Classroom management is not instinct. There's nothing about managing 30-40 children in a small space during a time in which they'd rather be doing anything else but what you're doing in class that's instinct.
Everyone wants to have a simple, full-proof plan that they can learn, adopt, and execute and have very obedient students that never act up, never are disrespectful, and are always happy, cooperative, and compliant.
Sorry folks, there's no such thing. Classroom management is hard work. There's no easy fix. You work at it all day, every day.
Classroom Management is a Skill.
Classroom management is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced each and every day of each and every year that you're a teacher. You cannot take a day off from classroom management. You can't be lax on classroom management.
The common saying, "Discipline before instruction" comes to mind. It is so very true. You can't proceed to teach anyone anything before you have control of your classroom. That's not to say that you're mean or stoic, or that you run your classroom like a drill sergeant. What it means is that you have all of your students attention and focus with a modicum of respect and order so that you can best lead the kids through the day's instruction.
Although the saying is easy to remember, it certainly is not easy to apply on a consistent basis. We all have those days where we just don't want to deal with that minor disturbance, those two kids who are talking quietly in the back. Just ignore it and it will go away, right? Nope! Not at all. Any unwanted behavior that you ignore is giving the students permission to repeat that behavior because you did nothing to stop it. "Discipline before instruction." Know it, apply it, live it, daily.
Classroom management is not merely a list of rules of do's and don't's . It's a plan of attack on how you are going to address each and every unwanted behavior that students are going to throw at you. It cannot be explained or taught to the students. It must be lived and it must be practiced over and over again.
I have five rules posted in the front of my room:
1. It's not okay to talk to your neighbors.
2. Listen with your ears and your eyes.
3. Don't sink! Ask questions!
4. Make smart choices.
5. Keep Profe happy.
Only the first one is actually a behavior rule. The second and third ones are recommendations to be successful in class. And the last two are positive rules that cover every infraction that any student, past, present, or future would ever think to commit. Although they may be able to argue #4, there is no arguing #5. I'm the only one who can judge if Profe is happy or not. There's no room for argument.
Now, although they are posted in the front of my room, I don't talk about them YET. They're there for the kids to see and read and if someone asks a question, I point to the rule. If someone misbehaves, I point to either rule #4 or rule #5. Nothing more is needed. Stop instruction, point to the rule, and carry on.
That's how I handle every infraction whether it happens on the first day or the 180th day. I stop, I point, I carry on. If a student continues the misbehavior, then I ask to speak with them after class. No shame, no embarrassment, no humiliation. I just simply walk up to the student and whisper quietly, "Please see me after class. Thank you!" I don't even wait for an acknowledgement. I make the ASSUMPTION the student heard me loud and clear and is in agreement. There's no time for discussion or argument during class in front of their peers. You will always loose that fight, even when you think you haven't.
After rules, the next major component of classroom management is procedures. You have to have a procedure for every thing that you will ask a student to do in your class all year long.
You'll start with the basics like entering the class, how to leave class, how to turn in papers, bathroom procedures, etc. But talking about them is never enough. You must show them and practice them often. I practice them a lot when they are first introduced and then I sprinkle practice as we move through the year as needed.
If a new student enters class or students forget, then you need to do a little bit of intense mini-practice.
Many teacher's think that there's no need to practice them. They teach high-school or upper middle-school students and they think they should just get it after hearing the specific procedures. This never happens. They need to be practiced until they are second nature.
Other teachers say that this is a waste of valuable class time. I would agree that it takes a lot of your valuable class time, but I would not say that is a waste. Spending time on setting up procedures and practicing them is time well spent and it will save hours of class time that won't have to be spent on correcting behavior and explaining how to do regular tasks. Now, that is time wasted.
I don't introduce all of my procedures all in the first week. I talk about them only as they come up. If you try to introduce too many at once, kids get confused or just don't learn them. Introduce them only as you need them, practice them often in the beginning, and refresh them by practicing throughout the year.
When Do You Introduce Your Classroom Management Plan?
So, when do I talk about behavior, the classroom rules, and procedures? I don't explicitly talk about them until at least the second week and I talk about only one every couple of days.
The first week of school, I work on building a classroom family and setting the expectation that the target language is what we speak in my classroom. My kids are having fun, are comfortable, and are acquiring language.
If there's an infraction, stop, point to the rule, and then move on.
Starting with the second week, I then will SLOWLY introduce my rules and procedures. I take less than a minute or two to state and explain the rule and then we practice it. I have a kid deliberately violate the rule so I can demonstrate what will happen. I have different kids violate rules differently so that kids can see the /range/ of behavior that is not allowed.
It will take many weeks for me to exemplify all the common behaviors that are not acceptable in my classroom.
So let's sum everything up.
- Classroom Management is a skill that you need to work on consistently.
- There is not a simple fix that will magically manage your classroom.
- Discipline before instruction.
- Be consistent, especially when it’s easy not to.
- Clear and concise classroom rules. — Few are better than many.
- Set up and practice frequently your classroom procedures.
- Teach your plan over the first month or so of class, but wait at least until your second week of school.