George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Classroom Management

The 5 Priorities of Classroom Management

To effectively manage a classroom, teachers must prioritize building relationships, leveraging time, and designing behavioral standards.
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For beginning teachers, or for teachers like myself returning to teaching, the most difficult thing to master is classroom management. I had to relearn what ten years of hard instruction had taught me: Good classroom management is more than just being strict or authoritarian, and it is more than simply being organized. If I want to have my classroom run smoothly as a well-oiled learning machine, I have to set up a structured learning environment in which certain behaviors are promoted and others are discouraged. 


I have discovered that there are five components of effective classroom management that establish structures strong enough to entice and motivate student learning:

  1. Developing effective working relationships with students
  2. Training students on how learning takes place in your classroom
  3. Protecting and leveraging time
  4. Anticipating student behaviors in well-written lesson plans
  5. Establishing standards of behavior that promote student learning

1. Develop Effective Working Relationships With Your Students

The most important component of classroom management is relationships. The relationships with my students start at the door when I shake the their hand and greet them with a smile (regardless of what misbehaviors might have happened the day before). Those relationships are strengthened, for example, when I use a student’s name and actively praise him or her. Those relationships are solidified when I spend individual time with each student to get to know them and then use that knowledge to create personal learning opportunities.

From the professional development program, Capturing Kids' Hearts, there was one takeaway that benefited me the most: If I have a good relationship with my students, I can push them harder and further to learn because they trust me.

2. Train Your Students on How Learning Takes Place in Your Classroom

Your students need to know that you do not expect them to instantly learn, that everyone has an individual process for learning, and that if they follow your guidance, they will be successful in learning.

This is more than just talking about your homework policy, late work, and absences. It is revealing to your students how you are going to create -- with them -- a highly effective, low-maintenance, learning team. For example, I discuss with my students that the true power of a strategy such as Cornell Notes is not dividing the paper in two parts. The benefit of that strategy comes from writing the questions on the left side of the paper while reviewing their notes, and then taking the time to summarize what they learned. You have a learning philosophy that guides your teaching style; teach it to your students. Clearly map out for your students what you do to help them learn so that when you do it, they know what you are doing and why, and they will be more willing to help.

3. Protect and Leverage Your Time

An effective classroom manager must be prepared with materials and know how to transition students from one activity to another without wasting time. The number one thing we could do to increase our students' academic performance is to increase the time spent on learning. Time is chipped away by taking attendance, announcements, summons to the office, restroom breaks, pep rally schedules, class meetings, special presentations, awards ceremonies, celebrations, and a myriad of other things. 

Some disruptions and time stealers we cannot avoid, but being successful at managing the classroom also includes managing the time, protecting it, and leveraging it to your best advantage. In Teach Like a Champion, author Doug Lemov effectively demonstrates how to use routines to minimize lost time in activities like handing out papers; he also demonstrates routines to help students train their minds to adopt useful habits and skills, like being able to quickly answer and ask questions.

4. Anticipate Your Students' Behaviors in Well-Written Lesson Plans

Channeling student behaviors, interests, and attention into productive learning paths requires intuitive lesson planning. First, focus on how students will be able to demonstrate that they understand and have achieved the learning objective, emphasizes Grant Wiggins, coauthor with Jason McTighe of Understanding by DesignThen build learning activities that lead students to that point. 

According to Robert Marzano, an education researcher, the focus of our lesson planning efforts should be getting students to ask and answer their own questions. Coming up with those types of questions on the spur of the moment can be difficult, but with a little advanced thought, you can incorporate those types of questions into your lesson plans. Ultimately, the best discipline management plan is a good lesson plan.

5. Establish Behavioral Standards

These standards should promote learning, as well as consequences that diminish or eliminate behaviors that impede learning. They shouldn't be so detailed as to list every behavior and the corresponding consequence for failure to comply, but they should hit the main points regarding showing respect, communicating correctly, and coming prepared to learn. The standards should also interact smoothly with the other four components, especially teaching your students how learning takes place in your classroom.


I have learned to frame each lesson as it is taught. This means that for each learning activity, I explain the standards of performance, as well as the limits of behavior. For example:

You have 15 minutes, and you will be working with your partner on designing a structure out of newspaper that will reach the ceiling. You may use inside voices to quietly discuss your plans with your partner. If you have questions, please put the red cup on your desk, and I will come and help you as soon as possible. Meanwhile, keep working on other things until I get there. 

From Day One

Establishing an effective plan for classroom management has to begin at the start of school, but it doesn’t end there. Throughout the year, we have to be consistent and persistent in developing relationships of trust, following and teaching the best learning theories, honoring student time, being responsive to student behaviors and needs in our lesson plans, and holding true to high and rigorous standards of learning behavior. We also need to be flexible and adjust to tangles that can derail even the best management plans. What classroom management practices have worked best for you?

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Carly_MacLeod's picture

In my observations and experience in the classroom, I have found "protecting and leveraging your time" to play a very big role. I have observed classrooms that have seamless transitions and I have observed others that don't go as smoothly. I can see how this takes away from such crucial learning time. There are so many outside factors that greatly influence our time in the classroom and being able to minimize all the distractions will be greatly beneficial to the students' learning. This isn't something you automatically think of when you hear "classroom management", but now it is definitely something I am going to consider when I have my own classroom someday. I know that time is a very precious thing in the classroom so it is important to manage it wisely!

ashley_burroughs's picture

Classroom management can be one of the most difficult tasks inside a classroom. I have experienced this first hand while substituting for various classes from K-8th grade. I agree with this article that effective classroom management must be implemented on day one or at the beginning of any class so that students are aware of the teacher's expectations. By establishing behavioral standards that include showing respect, communicating correctly, and coming prepared to learn, students can be placed in an effective learning environment.

Marissa Romero's picture

really like the emphasis on focusing on the individual student. it is easy to get caught up in keeping the entire class on task or moving in one direction and the key points in "developing effective working relationships" and "training students on how learning works in your classroom" emphasize the importance of working with students as individuals and how to help students learn according to how they are best able. classroom management is daunting, but i think this article helps to keep what is important in sight.
#soebulldog #MALT607

christine_do's picture

A consistent theme throughout each of the priorities to effective classroom management discussed here involves teacher preparation. The teacher needs to have a firm grasp on the tone and culture they want to set for the classroom. Classrooms with poor management often leave the students setting the tone, not always creating an effective learning enviornment. I can connect the most with the first priority, creating a trusting relationship with your students. In my opinion, there is a fine line teachers need to tread when it comes to discipline and consequences. The example given here, where students are greeted warmly despite yesterday's misbehaviors, shows that we need to teach students that yes, there are consequences to their actions, but their past does not define their future. This priority also gives the teacher an opportunity to not only concentrate on those students that are misbehaving, but also building relationships with those students who are consistently doing well. In some cases, relationships with these students are not as developed because they are trusted to always be on task and to do well.

Celena Olivar's picture

As I a student studying to become a teacher one question that constantly arises is; how can I effectively manage my classroom? This article gave so many great tips on how I can do that. One of the main things I learned is that consistency is key. The teacher should be prepared not only on the first day of class, but every day of the year. The teacher also needs to make sure to follow through on the classroom management and rules every single day. If there is a routine then things in the class will flow much smoother.

Alexandra Hopkins-Baum's picture

Through my classroom observations, I have found that teacher-student relationship is a vital component of effective classroom management. For instance, when I was tutoring one of my first grade boys, I asked him why he always remains on task for me yet has behavior issues in the classroom. He responded "My teacher doesn't like me so I just do whatever I want." Although there will be students in your classroom who disrupt your classroom management, a student must never know you favor them less than other students. Fostering a positive relationship will elevate your students willingness to succeed in their academics. Rita Pierson addresses this in her TED Talk:

Star White's picture

When teachers give responsibility to students, this allows students to be accountable for their own learning. This also gives more opportunities for students to comment and ask questions as opposed to just listening to the teacher lecture. Teachers need to respect the learning styles of their students and teach accordingly. Managing a classroom can be done with mutual respect from the teacher and student. The students need to understand the rules and regulation in the classroom and realize this is also part of their learning goals and will help them achieve in school.

Michael Turner's picture

The thought that will linger in my mind is regarding "holding true to high and rigorous standards of learning behavior." Before teaching, I had assumed that holding true to high and rigorous academic standards was the singular objective of the teacher. Once I started teaching, I quickly realized that I would not be able to maintain my high academic standards if I failed to maintain high standards for learning behavior. The class would only spin out of control and nothing would be accomplished. This served as a beneficial reminder.

Rudzani's picture

I still find classroom management challenging in some schools. however I believe that the tips given will be helpful and might just change my situation

Leslie Murrey's picture

The idea that we should anticipate our students' behavior when creating a lesson is one that really resonates with me. It implies that we need to get to know our students on many different levels. We need to know what's going to excite them, confuse them, challenge them, frustrate them, etc. This is another example of how being a teacher is so much more than just transmitting information.

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