I wonder why some teachers have great classroom control, involved students, and seem happy with their work; yet, others find teaching a nightmare, so use strict, boring, rigid control, actually stifling their students, whose behavior deteriorates as the school year goes on.  

What’s the difference between these teachers?

Several items must be emphasized for teachers who want to achieve and maintain excellent classroom management.  These ideas are not new. They’ve been practiced for many years by good teachers all over the world. Dr. Harry K. Wong has collected effective and efficient classroom management techniques in his classic 1991 book, which sold over 3 million copies, The First Days of School. It’s well-worth reading.

Here are twelve major ideas that teachers should practice, including them in their repertoire of on-going techniques, if they want excellent classroom management.

1. The most important variable governing whether the student learns or not is what you do in the classroom. 

Research results (H. Wong, M. Schmoker, S.Krashen, Tomás Ortiz, et al) show, over and over, that what the teacher does in the classroom has more impact on student learning than the students’ economic level, family status, or education levels of parents. There’s no substitute for good teaching.

2. Discipline = Behavior;  Procedures = Doing

This means that classroom discipline deals with students’ behavior in class, and classroom procedures deal with doing things in the classroom – how to enter the room, where to sit, where to work, where to write your name on a paper, where to place completed work, how to leave the classroom for the bathroom, or at the end of class, lunch room procedures, etc. Practiced procedures over time become routines, automatically done by students.  Routines result in an organized, self-disciplined classroom. Better learning occurs in a classroom that’s organized, relaxed, and learner-friendly.

3. What increases my students’ achievement level?

  • Classroom management
  • My expectations of my students

As we saw in #2, good classroom management comes about in a classroom where the teacher has set procedures, which evolve to become routines. 

When teachers have high expectations for ALL students, and they seek success, evidenced by oral and written production, creative thinking, collaborative projects, and involved students, there is success and a student-friendly climate in the school.

4. Learning processes that students must master:

How to take notes

How to use a text book

How to work in groups

Taking notes is a skill to be taught from about 5th grade and beyond, mastered by high school. Teachers can provide an outline of topics, or use a visual presentation with key points specified, or list on the board key points, the “Big Idea”. Periodically, while teaching or discussing, teacher can say, “This is very important, so include it in your notes.”  Gradually, students will recognize their own best way to keep notes, organize notes, and study from notes. The teacher’s role is to assure that students are familiarized with note-taking experiences from 5th grade and beyond.

Using a textbook DOES NOT mean “reading” a textbook. Textbooks can be paper ones or digital ones. No matter what media is used, students need to be taught to use a table of contents, an index, graphs charts, footnotes, explanations accompanying photos or drawings, and other data that are included in most texts, digital or paper.  Learning to written material supports students’ learning.

Working in groups /teams – collaborative learning – needs to be understood by teachers. Groups need to be formed. Each person in the group needs a specific role. Each group works together, perhaps, for a two-month period, in their respective roles, collaborating on one or more projects.

When it’s time to change teams, the teacher reorganizes so that students are mixed with different students than their first group. Each student’s role is changed. Dual grading for projects is essential. One grade each student receives, is for the finished project…completed in school, never at home. Additionally, each student gets a grade/mark for his/her participating in the assigned role. Staff development in collaborative learning/teaching might need to be presented to school communities if it’s to work well. The fact is that most 21st century jobs require working in collaborative settings, Schools need to support this kind of student participation in various subjects, from kindergarten through high school.

5. Discipline compared with procedures:

DISCIPLINE: Concerns how students BEHAVE.

DISCIPLINE:  Has penalties and rewards.

PROCEDURES: Concern how things are DONE.

PROCEDURES: Have NO penalties or rewards.

These 4 statements are self-explanatory.                               

When a classroom has well-developed and practiced procedures (evolving to become routines, carried out almost automatically by students), there is much self-discipline. The best kind of “discipline” is self-control and order, constructed by a teacher’s wise use of procedures.

Discipline does NOT mean “punishment”. Too often we hear, “He disciplined the students.” – implying some sort of negative consequence. Punishment does not work. Punishment does not change long-term behavior. Redirecting, teaching procedures, values, and courtesy – are ways to change behavior for long-term results.

6. Remember, the number one problem in the classroom is NOT discipline; it is the lack of procedures and routines.     

Self-explanatory, and previously explained.

Next month I will come up with the remaining 6 ideas. Stay tuned!