Classroom management is one aspect of teaching in which even veteran teachers can struggle — there are many recipes to keeping a class focused, structured, and motivated, but there are very simple mistakes we make than can allow that structure to fall apart. Check out this list from Jennifer Rodriguez of the 10 things you can avoid, and how to avoid them.
1. Smiling at the Wrong Times
This was a big problem for me. I thought my students were pretty funny people, so when a kid took those first steps to get us off-track, I couldn’t help but smile. And that just encouraged him to continue. The irony was that five minutes later, I would be yelling at the whole class for getting too wild. Duh.
Alternative: Make a conscious effort to hold a neutral, “on-task” facial expression when you need your class to be focused. I still think it’s important to show students you have a sense of humor and appreciate theirs, but everyone needs to learn that there’s a time and place for it. Have a private conversation with your class clowns, letting them know that there will be times when you won’t react to their jokes – that will be your signal that it’s a “serious” time.
2. Handling Problems Publicly
Addressing student misbehavior in a public way risks embarrassing the student, and if she is prone to being oppositional, she’s likely to talk back and dig herself into a deeper hole. You retaliate, and before you know it, a full-scale war has erupted.
Alternative: Whenever possible, address off-task behavior in private. Some teachers silently place a post-it note on the student’s desk to signal that a problem has occurred, then add a check mark for every subsequent infraction.
Others just speak in a quiet voice by the student’s desk or call the student up to their own. The method isn’t terribly important; just aim for a bare minimum of spectacle.
3. All Sound, No Sight
So many behavior problems start with students simply not understanding what they are supposed to do. This is especially true when teachers only give verbal directions instead of making them visual.
Alternative: Provide visual cues for what students are expected to do. If you want them to do steps 1-4 of today’s lab, then clean up their materials, then read silently for the rest of the period, go to the board and make a quick list: step 1-4, clean up, read. Simply writing those steps on the board will save you from having to remind students or reprimand them for not following the plan.
4. Not Waiting for Quiet
When I observe teachers, I see this mistake more often than any other: They start talking to the class before everyone has completely stopped talking. To be fair, they often wait until almosteveryone is quiet, but allowing that last bit of chatter to linger causes problems: Students who don’t hear what you say will either (a) turn to a neighbor to ask, or (b) follow instructions incorrectly. It’s easy to blame kids for being poor listeners, but the problem could actually be the teacher’s timing.
Alternative: Before addressing your class, force yourself to wait a few extra seconds (about five) until everyone – everyone – is completely quiet.
5. Making Students Choose Between Listening and Reading
When you distribute a handout to students, do you give them quiet time toactually read it? Or do you keep talking, “going over it” and constantly interrupting them to the point where they can’t process any of it? When you do this, you guarantee that students will either skip over something important on the document, or miss a vital bit of information you gave verbally. The brain can’t do both at once.
Alternative: If you have preliminary remarks to make before giving students written material, do your talking first, then pass out the papers. Once students have the document in hand, tell them you’re going to give them a few minutes to read it. Then…BE QUIET. If you must interrupt, have students turn their papers face-down and look at you, then give the announcement.
Read the remaining 5 over at MiddleWeb