If there's one thing I've heard over and over throughout teaching, it's that I have great classroom management (toot toot--that's the sound of me tooting my own horn). Now, I don't know how accurate that is, but I do know I'll take any compliment I can get in this job. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty to learn and there are MANY other aspects of teaching that I am still growing in, as we all should be. But, I thought I'd be reflective and figure out exactly what I do that makes behavior management effective in my classroom. I'm not perfect by any means, and I've made a ton of mistakes, but that's just part of the job--growing from those mistakes is what will make all of us the best educators we can possibly be! So, I've compiled a list of things I think make for an easier time teaching and learning.
The basic idea behind any effective classroom management is that you change your language and attention to a positive focus. If you are in a PBIS school, you are probably already doing this. Instead of saying, "Don't run in the hall!" you say, "It's safe to walk in the hall." Basic, yet so effective. You really don't have to be a PBIS school to implement that, and it's not rocket science so I highly recommend it to any teacher. With that being said, PBIS really works best if your entire school is involved and the staff remains consistent with it (and by that I mean practicing what they preach). This is especially helpful as each student moves from grade to grade and teachers are using the same language and behavior management practices. A large, easy to read behavior matrix is also ideal in teaching students what the expectations are in each area and throughout different times of the day.
You can check out my Behavior Matrix by clicking here.
You probably already know that consistency is key. It's one thing to say it, it's another to actually do it. If you expect your students to be absolutely silent during math centers, then you can't be okay with one student whispering to another and get upset when someone else starts talking. Your students push boundaries, right? If you expect them to be silent, then you have to show them it's the expectation. Every time. Not just when you have a headache (guilty!). And because blurting out and telling me a "bellybutton statement" (as in, toddlers point out they have a bellybutton when you ask them their favorite color) when I ask what the main idea in the story was is one of my biggest teacher pet peeves, I made this reference tool (like I was just saying, you have to be consistent with making them raise their hand with the symbols though!). Grab it FREE below.
Another system I LOVE to use for keeping "small behaviors" (think blurting, getting up when you're not supposed to be out of your seat, talking during independent work time, etc.) is Think Time. This is another component of PBIS. Usually, it's done throughout your building or if need be, with a teaching partner nearby. Have you heard of it? I'll give you a little run-down in case you don't already know.
You know that student that is blurting out? Or doing some other minor thing that is disrespectful, unkind, irresponsible, or unsafe? Think Time is the perfect solution. Basically, you give Sassy Sara a warning (typically nonverbal, like an eye raise or touch of the shoulder). Still happens? Verbal warning, "Check your behavior." Still? Hand her the Think Time pass (but there's no time attached--it's all based on how long a student chooses to "think" about their behavior), she goes to another teacher's room, fills out a form, verbally answers the questions from the other teacher, returns to your classroom, and gets back on task. This, of course, is all sorted out ahead of time with the other teachers around you. It gives you, the instructor, a break from a situation that may be frustrating you and a moment to clear your thinking about how to handle a situation. It gives the student that's making a bad choice time to do the same. And, equally important, it gives the other students in your class the opportunity to continue learning.
We do not call home to parents when students get a regular Think Time. Parents are informed that our school uses Think Time and what it is, so most of them understand that blurting out is not something we will call home for. However, if a student gets 4 Think Times in a 7 day period, we call home and students are given lunch detention. Students are made aware that parents will not be called unless they get an Admin Think Time.
So you might be thinking, "Yeah right. There's no way I can hand a Think Time Pass to Sassy Sara and she's going to actually leave the room, let alone fill out a stupid form." You're right, there is a Plan B. If a student is unable to complete these steps (let's say they throw a tantrum, crawls under a table or slams the door on their way out), they get an "Admin Think Time." You call the office (or counselor, or principal--they need to be familiar with the process already) and that person comes to retrieve the student (the student fills out an "Admin Think Time Form") until they are ready to complete the original Think Time. The key to making it work and eventually minimizing those behaviors is to be consistent with it. In my experience over the last 7 years of Think Time, the majority of students that get a Think Time only need a few reminders before they "get" it.
Let's say you're a teacher with a special treasure box full of goodies. Is your classroom management working? If so, great! If not, change it up! Get rid of the treasure box and try rewards that aren't tangible (sit in the teacher's chair, 5 extra minutes of recess, 10 minutes of GoNoodle time, lunch with the principal, etc.). Or maybe you have a rewards system that honors the whole class (marble jar, spelling out a word on the whiteboard for a party/award, etc.) and it's lost its appeal. Don't worry, you don't always have to take it away. Maybe your class needs table group awards as well. Or more individual incentives. My point is this, if you remain stagnant and have an "idea" of the rewards system type of teacher you are, you may not enjoy teaching this year. Don't get so stuck on how you've always done it that you are making yourself (and your kids) miserable. In my own classroom, I've tried pretty much every reward/consequence system I've seen. I know what works for me (table group and whole class rewards) and what doesn't (individual sticker/star charts--I always forget to do it). If you have yet to try a table group reward system, here's a FREE chart (pop into a page protector to use a dry erase marker). I let my kids name their table group (I think it gives them ownership), but that's up to you. I change up the goal amount as needed and when a group completes it, they get some sort of reward and the whole board gets erased so it's a fresh start for everyone.
And finally, this is the hardest one. Students may be looking for negative attention from you, but that doesn't mean you need to take it personally yourself. Remind yourself that you are a professional and that this, although emotional and exhausting, is a career. Just because a student might try to get a rise out of you doesn't mean they don't like you or your cute shoes. When Bobby Blurtsalot interrupts your reading lesson for the 3rd time, he doesn't know how much time you spent on it or that it was your favorite part of the story. He just knows he was excited about that frog and it reminded him of a frog he caught at this Grandpa's house last summer with his cousin and they had s'mores and ....Think Time pass.
So, like I said in the beginning, I'm not perfect. I'm not an expert. These are just my own thoughts and not research based or anything. What works for you? What doesn't? Feel free to comment or leave a question below!