Top 5 Classroom Management Tips

I need to confess something.

When I came back from leave after having my baby, I was freaked out! It was like my students had forgotten everything I'd ever taught them about rules and procedures.

I immediately had to start rebuilding my classroom. I went back to work in mid-November. So, for about five weeks, I've been revisiting my expectations with my classes.

I'm finally starting to see the positive results of this. I had a really great week. My classes were on task and engaged. I feel like it is getting back to normal! We are arting all over the place again! ;)

This experience made me think about the tons of "tips and tricks" blog posts about classroom management that I see all over the web. Some are for general education and some are for art education specifically. I like to read lists, and I started to think about what I would put on a list of my top five things that help me with classroom management...

And, what do you know? I ended up writing this post!

So, without further delay, here is a list of my

5. Build Social Interaction Into Your Lessons

You might as well accept that the students are going to talk. They are going to talk. They are going to talk. They are going to talk! The best thing you can do is structure opportunities for them to talk to their peers about what you are teaching. When I create videos or slide presentations for my classroom, I add sections with discussion questions. I like to use a timer, too. I'll pull up YouTube timers so students can see how long they have to discuss the topic. Then, I travel about the room to monitor the discussions and interact with students when I need to. This gives me an opportunity to address misconceptions and give feedback. It also helps them stay on task.

A slide from my Modigliani lesson

4. Movement 

Do they drive you crazy swinging their legs or tapping their pencils on the table? It is because they are children. They aren't made to sit at a table all day. I'm not sure adults are made to do this either. The human body needs to move. It is healthy to move around. It helps blood flow to our brains! I believe in brain breaks that involve movement. My classes are only 45 minutes long, but I make every effort to include movement.

I can sense unrest brewing in my classroom. It is like static electricity. You might not be able to see it, but you know it is there. When this happens, I know it is time to do some moving. Our movement ranges from things like Move to Learn videos to standing up and following oral directions (tap your head three times, turn around, stretch, pretend you are a silent tennis player, etc.). Coach Clayton from the Move to Learn videos is the PE teacher at my school, by the way. (Of course I had to plug that!)

3. Verbal Cues

I'm not going to stand around and beg for attention. I use two verbal cues very consistently to get attention. The PE, music, computer lab, and media teachers at my school also use these. It helps a lot to use these across classrooms. However, even if you are the only one using certain cues, it is better to have one or two that you use consistently than to always be begging for attention from your classes.

The first verbal cue is "clap once, clap twice." I wait for the students to clap after I say "clap once." Then, I do the same with "clap twice." If they don't get quiet immediately (they usually do),  I repeat it another time. I've never had to repeat "clap once, clap twice" more than twice. They know to stop talking and look at me when they hear this.

The other cue I use is "class class." They say "yes, yes." I use that one when they have things in their hands that would prevent them from clapping. Sometimes they have paint on their hands, etc. Works like a charm!

This one never gets old!

2. Flipping Lessons

When I say that I flip my lessons, all I mean is that I video myself modeling the steps to a lesson and show the video on my Promethean Board. I use my phone to video myself and upload the videos to YouTube. The most recent one I videoed was to show how to trace my own hand. Believe it or not, some kids don't know how to do that.

My classes are large, and they cannot see me when I do things like that at the front of the room. When I video it, they can see it on the large screen. This cuts down on misbehavior tremendously because everyone knows exactly what to do. They don't misunderstand the directions as often because they can actually see what I am doing. I realized about four years ago that over half of my behavior problems were stemming from students not knowing what they were supposed to do. When they don't understand what they need to do, they can't do it. So, they would just exhibit all sorts of off-task behaviors and get into trouble.

I recently, ummm this week, had a fourth grader tell me that I should time lapse my videos so they are shorter. I was like, "HELLO, that's genius!" Less talky, talky...more worky, worky! I'll be doing that the next time I video myself. The kids come up with some really great ideas. I love that about working with kids!

1. Treat People with Dignity

All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity. They deserve it because they are human beings. Living, breathing beings. With feelings.

Students are worthy of our love and our time as an investment in them. I fear that too many of them deal with situations in their personal lives that don't allow them to keep their dignity. Situations that force them to be hard and make even harder choices. I want my classroom to be a safe place where they can be themselves and be happy. I want them to know their worth.

I try to monitor the tone of my voice and my facial expressions when I talk to them. I make sure that I smile as much as I can. I am not perfect. I don't mean to give the impression that I think that I am. I am human too. I am just saying that I try very hard. I tell myself to always do my best to treat the students with dignity, and I try my best to model this as I interact with other adults as well.

Final Thoughts

These tips are mostly about behavior management. We are working with little human beings who have little minds of their own. So, it is tricky to manage behavior. I will be posting again soon about classroom management tips that apply to organization.

Plato said,
"Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge."
I think this is important to remember as we are working with our students. They desire social interaction. They desire movement and creative thinking. They need to know exactly what is expected and how to produce results. They want to feel loved, appreciated, and respected. These things are so basic to humanity. Even we, as adults, want these things. When those needs are met, we will all have joy in teaching and learning.