If you are a first-year teacher struggling to prevent student misbehavior or a veteran teacher who wants to finally master classroom management, use these effortless behavior management strategies in your classroom.
Silence is a teacher’s best friend and it is a surprisingly difficult skill to master. If you remember one and only one classroom management strategy, remember that teacher silence equals student silence. This means you should remain silent and wait to speak until 100% of your students are silent and making eye contact with you.
If you are in the middle of lecturing or giving instructions and less than 100% of students are silent and focused on you, simply stop speaking mid-sentence or even mid-word. Self-interrupt and remain silent until, once again, 100% of students are silent and focused on you. If one student is whispering or looking out the window, simply stop speaking and remain silent until you have regained 100% student focus. When students are off-task, don’t stop talking and say “I’ll wait” simply wait. Don’t talk over students by shouting “I need 100% silence!” simply stop talking and wait silently for 100% silence. This may seem extreme but it is not. If you speak over just one student who is talking or not paying attention on the first day of school, you will be speaking over an entire classroom of off-task students by the second month of school.
When you talk over students, you lose your authority and illusion of control. When a national or corporate leader speaks to a crowd, they do not shout into the microphone for silence whenever the crowd reacts. They do not continue speaking when applause drowns out their voice. They stop mid-sentence, look out at the crowd, and wait silently for the crowd to be silent. Pretend you cannot imagine a world where any student would choose to miss a word you say. For your students’ benefit, stop speaking, smile, and continue speaking when you have 100% student focus. Silence is the most effective behavior management tool in a teacher’s toolbox.
Some teachers seem to effortlessly manage classroom behavior without ever having to give consequences or overtly assert authority. The invisible ingredient of their success is consistency. If you are not consistent, students understandably feel as though they are being treated unfairly. Believe it or not, students like rules and consequences because it lets them know you have high expectations for them. Consistency creates a sense of security and safety that they may not have at home. Students will test your boundaries, but they want you to consistently uphold those boundaries. If you do, they will gladly live up to your high expectations.
Set clear behavior expectations and consequences and adhere to them unfailingly. Consistency sounds simple until you choose to “pick your battles” by ignoring one gum chewer or forget the names of some gum chewers who you promised consequences. Three personal rules will make it easy to be consistent with classroom rules:
Only share expectations for 2-3 important and straightforward behaviors
- Silence while others are speaking
- Respect to all people and property
Only create consequences that you can follow through with every time
- Can you realistically give 15 minutes of detention for every time someone speaks during independent work or is it better to give a homework pass to every student who remains silent?
- Do you realistically have time to call every parent or can you send home a note, email, text message or automated voicemail instead?
Always write down every single behavior and issued consequence
- Carry a clipboard and pen to track behavior and consequences or you will forget. If you forget the exact words of a disrespectful student or cannot remember who you issued detention, students will learn they are safe from in-school consequences or parent knowledge of their misbehavior.
Consistency requires creating simple, straightforward rules and consequences and writing down every detail so you remember to follow through every time.
3. Assume the Best
Finally, never make negative assumptions about student misbehavior. Treat every student like your very best student who is having a bad day. If your best student had their head down on their desk, you’d crouch down and whisper “Is everything okay? Can I do anything to help?” If they were whispering with a peer, you’d ask in a genuinely caring tone, “Do you have a question I can help you with?” Assume the best about every student, not just your best students.
Act as if you cannot imagine a world where a student would intentionally misbehave and act accordingly with calm compassion. Even if a student is being disrespectful or disruptive, you can calmly say: “It seems you are not feeling up for being in class right now, why don’t you take a breather at the water fountain/bathroom/office and we can talk later?” Don’t take misbehavior or even disrespect personally. Assume the best by treating every student like your most well behaved student.
With three simple strategies it is easy to prevent student misbehavior. Assume the best about every student, remain silent until 100% of students are silent, and consistently enforce expectations to effortlessly master classroom management.