Student teachers and new teachers often say that they love teaching, adore the students, and have mastered the subject material. It’s classroom management that keeps them up at night, especially after spring break. While much has been written about classroom management, it remains a challenge for new and experienced teachers and may be the toughest as the school year is starting to wind down. Follow these four tips to make your classroom a productive place until the last bell rings.
Tip 1: Reorganize the room.
A well-organized room has a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. When the students leave for spring break, look around your room and decide if the room arrangement can be improved for better management. It may be time for some spring housecleaning.
Group work is a powerful tool, and placing students at tables where they can talk is important for group work. However, by this time of year, the students know each other so well that they will always talk when they face each other, so have students facing the front at the start of the day and whenever you are delivering instruction. Leave enough space between desks that you can walk around and monitor students.
Tip 2: Remind students of the procedures and routines.
The Monday that students return from any break can be considered another first day of school. Use part of the day to review and reteach the procedures and routines that you use. Make some new visuals of the procedures as a reminder. Once the weather gets nice, it’s even more critical to get students engaged as soon as they enter the room by having the first work of the day posted. A “today we will” list on the board helps students see the way the class or day will flow.
Tip 3: Update your classroom management plan.
Your classroom management plan, which should include three to five rules, positive feedback or supportive rewards, and consequences, should have been in place since the first day of school. However, in many classrooms, the management plan becomes a poster on the wall and not a usable plan. This is a good time to update the rules and to involve students in a discussion of the rules and consequences.
Throughout the year, you have been giving students verbal affirmations, sending notes or emails home, and reinforcing their good behavior in other ways. Spring is the time to take those positive reinforcements up a notch.
What about consequences? Even as the school year ends, the first consequence should be a warning since everyone can have a bad day and arrive in class upset. However, a severe clause in the management plan is needed for emergencies. When a student throws a desk, you should get back-up help from the office.
Tip 4: Engage students with meaningful, relevant, and rigorous instruction.
Some students actually tell their parents that they got in trouble because nothing was going on in their classroom. Students should be engaged from bell to bell all year long. A busy student doesn’t have time to get into trouble.
A complete version of this article appeared in the February/March 2014 issue of Educational Horizons.