How Does an Effective Classroom Look? Experts observe commonalities


April 11, 2016 by HCDE-Texas

How does an effective classroom look? Experts observe commonalitiesWhile there’s no magic formula for a successful classroom, experts observe common traits in classrooms of effective teachers. Through practical experience as a math teacher, I have cultivated my own list.

Effective teachers share these good habits or operations in their classrooms, say co-authors and veteran teachers Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker. Together they authored several books, including Seven Simple Secrets, 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior, and Making Good Teaching Great.


Co-authors Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker

• The classroom is organized. A place for everything and everything in its place. Lessons are inviting and exciting.
• The students do most of the talking and the doing, prompted by the teacher’s questioning and guidance.
• Routines and procedures are evident. Students know exactly what is expected of them.
• There are no teacher warnings for student misbehavior. If a rule is broken, a consequence follows. If a procedure isn’t followed, the teacher provides more practice.
• Lesson objectives are clear and measurable.
• There is constant teacher movement around the room. Behavior problems are almost nonexistent.
• There is little dependence on worksheet-type activities. Lessons are highly interactive, and students remain engaged in meaningful activities.
• Technology is used, thoughtfully, to enhance lessons and learning.
• There is constant positive reinforcement.
• Teacher enthusiasm is evident and contagious.

These observed best practices are excellent. I would like to add a few of my own pertaining directly to math classrooms, work stations and small group instruction:

• Math classroom rules and practices are introduced and understood by your students.
• Students are engaged, leaving no time to get into mischief.
• Group members change over the course of the school year.
• Students rotate through 4 stations, spending 15-20 minutes on each.
• Students are able to explain their thinking and are given an opportunity to do so (or held accountable).
• Students know to play fairly, take turns, work the entire time and clean up.

If you have more observations to add to the list, we’d like to hear from you. For more information about what effective teachers’ classrooms look like, read Breaux and Whitaker’s article:

About the Blogger:
Nicole Shanahan is the math specialist at HCDE. A self-professed Julia Roberts of presenters, she vows to weave a bit of entertainment into each of her math workshops. As teacher, mentor, trainer and coach, Nicole serves up workshops ala carte within districts or at HCDE headquarters at 6300 Irvington, Houston, TX. The mother-of-three clocks in more volunteer hours than the average bear can handle. She often writes about her cubs in her posts. Follow Nicole on Pinterest at: Secondary Math | Elementary Math.

2 thoughts on “How Does an Effective Classroom Look? Experts observe commonalities

  1. Kyle O'Ren says:

    I totally agree with all of these bullet points, especially with consequences for misbehavior. My favorite teachers always had very clear cut rules and there were no exceptions. If everyone knows what the rules are, and that they will be enforced, behavior will stay positive and learning will undoubtedly commence.


    • HCDE-Texas says:

      Thanks for the feedback Kyle. We know that students like and need structure, so clear rules help clear the way to effective learning. Thanks again for following us!


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