Ask any teacher what their classroom looked like ten years ago and they’ll take you on a trip down memory lane.
Chalk boards instead of smart boards. Notepads instead of iPads. Computer rooms instead of desk computers.
Despite these shifts, one thing remains abundantly clear: Kids need teachers with strong classroom management strategies to shape them into keen learners, engaged classmates and curious students.
As the education world changes, it’s important to keep up with the more recent strategies. Otherwise, you risk falling behind.
1. Make Enthusiasm The Star Of Your Lesson Plans
Enthusiasm is a powerful tool in the classroom. Kids can tell when their teachers are engaged with what they’re teaching.
This doesn’t mean you have to be bouncing off the walls with energy every second of every day. It does mean you have to present each lesson with energy and confidence.
It’s an effective strategy because it establishes you as the centre of your students’ collective universe. Kids are drawn to enthusiasm, the energy it brings places their attention on you creating a high level of cognitive and emotional engagement.
Research conducted by Qin Zhang of Fairfield University looks to something called ‘emotional contagion’ to motivate better student learning. Defined as the spread of emotion a person displays, Zhang found that when students feel the enthusiasm of the teacher, it improves their attention, engagement, and stimulation.
2. Create First-Step Compliance
First-step compliance sounds a lot fancier than it is – it boils down to establishing a start to your class or school day. This process ensures your students are immediately drawn to you.
The core mission here is to get your learners engaged from the beginning every time they’re with you. The best part? It’s surprisingly simple and effective.
It all starts with a task. You can have your pick but it has to be communicated as an instruction. Some favourites include:
- “One, two, three, eyes on me.”
- “Hands down, heads up, eyes to the board.”
- “Attention on the screen.”
These directions focus the class and start the day off with a quick accomplishment. The trick to first-step compliance is keeping things simple and emphasising action. Use strong verbs, include a focus and watch how it transforms the class.
3. Leverage The Effectiveness Of Timeouts
First mentioned in the late 1960s, timeouts have long been an important component of evidence-based behaviour management strategies. The Journal of Education and Treatment of Children reviewed 30 years of timeout research, ultimately concluding that timeouts are effective at school for both typically developing children and those with special needs.
Timeouts are generally considered short breaks from positive reinforcement. Essentially, kids are taken away from an activity they think of as fun. The intention of effective timeouts are not intensely punitive and they function as a safe consequence for disobedience.
Modern timeouts are more about providing a safe space for an emotional breather. This environment allows students to self-soothe before coming back into the action. Timeouts can provide a great space for decompression, reflection and self-awareness.
It’s important to note that for timeouts to be effective, you need to clearly define what warrants them, where they take place and how long they last. While they can be effective, they’re not useful when they’re doled out at random or when students don’t understand what can land them in one.
4. Let Your Students Steer
Is there any better feeling than seeing your students actively engage in their learning? It’s why most teachers get into education. Sometimes the best thing you can do to encourage this is to put your learners in the driver’s seat.
Try encouraging your students to get curious about how their learning is going by sitting down with them to discuss what is going well and what isn’t. These conversations will motivate kids to take a more proactive role in their learning, giving them the skills to self-advocate and problem-solve on their own. By facilitating these conversations, you can create a classroom of students playing an active role in their own education.
5. Rehearse Classroom Transitions
We all know too well how transition periods can be a time of chaos. It’s when you’re most likely to lose the attention of your students and without regular strategies in place you could be headed for disaster.
Most classes last between 45 and 90 minutes, depending on the school. That means you’re probably going to have to change gears a couple of times each class. The best approach to this? Transition rituals.
Teach your learners to respond to these five simple steps:
- Signal for attention (this could be a hand motion, a set of claps etc.).
- Say ‘in a moment’ followed by specific instructions.
- Say ‘go’ to signal it’s time to begin.
- Observe their responses.
- Refine as necessary.
Following this structure every time you need to transition into a new lesson or begin the start of a new activity will create consistency for your students. Some teachers like to reward this practice to encourage participation. You could try a reward for every 20 times the transition plan is followed and effective.
6. Model Follow-Through
When you say you’re going to do something, you need to do it. Follow-through helps students respect your word. They know when you set out an intention you intend to keep it. The more your classroom sees you following your word, the more likely they’ll be to model that same behaviour.
You want to create a space of kept promises and potential because this kind of environment is motivating, trusting and honest. It’s a simple strategy but one that can create a more engaged and attentive classroom.
7. Celebrate Student Success
It doesn’t matter how old you are, being recognised for good work and genuine effort feels good. Those positive feelings transform into motivation. It’s human nature, we like the feeling of praise so we seek to recreate the behaviours that got us that pat on the back.
Showing your students you see their hard work, appreciate their effort and are impressed by their progress keeps them engaged and excited to take on new tasks. Remember to vary the behaviours you’re praising. Celebrations shouldn’t solely focus on grades, remember to include things like:
- Helping out classmates.
- Offering answers for difficult topics.
- Going the extra mile on an assignment.
What Will Teachers Get If They Implement These Strategies?
Refreshing your classroom management strategies helps you develop professionally, keeps students engaged, and creates a positive learning environment for you and your learners.
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