Maintaining a well-managed classroom is about more than just discipline. A teacher with experience in effective classroom management knows that the level of efficiency a classroom has is determined before you even meet your students. This carries through to every aspect of teaching. Good classroom management is as much about preventing problems as it is about cleaning them up after they occur. More importantly, instead of looking at student behaviour in isolation, teachers should consider it in the context of classroom design, lesson planning, and instructional strategies, as these are all important tools to help us achieve our main goal, student engagement.
Classroom design is a key way to initiate effective classroom management before the first bell even rings. A classroom can be a warm, exciting place. However, if not properly designed or maintained, the classroom can quickly lose its potential to assist a teacher in maintaining a well controlled learning environment. For instance, a classroom that is set up for cooperative learning promotes the idea of teamwork and responsibility. Conversely, a classroom that uses a more traditional design such as straight rows does not support the team approach and limits student interaction.
Classroom maintenance is every bit as important as classroom design. Simply put, students enjoy an environment that changes periodically. Study centres with rotating themes invites enthusiasm for your subject, which in turn promotes engagement. However, just as you may want to enrich your classroom, there may be times when you want to impoverish it as well. You may need a quiet corner with few distractions, as some students will get caught up in visual exploration. For them, the vibrant colours are sirens that pull them off task. The quiet corner is a place where you can steer these students, allow them to maintain focus on the task at hand and not become a disruption to the learning environment. Another idea for classroom maintenance is to display student work around the room. This helps to give the students a sense of belonging and ownership of the space.
One other important classroom management strategy, perhaps the most important, is lesson planning. Lesson plans may be viewed as a tool that allows both teachers and students to maintain the necessary levels of engagement, through a sense of purpose and procedure. They should be written in a manner that allows you to begin each lesson with clarity about what students already know and what they should be able to do by the end of the class period. If every second of your day is purposefully moving you toward that end, it will encourage engagement while discouraging behaviours that are disruptive and disorderly. In addition to clarity about student knowledge and the learning objectives, you should also have a clear sense of the behaviour you expect at each point in the class period. These expectations need to be communicated to the students. By so doing, you give students the responsibility of managing their conduct,by becoming aware of how closely the choices they make reflect on the overall outcome. This in turn allows the teacher the capacity to address behaviour management more clearly and directly.
Finally, the strategies and techniques that you choose to use to facilitate learning are as important to the management of your classroom as any of the aforementioned aspects. Teachers should possess a repertoire of effective instructional strategies to use in the classroom. Peer tutoring, discussion, debates, questioning, and group work are examples of very different teaching methods that can achieve similar goals. The ability to initiate a lesson with a given strategy, coupled with an understanding of how to assess the strategy’s effectiveness, can be very useful in maintaining student engagement; as such, be flexible. If a technique proves to be too demanding or the interest isn’t there, adapt it or change it completely. Be open to even starting over the lesson. The benefit of a class that is engaged, is worth any modifications you may have to make to your lesson.
These ideas are a good place for any teacher to begin building a strong foundation for a well-maintained classroom. Remember, classroom management and behaviour management are not synonymous. Design well, plan strong, perfect your approach, and reap the benefits.
By Terrence Lorick – Guest Writer