A group of people coming together to learn a common subject or topic under the guidance of an instructor is called a class. The people taking the instructions are called students or pupil and the place where the instruction takes place is called the classroom.
Ensuring positive learning environment in a classroom so that teaching takes place smoothly and successfully is called classroom management.
As per our definition, classroom management is necessary to ensure the following −
Whether you are already a teacher or plan to take up teaching, you know that every teacher goes to a class equipped with a lesson plan. This lesson plan ensures timely completion of class syllabus. However, to adhere to the lesson plan successfully, you must manage your classroom like a pro. If you fail to do that, your class will stray into unwarranted territory. And if this continues even for 2 or 3 sessions, you and your class will struggle to complete the syllabus.
As a teacher you need to think ahead, without getting caught in daily classroom activities like taking attendance, resolving disputes, etc. These activities can eat into your lesson time, so always keep the bigger picture in mind and try to minimize time spent in nonteaching activities. To manage your classroom time well, create a classroom management plan of your own. This plan should include −
Unlike a lesson plan, which cannot be altered, a classroom management plan should be dynamic and take into account your progress with the syllabus thus far. For example, if you could not complete the targeted topics, plan to make up in the next class by cutting on other daily activities. Also, never plan for the full length of your classroom session. So, if you have a 40 minutes class, plan only for 30-35 minutes. You will spend a couple of minutes in reaching the class too!!
Teaching is 60% knowledge and 40% class management. If you are able to manage your class well, you will be a better teacher in the eyes of students, colleagues and school management. If that doesn’t convince you, here are some other tangible advantages of classroom management −
As teachers, we must look at both sides of the coin. Classroom management principles provide a very structured learning environment, which ensures that all learning goals are achieved. But that also leaves very little scope for open discussions. It has been proved beyond doubt that open discussions encourage creative and lateral thinking in students. They learn to apply their learning to real life scenarios.
You can turn this disadvantage of too-structured learning on its head by pacing the classes such that you have ample time to have open discussions too. For example, you can allocate one session after finishing a chapter to freewheeling discussions. But consider holding your class in the open or in large rooms so that you don’t disrupt other classes around you.
Depending on the average age of students, classrooms can be divided into these categories −
Pre-primary − 4 to 6 years
Primary − 6 to 11 years
Middle School − 11 to 14 years
High School − 14 to 18 years
Classroom challenges for each category is different. So classroom management plans should also be different. What works for a 5 year old will never hold true for 15 year olds because the problems they face are very different. Let’s discuss some of those class management challenges.
Managing a class of pre-primary students is interesting because they are just starting to understand the concept of a class. A place where they have to follow rules, show some semblance of order and obey their teacher. Here are some common challenges faced by teachers in handling pre-primary classes −
Age-appropriate development − In this age group, the degree of development varies in children that are aged just three or six months apart. So the teacher has to take into account varied abilities of the students while teaching basic language and arithmetic skills.
Involvement of parents − For pre-primary students, parents are either very involved with their studies or leave everything to the school. The first group doesn’t want its child to fail on a single parameter while the second group does not support learning at home for fear of overburdening the child. You need to talk patiently to both the sets of parents and share with them that the child needs to learn both at school and home though at her own pace.
School support − The backing provided by the school in terms of infrastructure as well as psychological support plays a very important part in successful handling of children, without causing much stress and burn out in teachers. Every teacher should find out from the authorities what support she is entitled to and utilize it to the hilt.
Students of primary school start real academic as well as socio-behavioral learning. They are also considered old enough to start taking responsibility for their actions. In such a mixed developmental phase, some of the challenges faced by the teacher are −
More subjects more teachers − Normally pre-primary students have one teacher for all subjects. As they move to primary class, they have to get used to the idea of different teacher for each subject. Each student responds to each teacher differently, so the class has to be managed dynamically depending on students’ reactions.
Lagging behind in studies − Now that the real teaching begins, some students might lag behind in some or all academic subjects. As a teacher you have to be alert to students that are not able to cope up and provide additional support.
Widening horizons − Depending on the school, activities of students in primary level increase manifold as compared to pre-primary classes. For example, they may be allowed to go out of the class unsupervised, visit library, do some class chores, etc. This might make them distracted and restless, making class management that much more challenging.
In middle school the problems of class management have to do more with students’ behavior than anything else because children are emotionally vulnerable in their tween years. Some of the challenges that middle school teachers have to manage include −
Academic pressure − In the middle school academics really start piling up due to increasing number of subjects as well as in-depth coverage of topics. These are also the formative years when teachers must lay emphasis on lying foundations of most of the subjects they have to deal with the rest of their lives. So, you should have enough room in your classroom management plan to spend more time on complex topics.
Onset of negative emotions − During middle school years, children start feeling negative emotions like disappointment, rejection, low self-esteem. As a teacher you must explain to them that one success or one failure does not define them. If you fail to handle this you might have a class of half euphoric and half sullen students to teach. Incorporate some time in your plan to talk to your students about these emotional issues and if the need be refer them to counselling.
Bullying − After pre-primary, this is the age where new bullies crop up in every class. Due to emotional vulnerability some children are prone to be bullied while others revel in bullying. Bullying must be stopped immediately. We will deal with this in detail in the next chapter.
As the level of the class increases, the classroom management skills required of a teacher increase as well. Here are some of the challenges that teachers need to handle in high school classes −
Academic excellence − In high school students are already planning for their future career and make the subject choices that will lead them up their chosen path. So they expect their teachers to provide them with highest level of education. Teachers, in turn, need to teach at the highest levels and also assist the students in making their choices.
Disobedience − Entering their teen years, students feel a new found independence that leads to disobedience in class. Teachers need to overcome disobedience from students without turning it into a confrontation.
Students with behavioral problems disturb other students and impede overall learning in the class. Before you control and remedy their actions you need to identify the most common behavioral problems in students.
Some students find it difficult to concentrate on teaching and related activities going on in the class. If you want to dig deeper into the behavior of these restless students, here are some of the common reasons −
Lack of sleep − Children need 2 to 4 hours of more sleep than an adult to achieve same levels of concentration. On an average a school going child should sleep anywhere between 9 and 11 hours every day, including night time sleep and day time nap.
Stressful environment at home − This could be because of any of the parent not being there or argument between parents or other elder family members. The emotional stress makes a child listless and hence she is not able to concentrate in class or otherwise.
Unhealthy food habits − Eating lots of junk food (read empty calories) and lack of nutrients in the body make the child inattentive, and she finds it difficult to concentrate in the class.
Medical condition − Lack of concentration in a student could be due to medical conditions like hormonal imbalance and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). If you are not able lay hands on the reason behind a child’s behavioral issues, consider advising the parents to consult a child specialist.
Any action carried out with the sole purpose of challenging the authority of the teacher is called disruptive behavior. The most common forms of disruptive behavior are −
As a teacher you must remember that many of these behaviors could be shown by any child, based solely on need rather than with an intention to disrupt the class. You need to observe patterns in behavior over a period of time, usually not more than 3-4 classes, to identify the disruptive students of your class.
Most often the students show disruptive behavior to attract the teacher’s attention, win friends’ admiration or just for the fun of it. For an effective remedy you need to identify the reason behind such behavior and get rid of the root cause rather than simply scolding or punishing the child.
As per the dictionary, a bully is a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate others who are weaker. Every class has its own bullies and you must have come across them in your class.
Here are some of the common reasons why students take to bullying −
Bullying leaves a lifelong emotional scar on the victim. As a teacher it is your responsibility to stop bullying in your class. Put a stop to it the moment you notice, irrespective of what you are doing or what the class is doing. If you let it go – just for that time – it sends a message to the bullies that they can get away with it. This unhealthy situation that can prove an obstacle to your classroom management as well as emotional and academic growth of your students.
It’s not only the students’ behavior that affects the class. Other non-behavioral issues can affect the class too, which you need to control immediately. Let us discuss some of these in detail here.
In a class, some amount of noise like sharpening of pencils, zipping and unzipping of bags, notebooks or books falling down, scraping of chairs and desks, etc. is normal. However, you must take care that the collective noise doesn’t reach a level high enough to distract you as well as students. You need to remember that the collective noise could be a fun idea for the students to irritate you. So you need to nip any such effort in the budding phase.
A very effective way of dealing with collective noise by the class, intentional or otherwise, is taking a pause. If you are speaking to them, go silent. Even if you are in the middle of a sentence. If you are writing on the board, stop writing. And fix the class with a stare. The strictest one you can manage!!
The change in rhythm will snap the students out of whatever they are doing and slowly you will have the attention of the whole class. At that point of time, ask them to maintain silence if they want any teaching to continue. And then carry on as if nothing happened. Students will concentrate more than they were before your strategic pause operation. And you can pat your back silently when you finish the class without a hitch, with a few minutes to spare.
It’s not only airplanes that get hijacked. When the class does not proceed according to your plan but in response to activities playing out there, it is called class hijack. Your class can get unwittingly hijacked by overenthusiastic students if you are not alert and lose valuable lesson time. This can happen due to academic or non-academic reasons like −
Discussion on topic being taught moves in a new and unrelated territory
You get carried away in responding to students’ doubts
Resolving a dispute between students takes lots of time
Some students repeatedly disturb the class and you are unable to control them quickly
To prevent class hijack you must always be aware of what is going on in the class and how it is eating away into teaching time. Don’t lose sight of the learning objectives of the session and strive not to miss them. Here are some steps you can take to do that −
Reschedule discussions − Postpone any extra discussions to after you have finished teaching. But remember to do that so students believe they will get their share of time.
Take quick action − Nip any disputes and disturbing activities by the students in the bud by taking immediate action. Don’t wait for it to die down. If there is someone you can refer it to, like the discipline in-charge or class teacher, do that.
Keep students in loop − Explain to the students they have a syllabus to cover. You will be surprised by their willingness to cooperate when they are made responsible for their actions. You will find students asking each other not to disturb the class.
Children and young adults are excitable by nature. When you enter a class you may be surprised to find them in a hyperactive state due to any of these reasons −
A stimulating discussion had occurred in the previous session.
They have come back from games or other co-curricular activities.
They are anticipating an interesting activity like field trip, workshop, or live discussion after your class.
Seeing the children in such an exhilarated state of mind is always pleasurable but you have teaching to do. Here are some steps you can take to bring the class back to normalcy −
Give time out − Ask the students to calm down and drink water. Remind them that they need to proceed with the next class.
Have a short discussion − You can have a short discussion with the students to help them get over their excitement. Just take care to maintain order in the class and ensure they speak one by one, or you will have a chaos at your hands.
Talk to other teachers − If you find the students in hyperactive state regularly for a certain class, you can talk to the teacher of the previous session. You might be surprised to find they are in habit of leaving the students with a thoughtprovoking question to exercise their minds further. Request them not to do that frequently as it hampers your teaching.
Handling behavioral problems in children is a very sensitive issue because behavioral problems arise from emotional stress experienced by kids. Here are some of the steps you can take to help them.
Children are very emotional and do not understand all that is going on around them in school or at home. Adults in their life – teachers as well as parents – are often unwilling to explain things to them, assuming they are too young to understand. Yes, they may be too young to understand from an adult’s perspective, but they can understand at their own level. And this is what you as a teacher should try to do. Here are some pointers to how you can help a child by keeping communication channel open −
Make it clear in the class again and again that if any student has any problem they can come to you for help.
Always be willing to listen to what a student has to share. If you snub them they may stop sharing vital information too.
If the child is too shy to speak in front of classmates, have a one-on-one discussion outside the class.
If you are unable to talk to a child because you have lesson to complete, allocate some time during your free periods like recess, lunch break, leisure, etc. It will be a time well invested.
First day of school often decides how rest of the year will turn out to be. To be in control of your class as well as your workload through the year, you should spend some time establishing classroom rules on the first day. These rules will set a benchmark for what you expect from your students. Here are some suggestions −
Everyone should have their books, notebooks, sharpened pencils or pens, erasers and anything else they need for the class ready before you reach the class.
Washroom breaks will not be given 5 minutes after teaching begins.
During the class, anyone who wishes to speak must raise their hand and speak only when asked to.
There should be complete silence when lessons are being taught.
If you are getting late for the class, the monitor should ensure silence in the class so that other classes are not disturbed.
Besides setting the rules, you should be clear about when and by how much you would break those rules. However, you need not make the students aware of those exceptions; it is for your own benefit only.
Children perform the best when they know what is expected of them. So establish daily routines for your class at the beginning. If you are the class teacher, you must set routines for the whole day. Schools are very good at outlining rules for teachers, students and even parents. So most of your work is already done; you just need to ensure that the class gets into the habit of following the rules set by the school.
Still there will be some areas where you need to outline the routine and stick to them, like −
Make different student in-charges to ensure daily feedback on how much the routines are being followed. The moment you detect a slackness on the part of students, pull them up. If you leave it in the hope it will rectify itself, it will deteriorate with time rather than improve.
Setting protocols for classroom behavior is not sufficient. You have to ensure that those rules are followed as well. Here are some suggested measures to enforce discipline in class.
If a child has broken rules or failed to follow routines, give appropriate non-corporal punishment.
Ask the class to decide upon punishments for each act of indiscipline collectively. Put them in place by the end of first week of the school.
Have one student speak about any one rule for 5 minutes to keep them refreshed in everyone’s mind.
Appoint student in-charges to get feedback on class behavior in your absence.
Whether you are a novice or hold decades of teaching experience, every class and every session is a new one. In every teaching new session you need to create a positive learning environment so that students learn better. A positive environment involves students, gives them clear learning goals and enhances their social and academic success.
Students tend to be less distracted and behave well when the class atmosphere is conducive. Hence it is easier to manage the class and stick to a plan. Here are some steps you can take towards creating positive learning environment.
Trust is the most important element of any relationship and teacher-student relationship is no exception. Remember that as the student passes to the next class, you might get to teach her again. If you win the trust of a student once, you will have it till the student remains in the school. So it is well worth the effort. Some simple ways of building trust are −
Good communication is the key to success of any project and importance of communication cannot be emphasized sufficiently in a classroom scenario. Handling 30 or more students in a group can be a daunting task and you will be able to achieve this only by establishing and encouraging use of communication channels. You need to remember that it cannot be achieved in a day; you need to put in continued effort. Here are some steps you can take in the right direction −
Lay down classroom rules clearly and emphatically at the start of the academic year
Set aside time for discussions other than academics
Listen to a child when she wants to share something
Be honest in your dealings with the class a whole
Never show favoritism; it prevents children from communication
A positive attitude from the teacher sends out positive signals to the students that something good and positive is going to happen in the class. This gets their attention and sets the tone for a thriving learning environment. Here are some things that exhibit your positivity −
Despite all your good intentions, established protocols and preliminary punishments, some problems may seem to get out of hand. You should know when to escalate that problem. The school will have some guidelines about situations where you have to inform the higher authorities. In other cases you have to judge for yourself when you want to involve others in finding solution to a problem.
Every school has a set of people like counsellors, discipline in-charge, academic in-charge, class representative, etc. whom you can approach depending on the type of problem. Two most common scenarios where you might need to do that are −
Poor academic record − If a student is performing consistently below par in academics despite additional support on your level, you need to inform others about this. Remedial classes could be organized for all such students together.
Repeated acts of indiscipline − If a student breaks rules again and again in spite of verbal reminders, counselling and punishments, you need to report his to the class teacher and the discipline in-charge.
Whenever you plan to escalate an issue, be ready with all the details. Note down the problem caused, date of the problem, how the act has affected other students and what corrective measures you took. Writing down will clarify the matter in your mind, others will understand the situation better and a decision can be arrived at quickly.
Teachers and parents are together responsible for overall positive growth of the students. So if you need to involve the parents in dealing with problems, this in no way questions your abilities as a teacher. Here are some situations where you might need to take help of parents.
Coming late to school − If a student is consistent in coming late to the school, you need to talk to the parents about it.
Dirty uniform − If a student’s uniform is not up to the mark, you definitely need to talk to the parents because they alone can solve the problem.
Getting into fights − If a student is getting into fights with other students, you must talk to the parents to know if she does this outside school as well. If school is the only place this happens, you need to identify triggers for such behavior.
Using foul language − Language is something students can pick up easily at home because they come across a varied set of people. So if a student in your class is using foul language you must inform the parents about it.
When you plan to involve the parents, prepare written notes about the incident and associated activities. Be prepared to answer lots of queries and don’t feel offended. Put them at ease first so that they do not feel that they are being reprimanded for their child’s behavior. Remember that both of you have the same goal – getting the best out of the child.
Some teachers are average, some good, while others are great. The difference between them is their ability to identify what they are doing right and what is going wrong. Like a psychologist first you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses before you work on others. Improving upon your strengths and gradually doing away with your weaknesses will allow you to acquire the traits of a great teacher. Here are some of the characteristics of great teachers to aim for, natural or acquired, so that you may inspire the students and encourage them to excel.
A good teacher understands her students while a great one engages with them. Sharing knowledge is not a one-off one-way communication. It has to be a continuous process where both teacher and students participate. To ensure students’ participation and engagement, you should −
Patience is the most prized virtue of any teacher. It is hard to be patient when you have 40 different reasons to be impatient. However, you need to be patient when students make mistakes, knowingly or unknowingly. Here are some scenarios where you might be tempted to lose your cool −
Students make the same mistake repeatedly
Students fail to understand a topic even when you have explained it many times
Class disobeys a classroom rule knowingly
Some students tend to distract you or the class intentionally
Rather than getting irritated or frustrated, you need to work out why a mistake is recurring in the class. Maybe you have not explained the repercussions of flouting a rule fully. If the class or some students are not able to understand a topic, then maybe, you need to change your approach. There is no problem that cannot be overcome if you work towards it diligently.
For teaching a subject, you must have its in-depth knowledge. For effective teaching, you must be enthusiastic about sharing your knowledge. You really need to enjoy what you are teaching if it is say your 15th batch of teaching the same topic. When your excitement to teach is visible, students automatically get interested and caught up in the fervor. They want to know what is so great about this topic that has you interested so much. And the moment you have interested students in the class, half your class management is done. You just need to concentrate on teaching, not managing them.
As discussed in the chapter for creating positive learning environment, displaying positive attitude in the class helps to build a thriving learning atmosphere. It is necessary to not just display a positive attitude but possess one too. A positive attitude comes from belief in oneself and what one is doing. These are some steps you can take to keep a positive attitude −
A great teacher is a lifelong student. No one can know everything that there is to know about any topic. Being a teacher you should be more aware of this than anyone else and always be ready to learn. A teacher should not feel intimidated by a student who asks too many questions. It should be treated as an opportunity to explore the topic from a different approach. If you don’t know answer to any query posed to you, say that you need to confirm if your answer is correct and will get back the next day.
Be sure to revisit the query the next day and answer it fully. If you don’t students will take it as a sign of weakness and not engage with you in the class further.
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement at workplace. It can be applied to wide range of scenarios like working practices, manufacturing processes and employee efficiency. Kaizen can also be applied for personal growth or enhancing life skills.
Kaizen techniques advocate making small improvements at a time, which add up to something substantial over a longer period of time. The five steps of Kaizen, also called 5S, are −
The Kaizen philosophy says that you don’t need to repair something only after it breaks down. Instead, you can keep looking for scope of improvement and work upon them so that there never is any breakdown. Education is an ideal case for such proactive continuous improvement. Let’s see how you can apply Kaizen techniques to improve your class management techniques.
You must be having many problems handling your classes; however experienced you are the dynamic environment of a classroom keeps throwing new challenges. Follow these steps to identify the one problem you want to improve upon first −
Make a list of all the problems you are currently facing.
Sort the problems into unique problems and repetitive problems.
For each of the two groups, arrange the problems in decreasing order of severity.
Make a note of two problems at the top of both groups.
Choose one of the problems that you want to start with first.
After you identify a single problem you need to determine the reason behind it. In an environment as dynamic and hostile as a classroom it is difficult to find the cause of any problem. However it is necessary for you to do so in order to find a solution. Here are some points you can explore to find origin of the problem −
When you work on these basic questions, many more related queries will come up by themselves. Answering them will give a sense of the triggers behind the problem. Put them on paper as clearly as possible. If you seem to have more than one triggers try to list them in order of severity or sequence of events.
You might need to observe the class and students’ behavior for some time before you can come to a definite conclusion regarding this. Do not hesitate to discuss the problem with other teachers as they may be facing it themselves in their own classes.
Identifying the triggers for a problem solve the problem by 50%. To accomplish the next 50% you need to find a solution. Propose a way out for each of the triggers you have listed down. Consult other teachers and school management in doing so. Taking others’ input will expose you to fresh approaches to the problem, which you might not have considered yourself.
But finding a way out for each of the problem triggers is not sufficient. Your solution should contain all these −
Solution to triggers − You should list down the ways to overcome each of the problem triggers. There may be more than one way of tackling each. Be sure to list down all of them.
Implementation steps − Write down the sequential steps for implementing each solution. You should come up with multiple sequences (ideally 2 or 3) so that you have a contingency plan in case the first one doesn’t work.
Implementation plan − The solution should have a timeline of when you are going to execute it. Also include a list of resources like teachers, students, infrastructure, etc. that you will need, and how you are going to source and utilize them.
After the implementation plan is ready, you need to test it in small steps. There are two ways of doing this −
Choose a smaller set of students on whom you implement the full plan.
Implement the first, say 2 or 3, steps on the whole group of students causing the problem.
Whatever your testing approach, be ready to tweak the solution as you proceed and judge how it is actually going. Even after giving it enough time if you sense that it is not working at all, feel free to select the contingency plan or abandon the whole exercise and start afresh from the determine root cause phase. There should be no feeling of failure here as you have learnt valuable lessons that you will use the next time and increase chances of success.
You need to remember that class is a very dynamic environment and any new measure will need time, patience and positive outlook to succeed.
Many classroom management tips have been discussed throughout the tutorial to assist you in becoming a good and then a great teacher. Here are some pointers you can use to judge your own progress.
You should answer these questions in the affirmative −
Have you laid down classroom behaviour rules at the beginning of the session?
Can you identify when a student tries to hijack your class?
Do the students come to you when they have a problem not related to your subject?
Are you able to identify triggers behind most of the problems?
Have you been praised for tactful handling of a difficult child?
You should answer these questions in the negative −
Do you get angry when a student distracts you?
Do you feel frustrated when you are not able to proceed in the class as per plan?
Can the children sense when you are in a foul mood and behave accordingly?
Do you waste lots of your teaching time in explaining classroom rules?
If you come to your class late, do you find your class in chaos?