The toughest part of having a successful teaching experience is being able to manage a class of pre-teens who want only to have fun and socialize instead of listening to the teacher. Here are a few practical classroom management strategies that I've used over the years to keep my students on task.
Give at least one warning. They're kids. Kids aren't perfect. I call the name of the student who is disrupting the class, and I say, “That’s one.” Most of the time, that’s all the student needs to straighten up.
Don't try and teach over the noise. A lot of the student teachers I’ve had are guilty of this. I was guilty of this also when I first started teaching. You have a plan that you have to get through. You see a few students actually paying attention to you, so you don’t want to stop, even though you know the kids in the back are doing something other than listening to you. You can’t go on. You have to stop and either wait till you have all their attention or you have to deal with the students who are taking attention from you.
Don't raise your voice. Stay in control. When you yell at the students, you give up control, and the students win.
Don't humiliate a student, especially in front of his/her friends. It’s never a good idea to humiliate a student. Sometimes, when you call their name in front of the class for making noise, it becomes an embarrassing moment. Do your best to make it as short a moment as possible. Don’t go into a long lecture on proper behavior in front of the class. First of all, you may lose any hopes for future success with that student, and you might cause that student to become defensive and belligerent. Some students will risk everything to save face in front of their friends.
Spend time on your lesson plan. My toughest days are when my plan is the weakest. A detailed lesson plan will go a long way to reduce your class disruptions. You can’t just “wing it,” and expect the class to run smoothly.
Be consistent. If one day you give a consequence for poor behavior, and tomorrow you don't, it's sends a bad message.
Have a discipline ladder. What is the consequence for the first offence? Second? Make sure the kids know what will happen at each level. Also, make it a short ladder. One = warning; Two = detention; Three = referral to the office, etc.
Forget yesterday's poor behavior. Make every day a new day, especially for those students who really made you mad yesterday.
Praise and remember good behavior. It’s good to remind your students of how great they did yesterday or last week.
Don't be afraid to contact parents. Many times, the parents can help you reinforce your rules. Notice I didn’t say “All the times?” Some parents won’t do anything.
Forging Relationships - Make an effort to forge positive, respectful relationships with your more challenging students. Study the purpose and triggers of their behaviours, and learn about their backgrounds. Use behaviour management strategies which target the cause of their misbehaviour, and remember they too have the right to a safe learning environment. From Michael Graffin of A Relief Teacher’s Journey
That's One - I've been asked a lot about dealing with students who are being disruptive in class. I always tell them that there are different levels of disruption. The more serious disruptions need to be handled immediately with the student being sent out of class to the office. The more common disruptions, however, can be, and should be, handled in class. These are the disruptions where the student is talking while you are talking, or where the student is in some other small way distracting another student. Every class is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all discipline plan. I do know, however, that you have to give students a warning before you lower the boom. This is where a lot of new teachers make their mistake. They don't allow students to be imperfect. They are kids, not robots. Accepting this is the first part of any discipline plan. Students will want to test your limits. They will want to see how much they can get away with. It's a normal part of their being. You have to be careful not to be too strict, but at the same time you don't want to be too lenient. Here is what I do. If a student is talking when he/she should be quiet, I'll first give him/her the “look.” I'll stop what I'm doing, and just look at him/her. If they stop, then I continue on as if nothing happened. I've made my point. If the student continues, then I'll stop again and call the student's name, and say, “That's one.” The students have already been told that they only get one warning. Normally, that's all it takes for the student to catch on. If, for instance, the student continues, I'll stop again, call the student's name, and say, “That's two.”Again, the students have already been told that when I get to “two,” it's a detention – 30 minutes after school the following day. If it ever gets to three, it's no longer a minor disruption. It's defiance, and the administration gets involved. It has been very rare, however, that I've had to get to the third warning. The main reason for this is that I keep my promises. If I promise a detention, I don't change my mind. I don't forget about it. I don't give a student a break if they say, “Please, please, please.” You give the students that one warning, letting them know that one mistake is acceptable, but more than one is not. Be consistent. Be fair. Be firm. Don't let those minor disruptions get out of hand. If you let one student get away with it, then others will start. It can make for a stressful year. This strategy works for me, and I teach eighth graders – yes, eighth graders, so I think I know what I'm talking about.
The Great Escape - If you are ever in a situation where you are confronting a student who has decided to face off with you. The best thing you can do is offer a way of escape. Most students are not out to just totally be defiant against the teacher. Sometimes, however, it happens that there is a moment where the student and the teacher find themselves fighting for control of the situation. You can either have the it's-my-way-or-the-highway position or you can give the student an option. Here is what I mean. I had as student who just couldn't sit next to another student, because they talked too much, so I told a student to move to a seat in the front that I chose. He said he didn't want to move there. I could have told him to move to where I wanted him to move, but I knew that it would lead to him getting even more belligerent and maybe doing something that would have gotten him into more trouble. What I did was tell him, “You can either move to this chair or that chair. You decide.” This put the student in control, but you still win. He said, “I'll sit there,” which was a seat different from the one I had originally chosen, but that's OK. I still accomplished what I wanted – having him separated from his friend. Students will not want to be shown up in front of their friends. They will risk getting into more trouble if it means saving face. Once a teacher understands this, there will be fewer major problems.