom management.
The research shows over and over: Rewards, behavior contracts, and consequences won’t foster better behavior. An orderly, organized, predictable classroom environment based on routines and rituals will.
In this article, we’ll look at the importance of teachers investing in effective classroom management and better behavior starting the first day of school.
Let’s Hear It for Classroom anagement
To many teachers, classroom management is the same thing as discipline. They manage their classrooms with consequences and rewards. They work hard to achieve control and compliance. This may explain why their results are so disappointing.
For example, they may turn off a student’s computer, take away recess, gives stickers as rewards, engage in power struggles, and yell. Yet their efforts only stop the behavior temporarily—if they are lucky. They tell themselves this is just how kids and classrooms are in the 21st century. But this just isn’t true.
The American Psychological Association defines classroom management as the process teachers and schools use to create and maintain the appropriate behavior of students in the classroom. The goal of classroom management is to encourage social behavior and increase student engagement. Not to discipline. We couldn’t agree more.
The “Taming” Process
Effective classroom management isn’t rigid, serious, or no-fun. Children aren’t suppressed and teachers aren’t stressed. Rather classroom management is about creating a climate of warmth and safety—creating a place where children want to be. It’s about establishing schedules and routines starting the very first day of school. It’s about teachers conveying and modeling the behavior and the learning they expect. Most important, it’s about instilling valuable school and life skills in every child—autonomy, accountability, and responsibility.
Rules to Live and Teach By
The vast majority of poor behavior is caused by the failure of students to follow routines and rules—and by the failure of teachers to establish and reinforce them. Effective teachers set up rules and procedures on day one and expect children to be responsible for them. Children understand the day starts with morning meeting, followed by daily announcements, followed by math. They know when they hear a hand bell ring, they are to stop whatever they are doing and look at the teacher. And on the playground, when they see the teacher raise a hand, it’s time to go in.
A Culture of Consistency
If teachers do not consistently enforce procedures, routines, and rules, much time will be wasted during the day—precious hours and minutes that could be devoted to learning. The beginning of the school year—the very first day of class, in fact—is the best time to start good classroom management. The first week, remind students of the rules, then revisit the rules, and redirect students if necessary. After a week of repetition and reinforcement, the procedure and routine will become automatic.
What if it’s mid-year? What if a teacher has had a rocky start? Is it too late to salvage the year? Absolutely not. Start with one routine, one procedure, rehearse and reinforce it, and move on to the next one. It will be amazing how quickly the class shapes up. And, with a structure in place, teachers will have the time to devote their energy and attention to what’s most important—their teaching.
To learn more about how to reduce behavior incidents in the classroom, check out SDE’s webinar Back to School: Building Bridges to Better Behavior (Gr. K–3) by education expert and author Laureen Reynolds.