Classroom management is more than discipline. Successful teachers create successful classrooms by having a plan in place for every situation. Learn more about how to create an effective learning environment in your middle school classroom.
It doesn't matter if you have been teaching for a day, a year, or even twenty years - classroom management is something that all teachers struggle with. The very idea of trying to keep a room full of students working, learning, and happy can be overwhelming. This lesson will explore the steps that you should take to create a classroom management plan, as well the unique problems that middle school teachers face in their classrooms.
First of all, what is classroom management? It is much more than having a stack of office referrals handy or a chair next to the teacher's desk for misbehaving students. Classroom management requires a plan that covers not only discipline but also routines, procedures, expectations, and rewards. Classroom management is about organization and knowing what is and what isn't acceptable in your classroom.
Middle school teachers spend their days in a much different environment than elementary school teachers; therefore, their classrooms require a very unique type of management. In middle school, the students are testing their boundaries more and becoming individuals. They may worry more about what their peers think than about what adults think of them and may act out in ways that are not classroom appropriate. At this age, students are also spending more time exploring their interests, from music to sports to romance. Obviously, it takes more effort to connect with middle school students and to make your classroom a place where learning and respect are found.
Procedures in the Classroom
The very first step in creating a classroom management plan is determining how you want your students to do mundane, day-to-day activities in your room. You must have procedures in place for every single step in the learning process, from entering the room to exiting for a fire drill.
After you have determined what procedures you want to have in place in your classroom, teach them to your students. If they know exactly how to behave in every situation, then they will be much more likely to behave positively throughout the day. You can and should role play with your students at the beginning of the school year so they can see exactly how the task looks when it is performed correctly.
Along with procedures, create a few simple expectations for behavior in your classroom. You should be able to condense your behavior expectations to only three to five rules. Most behavior fits under categories, such as respect, responsibility, safety, and participation. Many teachers use the 'be' expectations to cover all areas of their classroom expectations. Let's look at a teacher-created anchor chart that uses the 'be' expectations:
As you can see, listening to the teacher, waiting your turn to talk, getting along with other students, and being ready to learn are all covered with four simple expectations. Do not provide too much information in your expectations, and you will find that they are easier to enforce. When a student talks while you are teaching, simply walk over to your expectations chart and point to 'Be respectful'. In most instances, you will not have to stop teaching to correct poor behavior, as long as you are consistent and prepared to respond appropriately.
Have a Plan
Unfortunately, there will be times when students misbehave, regardless of your classroom management procedures and expectations. While your school should already have a discipline plan in place for serious behavior, it is to your advantage to take care of small issues within the walls of your classroom.
Have a specific plan in place, which includes the steps that you will take when undesirable behavior occurs. List behaviors that will have the student removed from the classroom, such as fighting or other forms of violence. Make sure every student and parent has a copy of this discipline plan right away.
Reward Good Behavior
As a teacher, you have probably realized that rewards are more well-received by many students than punishment or negative consequences. For this reason, it is highly important to have a whole-class reward system in place within your classroom. You can choose to give out some form of (pretend) monetary reward, which students can later cash in for small prizes, such as pencils or free homework passes. You can also create a larger-scale reward system, such as the one shown here, to reward your entire class after a longer period of good behavior:
As you can see, it includes not only rules, but elements of fun and competition that can help incite good behavior. After all, what students don't love to win a game and be rewarded for it?
Some possible whole-class rewards (both those that cost money and those that do not) that work especially well for middle school classrooms might be:
- Class pizza party
- Free day (students are allowed to use their own devices or just chat for a period)
- Bring your own music and headphones day
- Work outside day
- Movie day (you can choose an educational movie or one that is just for fun)
- Combined class day (two teachers' classes will work together on a project, review game, or other activity)
- Bring your own snack day
Whole-class rewards allow students to work in a team environment for the betterment of the entire class. Middle school students enjoy competition, and whole-class rewards allow them to compete in a friendly way with other class periods.
Classroom management is more than having discipline in place. It also involves procedures, expectations, and rewards. You must teach the students how you want them to work in your classroom, and a procedures list will detail classroom activities step-by-step. An expectations chart should be posted where it is easy to see and follow, and should explain how you want the students to behave. Finally, you should have a discipline plan and reward system in place to deter negative behavior, while rewarding students who behave positively. Middle school students react better to rewards than to consequences, so put a lot of effort into your reward system to make your classroom a place of learning, respect, and fun.