In order to set up a classroom environment where students feel safe to share ideas, and on-task behavior exceeds 90%, a teacher must consider classroom management issues. Many of the aspects of the central core of effective teaching (CCET) promotes effective classroom management. By asking good questions, and looking expectantly at all students, the teacher is also monitoring all students. The teacher is not focused on their notes or on the board, but is instead focused on the classroom. By focusing on the class, a teacher is able to see and deal with classroom management issues quickly. Also, by providing meaningful activities students are actively engaged with content, and have less inclination to participate in off-task behavior.
Dealing with classroom management is better done proactively than reactively. “The way in which teachers structure the first part of the year has consequences for their classroom management throughout the year” (Emmer and Evertson, 1981). With this in mind, a teacher must begin classroom management on the first day of school! Setting up expectations congruent with student goals is important, but is pointless if consequences are not set up and enforced strictly.
The structure necessary to maximize student engaged time needs to be constructive to student thinking. Students need to be actively involved in learning by observing, predicting testing and working in groups. In order for such activities to remain productive, expectations of respect and discipline must be established, and all of class time used effectively (Clough et. Al., 1994). Using all class time effectively means a teacher must plan activities to continue student thinking during the last five minutes of class, even if the material for the day has been covered. Teachers need to over-plan their lessons, and have meaningful activities ready for use.
Some general expectations for students may include: being on time to class, not leaving the room during class, working from bell to bell, respect for all ideas, as well as participation in class. During the first 1-5 weeks of school a teacher must work diligently to enforce these expectations and communicate them to the students. We must explicitly discuss what the expectations are and what students should be doing to meet the expectations. Once the classroom environment has been established, students are aware of what they are to do, and classroom management becomes less of an issue. However, when issues do arise throughout the year, the teacher must maintain diligent enforcement of the expectations that have been established.
When students are off-task, I work to use my presence as my first wave of attack. Instead of calling out students who might be having a “side conversation”, I make may way over to that part of the room and continue the class discussion. Importantly, I move around the room on a regular basis, so my presence amongst the students is not novel. If students continue the off-task behavior, I use a “think-pair-share” where I ask a question and have students discuss the question with their partner. Then, while students are discussing, I calmly lean down to the students who are off-task and say “______is what I am seeing you doing. _________is why it is a problem. _________ is what I will have to do if the behavior continues.” I make eye contact with the students and use my body language to indicate how serious I am rather than raising my voice. I then move around to other groups and pose questions to further their thinking. Whatever the consequence you indicate for the students, you must follow-through. As I have said earlier, we are always teaching kids something. You do not want to teach them to not take your expectations seriously.
If students chronically misbehave, I keep that student after class to discuss the problem. Also, during the initial consequences (usually detention), I work to establish a relationship with that student. When they come in for detention I do not berate them, I ask them why they are there, how they intend to improve, and what they would rather be doing instead of sitting in my class. The last question then gives me some information with which I can start a personable discussion.