7 Tips for Better Classroom Management | Edutopia
Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

7 Tips for Better Classroom Management

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

In my mind, the first and most basic obligation of a teacher is to see the beauty that exists within every student. Every child is infinitely precious. Period.

When we start from this vantage point, classroom management -- and its flip side, student engagement -- comes more easily. It's an outgrowth of students feeling loved and respected.

This video, shot in the first few days of my classroom in 2010, and the seven tips below will show how I try to put these ideas into practice.

1. Love your Students

Love them -- and stand firmly against behavior that doesn't meet your expectations or reflect their inner greatness. Too many students have internalized a profound sense of their own inadequacy, and it is incumbent upon us to remind them of their infinite value and counteract the many messages that they receive to the contrary. By loving our students unconditionally, we remind them of their true worth.

Our students know how we feel about them. If we don't like them -- or if we see them as a behavior problem -- they know it. Even if we don't say it, they will know it. And then that student is justified in resenting us, for we have failed to see the beauty that exists within that child. Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

2. Assume the Best in Your Students

If a student chose not to meet one of my classroom expectations, they needed to know that I loved them but not their misbehavior. They needed to know that I cared for them and would not accept their poor choice because it would ultimately hurt them and didn't reflect how wonderful they truly are.

For instance, a minute and a half into the first day, I gave one student a verbal warning for whispering to another student as he was searching for his seat. Assuming the best in this young man, I told him, “I know you were probably talking about your seat, but you can't even talk about that, so that's your verbal warning. Go back to your seat and silently start your work." By assuming that he was trying to do the right thing -- find his assigned seat -- I affirmed that he wanted to meet the expectations. And yet I was firm with him that his choice to whisper after he had been told to silently begin his work was not OK. Similarly, at the end of class, I kept behind a student who was sighing to herself over the course of the period. By letting her know that I wouldn’t accept her subtle expressions of boredom or frustration, I also let her know that I thought she was great and her expressions of negativity wouldn't fly because they'd hurt our collective learning environment -- and because they didn’t square with the wonderful person I knew her to be.

3. Praise What and When You Can

Call attention to the things your students are doing that meet your expectations. The power of this is stunning for a number of reasons. Here are two:

  • It enables you to restate and reinforce the expectations for student behavior in a non-negative way. By narrating on-task behavior, you enable students who may have misheard you the first time to hear exactly what you expect of them. It's easier for students to meet your expectations when it's amply clear what those expectations are.
  • It shows your students that you're with it, that you're very aware of what's happening in the classroom. When they see and hear that you see and hear pretty much everything, they know that you mean business and that even their smallest actions matter.

4. Do Sweat the Small Stuff

In those first few minutes, hours and days in the classroom, you are essentially creating a world. And you want a world in which students do things that will keep them or put them on a path to a life replete with meaningful opportunities. Behaviors or actions that will detract from that world should be nipped in the bud. If you only "sweat" major misbehaviors, students will get the sense that minor misbehaviors are OK. If, on the other hand, you lovingly confront even the smallest misbehaviors, then it will be clear to students that, inside the four walls of your classroom, things that detract from what you're trying to achieve – even in small ways – just don’t fly.

5. Identify Yourself

Tell your students about who you are and why you're there. A classroom where each student deeply trusts the teacher has the potential to be a great environment for learning. To build that trust, tell your students who you are and why you chose to be a teacher. Tell them about your background, what you did when you were their age, and why you want to be their teacher. The more your students know about you and your intentions, the more they'll trust you to lead them.

6. Forge a Class Identity

Begin the year by forging a positive, collective identity as a class. During the first few days, I often complimented my classes as a collective. For instance, I'd say something like, "Period 3, everyone I’m looking at is meeting expectations." In many instances, I praised the entire class so that they began to feel they were part of something special in that room. They began feeling a sense of pride at being members of Period 3.

Conversely, I often chose to redirect individual students rather than the whole class. Instead of saying, “Period 3, I'm tired of hearing you talking when you shouldn’t be" -- which would introduce an oppositional tone, creating a divide between teacher and students -- I found more success correcting students individually.

7. Have a Plan

Your lesson plans need to be crystal clear. You need to begin each day with clarity about what students should know and be able to do by the end of the class period, and every second of your day should be purposefully moving you toward that end.

In addition to clarity about student knowledge and achievement, you should have a clear sense of the behavior you expect at each point in the class period. When you see them making the choice to behave as you expect them to, narrate it. And when you don't see it, confront those misbehaviors clearly, directly and with love.

I'm glad to know that the videos of my first few days in the classroom have been helpful. I'm also hyper aware that my lessons and my execution of them are far from perfect. I look forward to hearing how others create a strong classroom culture. Please share in the comments area below.


Comments (40)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Terry Gibbs's picture

I liked the calming tone of his voice. His demeanor was very relaxed and confident; not too strong. Instruction were illustrated and simple. Expectations were immediate. All students are engaged. I like that he challenges them right away, and shows the students that he is interested in who they are as people, not just students. I think that is so important. Students definitely know if you like them or not. His clapping to be quiet is so cool.

MSA's picture

Your videos are a godsend! I'm teaching Gr. 8 next year after 16 years in K-4. I have only seen video #3 from the Edutopia links. I'll watch the rest of the videos.

I'd like to know your rewards and consequences. Apologies if you have already said it on this video #1 which I still have to watch.

Thanks again.

Evy Roy's picture
Evy Roy
Former Community and Social Media Intern at Edutopia


We let the author know about your question. He's traveling this week, so his response might be a bit delayed. Great question!

CindyH.'s picture

Tyler, I would like to say that I have NEVER witnessed anyone manage a class the way you did. I plan to implement many of your procedures. I was wondering if you have any resources appropriate for middle school. I realize most, if not all, of your techniques will work for middle school, but I wondered if there are any pictures, etc. of such. I teach 7th grade Civics and 8th grade U.S. History. Thanks for sharing.

rebedwell's picture

shiri, you are right that what is shown in the video is, for all intents and purposes, an artificial situation. Leadership HS is a charter that skims off top students from two nearby public inner city high schools (not to mention financial resources). The public high schools in the area have class sizes of 38-40 (oftentimes more on the first day). So there are very few students here in the video, almost all come from "the good kid" pool, and there are cameras present. I don't know why these kinds of videos all take place in situations like this; just once I'd like to see one in a real inner city school with real inner city school class sizes and students.

That being said, his advice all seems very good. You do have to love your students. You do have to have high expectations delivered in a firm but caring way. You are best off if you practice routines during the first week. Etc. It would just be nice to see how a "classroom management expert" deals with the conditions that most teachers viewing this video will encounter at their schools.

Paulo's picture

Your classroom management technique is awesome. My friend, and colegue, and I watched your autobiographical video and the Day 1 video with the 3 period 9th grade class. We spent a lot of time discussing the seamless way in which you implemented various things, such as maintaining a quiet tone, affirming your students, consistently reinforcing the skills you expect them to employ throughout the year, and the list goes on. I watched these videos last year as a teacher and they were of tremendous help. This year I am an administrator who still have a couple of teaching assignments. It was quiet helpful to review your videos again to remind me of what I need to do to properly manage my classes and also to share with my staff to aid them in managing theirs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

Amelia Crespo's picture

Hi Tyler,

I already employ many of the same classroom management techniques that you demonstrate in your video series; however, it seems that many aspects of your management style hinge on the assumption that all students are doing the same thing at the same time. Could you please suggest adaptations you might make in order to apply some of these techniques to a hybrid learning classroom.

Recently, I have started to implement a hybrid learning model in my classroom, in which students rotate between three stations: direct instruction, independent work, and collaborative work. I start the year by making the expectations for each station clear, practicing quick transitions in the rotation, and demonstrating appropriate volume for each station. However, it can be challenging to manage each of the three groups simultaneously.

Could you please suggest how you would maintain consistent management standards as you deliver direct instruction, while also monitoring students working independently and groups or pairs working collaboratively?

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Jose, the class in question took place on the very first day of the school year. Many teachers use that time to set expectations and establish classroom procedures. The idea is that time invested early will pay off in smoother learning experiences later.

shiri's picture

I don't know...Tyler comes off as rather arrogant and dictatorial. I don't think this would fly in a typical inner city classroom with upwards of 25 students. My students would be cutting and rolling their eyes, and not 5 minutes would pass before someone would stand up and yell, "This class is b-s," and walk out of the room." On day 2 and day 3, there'd be a lot more empty seats.

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Teacher/leader & techie at independent, alternative, therapeutic high school

Seeing the title of this post, I recalled advice from one of my college professors: "The first rule of classroom management? Love your students." Imagine my delight to see that your #1 is the same. In my school we phrase the idea like this: "unconditional positive regard with conditional response to behaviors." That means - I care about you, and nothing is going to change my mind - but, I don't have to be happy and supportive of all of your choices. Sounds like you are in the same school of thought.

Shiri, I'm curious what aspects of this you think might not work for you. Tell me more!


blog Calling All Students to the Front, Please

Last comment 15 hours 38 min ago in Student Voice

Discussion Ultimate Ice Breaker? Making & Flying Paper Planes!

Last comment 23 hours 25 min ago in Classroom Management

Discussion Shhh... Listen... Ambient Noise in the Classroom

Last comment 1 day 3 hours ago in Learning Environments

Discussion First Impressions Last: Start the Year Great

Last comment 6 hours 22 min ago in Classroom Management

Discussion The Sweet Sound of Silence

Last comment 1 day 9 hours ago in Learning Environments

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.