How to Create a Successful Classroom Management Strategy

Classroom management is what makes or breaks your lessons. It’s what keeps new teachers up at night, and what even the veteran teacher longs to improve. It is, I believe, the KEY to good teaching.

Managing your classroom incorporates everything that needs to happen in order for a lesson to run smoothly.

This includes routines, group roles, class jobs, transitional procedures, classroom set up, the students, and the teachers. I think that good classroom management should aim at preventing negative behavior before it happens, and have plans set in case things start to go awry.

Here are some things that help me keep order in the chaos of a hands-on science classroom:

1. Set up your classroom for success.

Having your room in order minimizes interruptions, distractions, and wasted time.

  • Do the kids have access to everything they need?
  • Is everything in its place, neat, clean and accessible?
  • As the teacher, can you easily walk around to all of your students, as well as maintain eye contact.
  • Can students easily see you?
  • Are your plans for the day displayed prominently, so that students can enter your room and easily see them and know what they may need, benchmarks to reach, and homework to complete?

These things should be clearly posted in the same place every day.  If you are missing any of these, then it’s time to change up your classroom to provide the setting for great management to take place.

2. Start at the Beginning.

Your first day in school in September should also be the first day you introduce your classroom management techniques:

  • Show them the room.
  • Have them take notice that it is neat and clean, and free of clutter: setting the expectations that you want.
  • Have students create the class rules with you. The students will be more motivated to follow rules that they created, over rules that they are given.
  • Set up class jobs like attendance manager, paper passer, messenger, lights, etc.

At first, remind students to do the job when needed, then move on to non-verbal cues, until, finally, they do the jobs automatically.

Give students roles even within the groups so that all students are responsible for something- and let them choose their role so they are comfortable. I use speakers, scribes, attendance, artists, and go-fers (get and return lesson materials.)

Teach them daily procedures, and model silent ways to handle them- some teachers use hand signals, or phrases to help. Encourage good behaviors audibly instead of verbally mentioning those not doing what’s asked.

You can also walk all around the room, taking time to check on each student often, and using proximity to stop any behavior you are looking to discourage. Be consistent with the rules and procedures. With time, they’ll be doing them without you.  

3. Let Them Do It!

Teach them how to do things independently.

We have to let go of some of our control here, but if this is done carefully with September training, it will make for smoother, easier classes for you later.

Do they really need to ask to get a tissue, sharpen their pencil, or get a ruler? Teach them what they can do without you- and then model and encourage that behavior. Let them do as much as possible!

Place them in groups and encourage self-maintenance and behavior modifications (I give my managers the “shush” right over their group.) Give students choices as much as possible, not just with rules.

Students that feel they are part of the learning process and assessment choices are not going to be behavior problems.

Also remember that down time is never your friend! Have a plan A… and B… and C, too! We know that some kids work faster than others — so be prepared with “above and beyond” assignments. This can be specific to each lesson, or something that is always available, like an extra credit station or bulletin board.

Make sure kids are always occupied in some type of a learning activity. In the same, be flexible and ready to modify if something seems too hard, for your class.

Frustrated students will check out of class and easily become behavior issues.

4. You Better entertain!

It is our job to keep our students attention. Bring in the jokes, bring in the stunts, make it a show to keep their attention. Vary instruction to keep students from losing focus, even if it is the same topic. Get your kids out of their seats and working with their hands as much as possible.

Even though some of your classroom activities may get noisy, don’t talk over the kids. Have a way to get their attention (lights out, clap, 1-2-3) and wait for all of them to stop talking AND look at you. Consider WHO you’re teaching, their age, abilities, attention span, etc. and plan for them specifically. Get to know them and let them get to know you.

Establishing a respectful relationship with your students creates students that want to listen and learn from you, that want to do well, and will not be behavior issues.

5. What If Things Go Wrong?

Make a plan and stick to it. Don’t attack negative behaviors publicly, pull them aside and start by asking them what’s going on. Be open to the possibility that this might not even be about you- are they hungry, sad, or hurt? Some trouble makers are looking for attention, this attention can be met positively often by giving them jobs or involving them in the lesson.

If you really do have a behavior issue, deal with it appropriately. Be consistent, and be firm. Many teachers use a reward system. If you feel the need to give consequence, try to choose natural consequence, for example, a student is not ready for a fun lab because their homework is not complete, so they have to miss the lab to complete the homework. Or, students waste class time and do not get an assignment done, so you require them to use their time (lunch) to finish the work.

Sometimes classroom management reaches outside of the classroom. As appropriate, bring the team in for troubled students- parents, co-teachers, and administration.

There is no exact formula or perfect style of classroom management. Classroom management is about you and your students. Someone is going to be in control in every classroom. Your job is to make sure that someone is you. If you´re really good, you can get your students managing themselves with your rules- and that is when you know you have moved your classroom management skills to a whole new level.

-Jessica Cicalese-Kurtz


Jessica Cicalese-Kurtz, MA, K-12 Teaching and Technology; BA, K-8 Education; BS, Biology, Science and Engineering, is a high school STEAM Bio and AP Research teacher at Toms River High School East. Jess is also the Science Fair Coordinator at Toms River Middle School South. Jess has written curriculum for K-8 Science and High School Biology, as well as designed and implemented workshops for teachers. She is a freelance writer, wife, and budgeting mom of four who loves to travel, enjoy nature, connect with animals, and read.

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