Sometimes creating a classroom management system can seem overwhelming. I’ve been there. I was fortunate enough to have a tremendously informative and caring mentor during my first and second year of teaching. She taught me everything I needed to know about classroom management. I decided to create this post to share some of her tips (and mine) in the hopes that they will help you in your journey.
The first thing I would suggest you do is sit down and finalize your non-negotiable items regarding behavior. What are some things that you absolutely do not tolerate? For example, I would say a non-negotiable for me would be lining up quietly. This is a big one because I do not like when students run to the door as if it was a race. Plus, there’s always the risk of hurting themselves and/or others.
After you’ve compiled your list, categorize them. Doing so will help you come up with your rules. A general rule of thumb is five (5) rules is best. I know! It seems impossible, right?! When I first started teaching I had about 10 rules posted in my classroom until my mentor made me take them down, categorize them, and bring it down to just five rules! I remember her telling me, “Students will never remember 10 rules!” This is VERY TRUE, y’all. Also, the more rules you have, the more likely they are to break them. Don’t set your students up for failure.
Here’s an example of five (5) simple rules:
1 Always arrive prepared.
2 Don’t talk when the teacher is talking.
3 Line up quietly.
4 Be kind and respectful to others.
5 Always try your best.
OK, so by no means am I saying that these rules are the MAGICAL rules to fix all classroom management problems forever, until the end of time. These are just examples of the types of rules I had posted in my classrooms (grades 1-4) over the years.
TIP: Predetermine your five (5) rules before your students arrive on the very first day of school, but give them the opportunity to create the rules with you. Remember to steer the conversation in the direction of your five rules, but let your students think that they came up with them. Wink, wink!
Once you’ve communicated your rules, get ready to MODEL. The very first week of school should be spent on rules, procedures, and expectations. BE EXPLICIT. If you tell your students that you expect them to line up quietly, you will need to model it. This means you will need to sit on a student’s desk, stand up, push your chair in, and quietly and calmly walk towards the classroom door to line up. Students need to SEE you behaving the way you want them to behave. Seems pointless and repetitive? It’s not! Trust me. Allow your students to practice and if you see a problem, have them sit back down and try again.
Afterwards, you want to talk about the consequences. Students need to understand that every behavior has a consequence. TIP: Don’t create more work for yourself by adding consequences that require YOU to do something drastic and dramatic. Something as simple as taking away a few minutes of recess should suffice. Calling every parent every night is too much work, so I wouldn’t suggest adding that as a consequence to minor offenses like running in the hallway.
Also, talk to your students about your rewards program. Students love to hear positive things. Rather than encouraging them to behave well to avoid being punished, encourage them to behave well for the perks!
But the MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember about your rules, consequences, and rewards is to be CONSISTENT. You must have follow through with every student once a rule is broken. What will happen if you forget to enforce them? They will walk all over you. Students are NOT inherently bad, but they’re still kids, and they will try to get away with everything if you don’t put a stop to it. You need to show them that you mean business.
TIP: It’s always a good idea to revisit the rules after a long holiday/break.
“But what about building relationships?” I get asked this question all of the time! Although it’s important to build relationships with your students, you have to remember that you are their TEACHER first and foremost. On the very first day of school your job is to communicate your expectations not to become BFFs. I promise you that the relationships will come with time. Your students know that you care about them. Establishing classroom norms will ensure an optimal learning environment for all and will allow you to start building those relationship without compromising your power.
Finally, don’t forget to revisit your rules, consequences, and rewards regularly and make changes accordingly. Be flexible and listen to what your classroom needs, and always communicate with your students when a change is made.
Good luck, and happy teaching!