Effective classroom management is an element of teaching that ensures classroom lessons run seamlessly – free of disruptions and distractions. It is a system of routines and procedures that work together to regulate the behavior of students. Classroom management is critical so that disruptive behavior doesn’t compromise both the delivery of instruction and the capacity for every student to learn. At first glance, classroom management appears to be focused on the teacher’s ability to instruct and remain sane; however, at the heart of it, classroom management is teacher-led and student-centered.
It’s about building relationships with the children and providing them with the tools/environment they need for an engaging learning experience. Classroom management promotes the values of respect, responsibility, and integrity. It works best when used proactively rather than reactively. Though if the majority of the class isn’t responding to the routines and procedures already put into place, then the teacher has to revisit them and make changes.
Three main strategies I would use to reset my classroom after winter break are: working the crowd, Preferred Activity Time (PAT), and collaborative problem solving (CPS) because the combination of these three strategies promotes the values of respect, responsibility, and integrity.
I have established the following classroom guidelines in my fifth grade humanities class: one mic, safe space, participation, and global awareness. We practiced and modeled each of them to set the tone at the beginning of the school year. Students struggle with the one mic guideline which means one person speaks at a time at the appropriate voice level.
The voice levels are 0 for silent, 1 for whisper, 2 for speaking, 3 for loud. Students get so excited to speak and ask questions during class that they talk on top of each other or they get so fixated on what they want to say that they’re not listening to other. I have a class filled with avid readers, so on multiple occasions I have to tell students to put their books away. They still don;t understand how obvious it is that they are reading on their lap. A few students are completely unfocused and do things like sing in the middle of class or communicate both verbally and non verbally during silent mindfulness – a time in which level 0 is mandatory.
There are other disruptive behaviors that happen in class such as slow transitions, not pushing in chairs, and coming to class unprepared and/or late. Winter break would be a good time for a reset because it is apart of our culture to set new year’s resolutions during this time. I will send the following message to students to reset the classroom: “Winter break was a great time for me to reflect on things that went well in the classroom. I enjoyed attending trips with you and seeing your faces glow as you showed off your knowledge about ancient Egypt and asked critical questions. Those were proud teacher moments for me. Let’s do a Think Pair Share. What did you enjoy about your first semester in Humanities? [ Listen to responses] A new year is also a time to reflect on what we can do better and set achievable goals.
What are some aspects of the class you think we can work on? What can you do as an individual to help solve this problem? Write it on a post-it note and stick it on the board. [Group notes into general categories and read them aloud] Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I too do agree that these are behaviors we can work on. Why do you think it is important for us to solve these problems? [ Get 3-4 responses] I agree, it will help us learn better and use our time more productively. I’ve added two element to our classroom community in order to reach the goal of fostering a productive learning environment in the classroom. First, I will rearrange your desks and assign new seats tomorrow. Secondly, I will introduce to you a reward system called Preferred Activity Time (PAT). I will explain it to you shortly. For the remainder of the school year, we will work together in order to achieve the goal of creating a productive classroom environment. It’s a new year.
Your slate is clean and you have the power to make the remainder of the year an amazing one. We’ll make mistakes along the way, but we have to commit to working through our challenges. Thumbs up for you’re ready for a great rest of the school year!” I won’t introduce working the crowd or collaborative problem solving, as these are strategies I can implement without explanation. When arranging the classroom, it is helpful to consider Fred Jones three zones of proximity. As described in his book Tools for Teaching, The red zone is the area in the classroom where students are nearest to me. Just like traffic lights, the red zone signifies “stop”. Students in this area are less likely to engage in disruptive behavior and more likely to be attentive. The yellow zone signifies “caution”. In this zone, students, are attentive and focused as long as I’m in their vicinity and facing in their direction. Green signifies “go”. In this zone, students are distracted and disruptive.
Working the crowd is essentially staying on my feet and constantly changing the zone of proximity so that no one is a green for every long (Jones, ). This means I will have to arrange classroom desk in a way that will allow me to loop around the classroom easily and move. When working the crowd, two to three steps should switch students from the green zone to the yellow and from the yellow to the red (Jones, .) This will help keep students focused as they won’t know where I’ll go to next. Working the crowd not only keeps students focused, it also promotes the value of integrity. Working the crowd is a tactic to silently or non-verbally deal with disruptive students. With this kind of redirection, student integrity and dignity are still in tact. Working the crows will will also allow for me to notice students who may need extra help and are too shy to ask. Zone of proximity isn’t only about turning a bad behavior around. It’s about elevating a student behavior from good to great to their personal best. Students will ask more questions, seek feedback and focus better when teachers are nearby.
Preferred Activity Time (PAT) encourages students to self-manage and become responsible for their own actions. Classroom reward systems can be the element the classroom needs to increase work ethic and develop self-management skills. Defined by Fred Jones, PAT is a reward that students receive for the on-time task that they give to their teachers (Jones, ). The reward comes in the form of a fun but educational 20 minute learning experience after earning the privilege or receiving what I call “PAT points” by the end of the week. This allows for students to play games, but learn at the same time. Some of the games we could play include online group games such as Quizlet, individual quiz like games such as Kahoot, relay races for spelling vocabulary words and charades.
Students will earn points for coming to class on time, following the one mic guidelines, completing the agenda for the class period, coming to class prepared and another disruptive behavior Although some teacher take back PAT points, I will not. Students can only earn points and not lose points. PAT can help develop community, class spirit, and teamwork. Students would want to help each other and give friendly reminders about staying on task. It teaches cooperation. Students will have ownership of the reward system by picking the activity they prefer to play through democratic process – voting. PAT teaches students responsibility over their own actions. Dr. Ross Green’s Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) strategy is exactly what it sounds like. Students and teachers working together to solve a problem.
Challenging kids let us know that they are struggling in obvious but sometimes frustrating ways: interrupting others, singing in the middle of class, attending class late or consistently not arriving to school on time. CPS has three basic steps. The first is to identify and understand the child’s concerns about the problem to be solved. This may take some time, though the goal is to gather as much information as possible. The second step is to define the problem by identifying and sharing my concern about the same issue. The third step is for us to work together to brainstorm and assess solutions. The solution realistic and and addresses the concerns parties. Collaborative Problem Solving can be applied to other problem-solving situations between two or more people. It teaches conflict-resolution, communication, and reinforces the value of mutual respect between student and teacher.
I see CPS being effective for students who are still struggling with following routines, aren’t responsive to me “working the crowd” or are having trouble helping the class earn PAT points. Classroom management is like the “hidden curriculum.” The hidden curriculum refers to the unofficial lessons and values students learn in school. In most cases, they are unintentionally taught; however, I like to deem classroom management as the intentional but sometimes invisible part of a classroom’s curriculum. Teachers must be proactive when implementing classroom strategies. Doing so will allow more room for students to grow as responsible and respectful human beings filled with enough integrity to take on the challenges of the world.