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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Welcome to Edutopia's New Teacher Academy! I'm so happy to be here sharing my passion to support and mentor new teachers. I hope that you will join us for all five key topics that we'll cover in this series, because that's our mission: offering resources to new teachers. To collaborate in more detail on these and other topics, I invite you to join my weekly New Teacher chat on Twitter, and also to visit my blog Teaching with Soul.

Please view this introductory video as I share a little more about our five-part blog series.

Classroom management is a term used by teachers and educators to describe the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite potentially challenging or disruptive student behavior. The term also implies the prevention of this kind of disruptive behavior. Many teachers find that classroom management is possibly the most difficult aspect of teaching; indeed, experiencing problems in this area causes some to leave teaching altogether. It can be even more challenging when you're a new teacher!

Our first guest contributor is Justin Stortz. Many thanks to Justin for sharing his humor and great resources on the blog this week!


Justin Stortz teaches fourth-graders to read and write better in McKinney, Texas. He strives to teach with authenticity, humor and technology. He has amazing energy and is very eager to share, collaborate and offer support to new teachers. He blogs at Pursuing Context.

Classroom Management with Justin Stortz

Classroom management was the last thing on my mind as I graduated college. Little did I know it would be the first thing to kick my rear when I taught my first class. How you and your students manage your classroom will make or break everything else.

Here's what I've learned so far:

1) Realize You Need a Plan

Don't hold it all in your head. Start writing things down. What's working in your room? What's not working? What exactly do you want students to do?

Get your class involved, too. Ask for their input and thoughts on the classroom atmosphere. Let them see you writing those things down. Take their suggestions and write a plan on your own, or collaborate to make a plan together. Take some time to think of the behaviors you want, those you don't want, and possible consequences. My early classroom management plan came from reading the classic First Days of School.

I use Evernote to help me collect school plans, notes and lesson ideas. I don't do so well with the paper, so it's nice to have all of my thinking in one spot. See if it helps you.

2) Throw It in the Dumpster

Set the classroom expectations and test drive them for a bit. Get rid of things that aren't working. Or revise them. It's okay to add as well. Talk to your students about it, so they'll know what you expect.

I created a behavior stoplight for my kindergarteners. It was big, bold and colorful. I redesigned it when I moved to first grade, and I completely threw it out when I started teaching fourth graders. Now I just have one small poster and rely on my verbal communication to do the heavy lifting.

3) Be Consistent

This is important once your plan gains traction. State your expectations clearly and often. Students shouldn't be surprised by them, so you need to be consistent. If you let certain behaviors slide once or twice, then be prepared for an encore.

I love the idea of being a velvet-covered brick. Be soft and approachable on the outside but firm and solid underneath. Ideally, your expectations will turn into an external presence that is not affected by your mood or energy level. Coffee always helps.

Some of The Essential 55 might be a good place to start when thinking about what behaviors you should expect from students.

4) Laugh... a Lot

One of the best ways to manage your classroom is to laugh. A lot. Laugh with your students, and laugh at your goofy self. You'll make lots of mistakes. I know because I'm still making them. I don't have it all figured out, and I've never met anyone who does. Accept that and move on. Fill your classroom with laughter. Life will be easier. I promise.

5) Ask for Help

I have a problem with this hulking, ugly monster called pride. I want to think that I know it all and don't need help with my students from anyone. Dead wrong. I need all the help I can get, and so do you. Ask someone on your team, reach out to a veteran teacher on your campus or talk with your mentor.

There are many online communities as well. You can ask questions on Twitter with the #ntchat tag. I participate in #4thchat. Check out Cybraryman's Twitter chats for even more educational chats.

Best wishes to you on your classroom management quest. Get out there and go make a difference in someone's life!

As you are looking at ways to keep your classroom engagement at peak performance, here are a few additional links that you may want to check out. We'd love to hear about your classroom management strategies. Tell us about what works for you and what new strategies you may decide to work on. If you have questions along the way, share them in our New Teacher Connection group and we will get back to you.

Photo: Rich Anderson & Matthew Grapengieser and brizzle born and bred; CC by-NC2.0 via flickr.

New Teacher Academy Series
A five-part series for new teachers that covers best practices for classroom management, lesson planning, delivery of instruction, working with parents and building relationships.

Comments (32)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Justin Stortz's picture
Justin Stortz
4th grade language arts teacher from Texas

Mario, Muriel, Andrea-
Thanks for the support and encouragement. I'm glad this could help you.

Justin Stortz's picture
Justin Stortz
4th grade language arts teacher from Texas

I agree with your thoughts. Many of those things were outside the scope of my post.

It is sad that many of our students come to us lacking the necessary social skills to be successful in school. Unfortunately, we often don't have the time in school to focus on these skills that would ideally be taught at home. It's a tough spot without easy answers.

Thanks for the resources and sharing your thoughts.

Corinne Gregory's picture


Thanks for the response. It's interesting that you point out "we don't have time..." when, in fact, there is a HUGE time cost to teachers when kids don't have the skills they need to participate effectively in a classroom. I can tell you, the time to teach social skills is amply provided for in the time you gain back in productive teaching time. I have done extensive analysis on this and am just about to publish my latest book talking about these and other issues.

For more on this (and an essay that will be in the book) you might want to visit http://corinnegregory.com/blog/2009/11/22/teachers-dont-have-time/ Let me know if you agree with my assessment!

- Corinne Gregory

Miss L's picture
Miss L
Education student from rural Manitoba, Canada. SY, SS focus

What a wonderful post. Justin, I love your use of humour in your teaching. I can just picture your classroom being such a fun and supportive environment!
Classroom is definitely a topic that can be discussed again and again and I believe that classroom management can look so different based on the teacher/the students/the school/etc. I am currently taking a class on classroom management so this entire post is just so interesting to me.
Best wishes to everyone!

Janet Moeller-Abercrombie's picture
Janet Moeller-Abercrombie
International Educator, Certified by the NBPTS | Educational Leader, Licens

Never forget about student movement. We want students to move around, get materials, be actively engaged. Yet, movement creates the most potential distraction. For example, students often forget about their writing ideas when 20+ students wait in a clump to get scissors from a basket. They also lose their writing ideas when they have to hunt through desks for writing implements.

Some key questions to ask:
What will my students need to complete the assigned task?
Where should materials be located so that transitions are smooth?
How will I dismiss students to make the movements they need to make?
How can I quickly form groups?

I've written some posts on
Quick Student Groupings: http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-cc
Thinking Through Organization of Supplies: http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-8g
Other Organizational Considerations: http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-7V

Teresa's picture
Grad student/retired military

I know, Subs don't rate a blip on the radar, but I wanted to share my perspective and what I learned in the 2 years that I filled in for a variety of teachers and grades. My experience in the military did not prepare me for high school classrooms. I was an educator in the military, but you may guess where I'm going with this....... My first week with a local high school had me wanting to reach for my combat gear! Day 1 a young lady did not want to sit and do the work, and I was called all sorts of names as she walked her sassy behind out of the room, to the laughter and support of the majority of the class. Wow. I learned quickly that if a teacher did not leave specific assignments and time fillers, and did not have specific behavior expectations, I was in for a long day. In my naivete I thought a few strong words to the kids would have them cooperating. I'm laughing now, but do not wish to repeat my first few months of subbing.
Classroom management or lack thereof made or broke the substitute's assignment. Clear rules and expectations seemed to make a more cooperative class; at least for me. But I couldn't make those rules-they had to be instilled from the 1st day of school. In hindsight I was completely unprepared for the undercurrents of classroom management and have found some wonderful resources, like Justin's blog. I don't have much experience in regular schools, yet, but I know now that humor and firm guidance can be a good start in gaining a cooperative class.

Caitlynn Bergenstock's picture
Caitlynn Bergenstock
Subsitute Teacher

As a substitute teacher, I spend a lot of time in differernt classrooms and dealing with different management plans. You can tell when teachers really follow through with the exceptations of their classroom management plans. You can also see the students who need extra help with their social behaviors. In classrooms where classroom management plans leave a little to be desired, I have a challenging time getting the students to focus and behave. Here is my question: as a substitute teacher are there any methods or tricks that will help me get through the day in classrooms that have poor management plans and poor student behavior?

Barbara's picture

I agree. As a sub I have experienced the same sort of things and I realized that if I set expectations early then I usually had a better day. That being said as a beginning teacher and looking for my own classroom I am absolutely terrified at what may happen. I know I need to maintain control but reading this blog and the supporting posts really has helped me make a mental (and written) game plan for success in the classroom.

Andrea Marri's picture
Andrea Marri
K9+ Computer Sciences and Special Ed teacher from Perugia, Italy

As a teacher of 14-18 years old students at "difficult" schools I realized that classroom management is indeed the crucial issue. I'm used to the full package: whole classes impossible to contain, physical aggressiveness, damage of school items, things flying all over the room, hair being lit by lighters, absent parents etc.
Possible solutions (I'm still experimenting!): keeping students always busy with practical activities, assess them continously but giving more importance to the "process" than to the "product", never loose temper nor yell (this is really difficult, believe me), trying to transmit a strong, positive adult reference figure which is usually the missing point in their lives.

Lee Allard's picture
Lee Allard
Title One Ed. Tech, southern Maine

Thanks for a great post! Classroom management has been my biggest hurdle as a new teacher and I know I have come a long way since I walked into my first student teaching class. I currently tutor before school (from 7:30-8:30), then teach all day, then am the site coordinator for an after school program that runs from 3:30 to 5:30. I know that my body language and energy have a direct effect on the kids behavior. Any tips out there for maintaining stamina?

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