Classroom Management for Teachers:

How to Make Teaching and Learning Fun for Everyone

Before you enter a classroom:

Set up the classroom:

  • Decorate your classroom using colours that convey a mood of cheerful organization.
  • Create a sense of order that students without a sense of internal order can rely upon.
  • Have set procedures to minimize questions and uncertainty.
  • Add beauty, so that students know that you value good quality work, that it has a purpose apart from earning letter grades.
  • Add beauty, so that students feel valued, so that they know that you enjoy being in the room and that you want them to enjoy it, too.
  • Add some breakable or fragile things, such as plants, so that they learn to be gentle.
  • Place some things on the walls at a diagonal angle to add a sense of movement and joy. Make it a bit like a dance rather than rows of soldiers at attention.


Collect students’ attention:

  • Write one key question for the day on the board to help focus the learning.
    • e.g. “Can you organize information?” “What are different methods of solving math problems?”
  • Tell the students the plan at the beginning of a lesson, so they know what to expect.
    • e.g. “What is an efficient way to take notes? That’s what we’re going to look at today. I’m going to give you some tips. That will take about 10 minutes. And then you will get 15 minutes to complete a practice sheet. Let’s begin.”
  • As you are teaching – or talking to the class – and almost everyone is paying attention, pause and politely say to a person who is behaving properly, “Sophie, could you ask the person beside you to pay attention, so we can carry on with the lesson?” You can do this with up to three students, but not more. Do not continue with the lesson until everyone is sitting still and looking at you. Even if this takes time. Behaviour is more important than lesson completion.
  • Look students in the eye as you speak. Do not speak AT them, but TO them.
  • Never give more than three instructions in a row. And after you’ve given them. Call students by name – especially the ones you think might have difficulties – and ask them to tell the class one of the instructions.
    • e.g. “Robert, can you tell us one thing you are to do?… Thank you.”
    • e.g. “Sandeep, can you tell us another thing you are to do?…Thank you.”
  • Be calm. Hold your own energy inside yourself, so that student learn how to hold their energy inside themselves.
  • Act excited when you want students to get excited. Recognize that when children get excited, they generally make a noise. So wait until you are very good at maintaining quiet excitement before expecting students to be quietly excited.


Be calmly attentive:

  • Don’t rush.
  • Walk by the inattentive student as you talk but don’t draw attention to the student.
  • Stand by the inattentive student as you talk but don’t draw attention to the student.
  • Walk by the inattentive student as s/he is working but don’t speak.
  • Walk by the inattentive student as s/he is working, and pause there for a few seconds, but don’t speak.
  • Stand 5 feet away from the inattentive student and silently look at him/her in a gentle way until all is calm.
  • Stand by the student as s/he is working and silently look around the classroom watching everyone else. Stay until the student is back on task again.
  • Quietly and slowly – as if you are just wandering around the classroom – walk over to the student and gently ask, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
  • Quietly and slowly – as if you are just wandering around the classroom – walk over to the student and gently ask, “What can I do to help you focus on your assignment?”
  • Quietly and slowly – as if you are just wandering around the classroom – walk over to the student and gently say, “It looks like you are having difficulty following the instructions. What are you finding frustrating?”


Value your time with students:

  • Do not sit down at your desk. Keep walking around the classroom until you are sure everyone can maintain quiet focus on their work. Students should be quietly working for at least 2 minutes before you sit down.
  • Do not sit at your desk for longer than 5 minutes before getting up and walking around again. Over time, after months of training, you should be able to sit down for up to 10 minutes at a time.
  • Do not have students line up at your desk for help. If you realize that many students need help, get up and walk around the classroom. Tell the class that you will go to each student, so they do not need to raise their hands. Ask them to do something productive (e.g. read a book, skip a difficult question and go on until you arrive, add colour and beauty to their assignment) while they wait for you. Go to each student and ask, “Do you have any questions?” or “How can I help you?” Do not rush. And do not leave anyone out. Even the quiet competent ones will appreciate your attention to them; they enjoy being able to say, “No, thank you. I’m fine.”
  • Use a high stool so you can sit and watch the class when you get tired of standing or walking around. Remember that classroom teaching is like a dinner party: don’t try and do the dishes – or plan the next dinner party – while guests are at the table; don’t try and do marking and other paperwork while you are with your students. You have guests. Pay attention to them. Monitor the conversations and activities. Remember that – like dinner parties – most of your work will be done before guests arrive and after they leave.
  • Remember that children are like puppies. Patient, calm, kind consistency is the only way to train them. If you are anxious and rushed, they will be unable to control their own emotions and energy level.
  • Every 20 to 30 minutes, give students a break to walk around and visit with their friends. Even adults have difficulty focusing on work for more than 40 minutes. We’re all more productive if we take regular little ‘walk and talks’.
    • But tell students how much time they’re allowed; e.g. “Please work quietly for another minute and then you may have a 3 minute ‘walk and talk’.”
    • When the time is up, do not shout, just say in a reasonably loud and calm voice, “5, 4, 3,…” Stretch out your counting so that everyone can get back to their seats in time.
    • When you start this, some students will test you. Be prepared for this and do not get angry or annoyed. Just look at them and wait for them to get settled. Do not say ONE word to the class until everyone is in place. Smile.
    • Later, when everyone is quietly working, go to those students individually and say, “Is there something I can do to help you act like you belong here? When you take so long to return to work, it takes away working time for everyone else, which means your friends have more work to do at home. What can I do to help you?”


Be prepared for disruptions:

  • Children wreck lessons. They aren’t the supporting cast in the drama of our work lives. They have their own internal dramas and we aren’t always the centre of their worlds. So be prepared for something unusual to happen. Remind yourself that those unexpected events are what make life more interesting.
  • If a single student is being disruptive, tell him/her to go out in the hall with some work – even work from other subjects – and come back when ready to participate in the lesson. Do not be upset. Do not send the student out as a punishment but rather as a way to acknowledge that sometimes students have other priorties. But do not continue with your lesson until the disruptive student has left the room. We’ve all had times when a teacher’s or leader’s priorities are not our own, so we’re sympathetic.
  • If a student is disruptive, ask him/her to help you with a simple task. Being helpful encourages people to like the person they’re helping. And then, look the student in the eye and say, “Thank you.” Help the student feel recognized for good behaviour. If a whole class helps clean up, pause when they are done and look around to show admiration and appreciation. Help them feel valued. Because they are valuable human beings!
    • e.g. “Could you go put this in the storage room?”
    • e.g. “Could you put this book on the shelf for me?”
    • e.g. “Could you sharpen this pencil for me?”


Forgive yourself:

  • We all try to multi-task sometimes, even though it usually ends up with someone wanting to sit down and cry. So, forgive yourself if you make that mistake in the classroom. Go home. Have a good sleep. And don’t multi-task the next day.
  • Let yourself have a break from routine sometimes. Spend all day doing art or science experiments with the students sometimes. Relax. You don’t always have to march along according to the schedule.
  • Go back and review how to reduce stress.
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