Classroom management: How to avoid or eliminate misbehavior

ClassroomManagementBehavior management and instruction are two elements of teaching that go hand-in-hand. Good instruction requires good behavior management. Good behavior management calls for good instruction.

Behavior management is a popular call-for-help topic for both teachers and principals. New teachers are trained with supervising teachers who already have classroom routines and procedures in place. These novice teachers may have a false sense of ability to manage their own classroom due to the ease in which veteran teachers handle classroom behavior issues. It looks so easy and evident!

When working with teachers in training, I ask them to write down three to five worries they have with behavior management. Repeatedly they ask:
1.    How do I keep control of the class?
2.    What is the best way to keep students on-task?
3.    How do I handle difficult students?
4.    What is the best way to avoid confrontations with students?

The list continues. Teachers want to know how to keep their calm in the midst of chaos. What is the best way to react to talking back? How do you know when to send students to the principal? Repeatedly, teachers in their first year of training often voice these concerns.

I assure new teachers that all of us experience some of the behaviors they include in their list. Most veteran teachers can tell their own stories of behavior management problems and what they learned to do to stop or lessen the misbehaviors. The misbehavior-free classroom does not exist. Granted, some classes are “better behaved.” But disruptions happen.

Here is my top 5 list of how to avoid or eliminate misbehavior in the classroom:
1.    Establish clear classroom rules (but not too many). Students of all ages can contribute to the list of rules; however, the teacher has the final word on which rules are posted. Your class is not a pure democracy! It’s a mixture of student input in decision-making and veto power from the teacher.
2.    Routines and procedures are explained and practiced on the first day of school and followed thereafter. Once the teacher relaxes routines and procedures, students revisit laid-back, noisy and chaotic behaviors. Which routines and procedures are at risk? These include entering the class; getting ready to work and starting work for the day; and moving into groups (quickly and quietly). Routines involve having materials needed to learn (paper, pens/pencils and other required materials); passing up or passing out papers, journals, books, etc.; and reacting to signals to be quiet.
3.    Create a sense of community in the classroom. This practice among students and the teacher has gained more attention lately. The sooner that students get to know each other, the stronger a sense of belonging and cooperation occurs. Use ice-breakers during the first week of school to encourage students to get to know each other. Mix groups to cause students to become familiar with everyone in the class.
4.    Awareness of all activity in the classroom gives the teacher the edge in behavior management. Being aware means paying attention to what is happening in the classroom “at all times.” Let your eyes and ears work for you. Avoid turning your back on the class. Keep students in your line of vision. Use your ears to listen for off-task behaviors like talking, unnecessary movement, and laughter. Monitor, monitor, monitor.
5.    Handle misbehavior yourself unless it is severe (fighting in the classroom, really unruly behavior, stealing). Schools have district/school rules and consequences for violating them. Typically, there are procedures for teachers to follow such as talking to the student (document), talking to parents (document) and before/lunch/after school detentions (document). If all approved measures fail to get the student to comply, a trip to the principal or assistant principal follows (with your documentation). Teachers are expected to handle “routine” misbehavior themselves. (See the suggestions 1-4 for some ways to avoid challenges from students.)

What are your individual concerns and comments? Let’s discuss!

HCDE offers an online course on classroom management so you can learn on your own time, in your own space.

Want more on the topic of behavior management? Internet sources are plentiful. Search under behavior management, classroom management and discipline. Also, consider the following sources:

Emmer, Edmund T. and Carolyn M. Evertson. Classroom Management for Middle School and High School Teachers, 2012.
Evertson, Carolyn M. and Edmund T. Emmer. Classroom Management for Elementary School Teachers, 2012.
Jones, Fred. Tools for Teaching. 3rd Edition. (www.fredjones.com)
Marzano, Robert J. Classroom Management That Works, 2001.
NEA Articles and Resources Searle, Margaret. Causes and Cures in the Classroom: Getting to the Root of Academic and Behavior Problems, 2013.

About the Blogger:
Mary Lynn Johnson is curriculum director for social studies at HCDE. The veteran Spring ISD teacher, former assistant principal and program director follows her passion to share the educational advantages of learning about the past. Her first love is teaching social studies and turning students and teachers on to history, geography, government and economics. Her zeal as a social studies leader earned her the 2012 Texas Social Studies Supervisors Association “Supervisor of the Year” award.

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