” The number one problem in the classrooms is not discipline; it is lack of authentic learning tasks, procedures and routines.” – Harry Wong.
Effective teachers have at least one thing in common. They understand the importance of good classroom management and they make it a priority. They fully understand that student success does not depend only on a focus on curriculum content and the teacher’s pedagogical skills. They strive to create a safe, orderly, student-friendly, collaborative environment in the classroom, which is conducive to learning. This environment is the product of good classroom management. Unsuccessful teachers often lack good classroom management skills. Most educational experts and practitioners would recommend the following 10 tips to any teacher who seeks to improve her classroom management. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.
1. Lesson planning and preparation are paramount. The Harry Wong quotation above illustrates this. Teachers should over-plan each lesson. They must ensure that each lesson will engage students meaningfully for the entire teaching period. There should be no dead moments in the lesson during which teachers run out of relevant and interesting things to teach. If this happens, students are going to fill the ensuing vacuum with off-task talk and disruptive conduct. When students are engrossed in discovering new information or learning new skills, they do not have the time or the inclination to be disruptive.
2. As far as discipline is concerned, teachers should start by being tough and strict. If this proves to be unnecessary in any given classroom, the teacher can relax the discipline accordingly. Tight discipline should be maintained in more challenging classrooms. It is easier to relax tight discipline if necessary, than to tighten poor discipline. Poor discipline will destroy the learning environment and respect for the teacher.
3. Have clear and specific classroom rules which include the penalties for breaches of these rules. Post the rules on classroom walls and make sure that all students understand them. Enforce them. Students are usually more compliant when they are involved in the creation of the rules.
4. Be consistent, firm and fair in dealing with students or they will lose respect for you. They will not trust you either. Do not argue publicly with students; deal with difficult students privately and preferably in the presence of a school administrator. Do not refer all problems to administrators however, or students may believe that you cannot control them.
5. Use gentle humour to defuse tension and difficult situations in the classroom. Be careful, though, not to humiliate any student with pointed sarcasm. This would alienate many students.
6. Do not make any promises or threats you cannot deliver. Your students will stop taking you seriously if you do this.
7. Move students who misbehave or talk too much, close to your desk. Move around the classroom as you teach and stand next to offending students. Ask them questions unexpectedly. This forces them to be more attentive and therefore less disruptive.
8. Promote student engagement in your classroom. Offer opportunities for group work, discussion, projects and collaborative problem-solving. Students learn by doing.
9. Always praise and reward students for good academic work and good conduct. Recognize improvement in any way, shape or form.
10. Create partnerships with parents and guardians. Parental involvement leads to improved student performance and better teacher-parent relationships.
If teachers actively locate these 10 tips for good classroom management within a context of high expectations for all students, we should see significant improvements in classroom climate and student performance. What would you add to this list?