Having clear and reliable classroom management strategies are crucial in maintaining a happy and productive learning environment for both students and teachers. The most important factor is maintaining positivity, accessible expectations, and clear boundaries to ensure that everyone knows what is and is not tolerated and expected within the classroom.
1. Progress ladder
The progress ladder can be used for individual pupils. The focus is on positive reinforcement, and the ladder begins on ‘Start’, resetting each morning. This helps to reinforce the notion that each day is a fresh start, and a fresh opportunity to improve or change behaviour. The rungs then progress through ‘Good’, ‘Excellent,’ and ends on ‘Outstanding.’ Each child who gets to ‘Outstanding’ each day is given a raffle ticket, and a raffle is drawn each Friday, with a range of small prizes available. The children each have individual pegs with their names on, which they can move at the instruction of the class teacher or teaching assistant. The act of moving the peg gives the children a tangible sense of achievement and pride in their positive behaviour, reinforcing the idea that positive behaviour is a choice they can actively make.
2. Marbles in a jar
A similar technique can be undertaken with the whole class. This is a great way for pupils to visually appreciate the impact of their behaviour. The class starts with an empty jar, which should be clear and see-through. Marbles can be gained for positive whole class behaviour, such as lining up quickly and effectively, completing transitions sensibly, or the class becoming quiet by the end of the countdown. Because this is a group strategy, overall behaviour tends to improve due to peer pressure from the majority to earn as many marbles as it takes to earn a treat or reward. The pupils can also clearly see what they currently have, and how their behaviour is impacting the class’s overall progress. This also avoids the issue of resentment that can come with whole class punishments; rather than one individual being targeted, the marbles are the consequence of whole group behaviour – they can have the chance to earn them, but have to follow behavioural expectations.
3. Question wall
One of the easiest ways for a class to lose focus in a session is getting lost down the endless question route. While questions are of course some of the most important parts of teaching and learning, we have all been in the situation where one question leads to another, and suddenly half the session is over and the main activity hasn’t even been approached. One of the most effective ways to combat this is the introduction of a question wall. If anyone has a question which cannot be immediately addressed, they can write it on a Post-It and place it on the wall to be addressed later. This can also be extremely useful when there are a few spare minutes to fill in the day – pupils can select a question, and research the answer either independently or in small groups. This helps to improve subject knowledge, independent research skills and natural curiosity, while still allowing lessons to run smoothly and effectively. It also encourages pupils to teach their peers, as they may know the answer to a question, and can swap knowledge within the group.
4. Set expectations for noise levels
The most unproductive learning environments are those in which everyone is shouting to be heard. Noise is often to be expected, and likely even encouraged if children are engaged in group work. The expectations, however, differ from task to task. One easy way to manage this is to have a scale from one to five, with one being total silence – necessary for tests or silent reading – and five being unacceptably noisy. A number is written on the board prior to a task beginning, depending on the teacher’s expectations for the session. For an active group work session, the expectation may be three or even four, while for quieter pair work two might be selected. If the noise level raises beyond that, pupils will get three strikes, or chances to alter the noise, before which a consequence will be implemented. This gives the class control over their behaviour, as well as opportunities to alter their volume.
5. Save your voice, use a prop
On a similar note, it is important early on to find some way of gaining the attention of the class without having to raise your voice. Not only does excessive shouting strain the voice, it is also ineffective, as the group will simply raise their volume to match you. Whether it’s clapping a rhythm, using a rain stick, or using a bell or buzzer, find something the class respond to in order to get their attention, saving everyone time and effort.