THE WHY AND HOW OF CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

 

As Compiled by Frank Brunette (Adjunct University Supervisor)

 

 

PREFACE

 

Classroom management refers to all of the things that a teacher does to organize students, space, time and materials so that instruction in content and student learning can take place.  In all that you communicate, no matter how insignificant or innocuous it may seem, it contributes to your status as a teacher and your ability to manage the classroom.

 

Ginott states, “that good classroom management, like surgery, requires precision – no random cuts, no rambling comments.  Above all, a teacher demonstrates self-discipline and good manners – no tantrums, no insults, no blistering language.  His/Her management plan is never sadistic.  He/She lives by the law of compassion, even when challenged by children to defy it.”

 

Research tells us, “The amount of time students are actively engaged in learning contributes strongly to their achievement.  The amount of time available for learning is determined by instructional and management skills of the teacher…”  This implies that teachers must plan and prepare well, be organized, maximize student time on task, keep students actively engaged, efficiently utilize time, and the list goes on.

 

In a study reviewing 11,000 pieces of research that spanned fifty years, three researchers determined that there are twenty-eight factors that influence student learning and these have been ranked in order.  The most important factor governing student learning is classroom management.

 


THE LITANY FOR SUCCESSFUL CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

 

  • Look at yourself!  Be mindful of your self-confidence, voice, attitude, enthusiasm, personal appearance, manners, values, and most of all, composure and self-control.  Losing composure and shouting does not enhance classroom management.  The teacher sets the tone and creates the learning environment in the classroom.  Consequently, the classroom climate takes on the characteristics of the teacher’s personality and disposition.
  • On the first day of school introduce written rules and procedures and post them.  Above all, be generous with appreciative praise, encouragement, and reward for achievement and positive behavior.  Delineate the boundaries for unacceptable behavior.
  • Have the students practice, learn, and be able to explain classroom procedures (grade appropriate).  The procedures need to become routine.  Student should be able to perform the procedures automatically.
  • Establish a cue (words, sound, hand signal, etc.) to which the students are taught to respond to immediately.  Be consistent in using the cue.  Practice it!  Use the cue only when you are absolutely ready to get the students’ attention.  Once you give the cue do not engage in any other activity or have your attention diverted.  Wait!  Wait time is a very effective and important know-how and ability for teachers to possess.  Non-verbal communication consistent with the cue is powerful.  Silence can be thunderous!
  • Set and convey high expectations of your students.  However, there must be a support system in place and materials available to attend to individual differences to assure achievement.
  • When planning, schedule time for presentation and study, select the best activities to facilitate learning, and delimit content to be studied.  When students work cooperatively, have them use a “work voice”.
  • Communicate goals and objectives.  Be clear about requirements and consequences for unsatisfactory performance.  Children tend to be more cooperative and willing to attack a task if they have a clear understanding of what they are to do, why they are being asked to do it, and how they are to proceed.
  • Regulate the learning activities.  First, sequence content so that knowledge builds on itself by linking new information to students’ existing knowledge.  Secondly, pace the instruction so that students are ready for subsequent learning.  Then, monitor students’ success rates.  This will assure that students stay productively engaged regardless of how quickly they learn.  Finally, adjust instruction based upon what the monitoring and or assessment indicates.
  • Learn to use non-verbal behavior to communicate.  Provide non-verbal feedback (smiles, frowns, nods, move closer to students, etc.) for acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  Eye contact and/or facial expressions communicate pleasure, concern, interest, mood, etc.  Be certain that your verbal communication is consistent with your non-verbal behavior.
  • Gesture to accent points.  Research tells us, “that of all the parts of the human body used to communicate information, the hands and face are the most powerful”.  Scientists are studying the link between the body gestures and the mind.  This issue has given raise to an international Society for Gesture Studies.  Gestures provide another dimension to instruction by adding visual cues, which may trigger understanding.
  • Voice inflections stress points of interest and importance.  Studies on the effects of voice inflection have shown that variety in pitch and intensity affects receptivity of the listener.  Additionally, where the inflection is placed affects credibility of the sender.
  • Reinforce appropriate behavior, praise appropriate behavior and name it. (“Thank you for doing…”)  Ginott warns that all praise may not be beneficial.  He makes the distinction between evaluative praise and appreciative praise.  In his view judgmental or evaluative praise most times is harmful to students.  The inverse power of praise is being studied in New York schools and their findings support Ginott’s premise.  Productive praise describes a child’s efforts and accomplishments and our feelings about them.  The fundamental rule in praising is: describe without evaluating, report – don’t judge.  Guide the child toward evaluating his or her own behavior.
  • When students recite have them speak loud enough for all in the classroom to hear.  Call upon a student most distant from the speaker to check if he or she was able to hear.  This approach will help keep students actively engaged.
  • Use proximity control.  Moving close to the student causes a change in his or her behavior.  Room arrangements can maximize the teacher’s ability to effectively move toward all students.
  • The best reward is the satisfaction of a job well done.  Students can be shown the way to buy into this mindset.  For example, to extend rewards when a student answers a question and others in the classroom knew the answer they hand signal.  The teacher’s nod or facial expression provides acknowledgement and reward.  This, too, keeps students engaged.
  • Work to master the artful management of non-confrontation.  Approach trying situations with calmness, finesses, self-assurance and composure.  These same behaviors will serve well during times of emergency.  Avoid approaching tense situations in the heat of anger.
  • Do not take unacceptable behavior as an affront.  Use the power of wisdom to affect events.

 

PRECIS

 

How one manages the classroom is the primary determinant of how well your students learn.  Conversely, when students are successful and actively engaged in their work, they tend to be well behaved.  Therefore, keep students involved in their work, have students understand what is expected of them, maximize time on task, prevent confusion or disruption, and run a work simulated but relaxed and pleasant classroom.  Remember that in the adult world the workplace is one that is not always quiet, on the contrary, people continually interact, ask questions, brainstorm, seek help and so on.

 

In accepting the premise that all that the teacher does in the classroom contributes to quality instruction and management, instruction and classroom management should not be viewed as separate entities.  When teachers apply their knowledge, training, communication mastery, skills and values and caring, they coalesce and the student cooperatively become an active part of the teacher/learning process.

 

EPILOGUE

Frank Riessman’s Blueprint for the Disadvantaged tells of the disadvantage in the troubled schools of the 1960’s and of their deplorable conditions.  Through his studies of these inner city schools, amidst the chaos, he and his colleagues occasionally came upon classrooms within which there was order and instruction taking place with students on task.  Being impressed with what they had observed, his group reasoned that if they could carbon copy how those teachers taught, likewise others could be trained.  The obstacle in that thinking was that all of the teachers observed were so dissimilar.  The labels he gave them illustrate those differences.  He characterized them as the coach, boomer, actor, professor, etc.  Also, he vividly described their teaching performances.

Nevertheless, he and his associates did agree that there was a common quality that all of those teachers observed possessed and communicated, though not verbally.  That was, in some way all of the teachers conveyed to the students that it made a difference to them that they, the students, learn.[1]

At first glimpse it seems elementary – all that needs to be done to teach and manage a classroom well is for the teacher to tell students, “It makes a difference to me that you learn.”  Be sure, this is an over simplification and students are too perceptive to buy into that.  It very well may be that therein, the insights of students, lies the key to good teaching.  Consistent with Riessman’s findings, it is incumbent upon teachers to demonstrate through attitude, knowledge, dedication, skill, commitment, values, and everything else they do, that they care.

Works Cited
1) Harry K & Rosemary T Wong (1998) The First Days of School Harry K Wong Publications, CA p.84
2) Haim G. Ginott, Teacher and Child (New York NY: The Macmillan Company), 1972 p.149
3) US Department of Education, “What Works” p.34
4) Wong p.82
5) BJ Enz, SJ Cook, BJ Weber, Professional Partnership in the Student Teaching Experience Kendall Hunt Publishing Co, Iowa p.61
6) Ibid
7) Ginott p.125
8) PO Bronson, How Not to Talk to Your Kids New York Magazine (Feb. 19, 2007)
9) Frank Riessman, 1968 Blueprint for the Disadvantaged, B’nai Brith, NY NY

 



[1] Frank Reissman, 1968 Blueprint for the Disadvantaged, B’nai Brith, NY NY