This blog post is long overdue. Every time I put up a question box on instagram, I always have new teachers asking for classroom management tips. I’m here to share with you some tools to tuck into your toolbox, but I want to begin with this: Not every tip will work for you. And what works for one class won’t necessarily work for another. What works for a 5’3″ female teacher (me) is different than what works for a 6’3″ male teacher. You will need to keep trying new things until you find the secret sauce for that one kid, or that one class.
We all know what it feels like to dread that ONE CLASS each day. The class that never stops talking. Or the class that has those two students who are always straight up rude, and ruin your day.
I’m here to say- don’t give up, and don’t let them win. It’s not fair for you to come to work dreading a class that is out of control. So lets nip it with these tips:
Classroom management tips
First things first- ask yourself if the issue is with the entire class, or one or two students (we all know how one student can derail an entire class). From there, try one of the strategies below.
Is the issue with the entire class?
- Try a new seating chart. If you don’t use a seating chart, now is the time to try one. Sometimes it works to have the most talkative kid right up front near you, and sometimes it works to have them in the back corner away from friends. Switch things up until you find what works.
- Use the schedule to your advantage. Is your crazy class right before lunch? Hold them a few minutes into lunch. Is your crazy class at the end of the day? Make them stay a minute after the bell. (I would do this with administrator approval, and make sure kids won’t miss their bus). Keeping students away from a few valuable minutes of “friend time” can often make a difference.
- Use peers. If you have a handful kids that are constantly talking over you when you are trying to give directions, try saying “if your neighbor is talking can you help me get their attention?” You might end up with a few kids shouting “Dude, shut-up!” but honestly sometimes hearing it from their peers instead of the teacher works wonders.
- Reflect on your teaching style. If you have an overly rowdy class, take a minute and reflect on your teaching style. Are you giving them short brain breaks? Are you working in activities that allow them to get up and move? Are you building in classroom discussions where they are allowed to talk? This is especially vital if you teach long block periods.
- Take away the fun stuff. If they are making your life miserable, it’s okay to make their lives feel miserable for a bit. Take away labs and replace them with book work. Take away Blooket and replace it with a study guide. I would add that you need to be clear about what you are doing and why. If they want to do labs again, they need to know your expectations and how to earn them back.
Is the issue with one or two students?
- Use nonverbal or subtle cues. Nobody likes to be put on blast in front of their peers. So if you need to redirect a behavior, try nonverbal things first like walking by and tapping on the desk while you continue to teach, or sometimes I’ll snap my fingers in the general direction of where the problem is coming from and they get the hint. You can also use verbal redirection without singling out a student. For example, suppose you have a student bouncing a tennis ball on the table and you want to yell “Joseph, STOP bouncing the tennis ball!” Instead, try something like “I’d love it if whoever is bouncing the ball would stop,” and continue teaching.
- Reflect on your teaching style. (Yes, this was a tip already but now this applies to individual students). Is the kid who claims “you only have a problem with ME!” actually right? Are you being respectful? Are you ignoring some behaviors (like phone usage) from some students but singling out others? Are you letting one kid go to the bathroom, but not another? Are your consequences equitable? When you mess up (we all do!) then admit it and apologize. They need to see you are human too.
- Subtle cues not helping? Pull them into the hallway and chat with them individually. Don’t try and engage with the student in front of the whole class unless you want a power struggle. When you talk to them, be respectful but honest. You can say things like “I feel like you are being disrespectful. Have I been disrespectful to you? Because if so, please tell me” or “I feel like you are getting a lot of students off task with your comments and behaviors, which isn’t fair. Is this something we can work on?” If they’ve already had multiple warnings, then it is time for “I’m going to have to call home today and chat with a parent about what’s going on in class if I don’t see improvement.”
- Call (or email) home. If talking to the student doesn’t help, it’s time to call home. When I was a new teacher I was terrified of calling parents. Over time it gets easier, and also I realized most of the time parents are really supportive. If you don’t know what to say, try something like this after you introduce yourself: “I’ve really been struggling lately with __’s behavior (give specific examples). You know your child best- is there something you’ve tried that __ responds well to?” or “I’ve had a problem with __ in class lately (give specific examples). I’d love your support at home, could you talk to them about it? I’ll be sure to check back in with you in a couple days and let you know of the progress.”
- Send home positive postcards. Many times we focus on the few kids that derail the class, but we also need to give some love to the kiddos who are always on task. I love sending positive postcards home. (Email works well too, but there is something special about getting something in the mail). I bought these postcards on Amazon (affiliate link) and I mail home 2 per class period per month. Also, be strategic and look for little things to praise- is there a kiddo who is ALWAYS tardy to class, but made it on time one day this week? Is there a kiddo who is is at a 59% and just needs one little boost to have a passing grade? You will be shocked at the power of a postcard.
Hang in there friend! I promise it gets easier with time and practice. (Also, if you are a new teacher and need some more new-teacher-tips, head here).