FOCUS on Classroom Management


25 Children. One Classroom. You are the Teacher. ARE YOU READY?!
A wealth of experience is waiting for you in Surviving Your First Year (or Any Year!) of Teaching and Loving It!. This great guide, authored by Kris Thurgood and Kim Christopherson, has helped thousands of teachers understand the four essentials for running a successful classroom and begin experiencing the joys of teaching. The eBook, which includes nearly 50 ready-to-use reproducibles, can be ordered and downloaded RIGHT NOW for only $9.95! Your satisfaction is guaranteed.



“I could get so much more done if I did not have to discipline.” Does this sound familiar? In the teaching profession, so much time is dedicated toward resolving this issue of managing a classroom – and understandably so. Time and time again, research has found that the #1 area of concern for teachers, especially those new to the field, are feelings of inadequacy when it comes to managing a classroom.

Welcome to I Love That Teaching Idea!’s free, 5-week seminar based on ideas out of Surviving Your First Year (or Any Year!) of Teaching and Loving It!. This course is designed to help you to FOCUS on your classroom management style.

What style of management best fits you and your students? Do you run a more authoritative classroom or do you like to involve your students in the process of managing themselves? Over the next several weeks, we will bring to your attention key principles in managing an effective classroom. Whether you agree with our strategies or not, we promise to get you thinking about how these techniques, and others you may think of, can help you to become a competent and successful teacher. Most of these techniques are “common sense” approaches and will be nothing new to you. We hope they will serve as helpful reminders to an ongoing battle that every teacher, veteran and new, faces every day.

While there is no one best strategy for every problem you will face in managing a classroom, the following principles can help. Let us help you FOCUS on keeping your classroom running!

Focus Attention on You!

All too often, the most common mistake many teachers make is starting a lesson without all of the students’ attention. Eager to get into teaching, a teacher might begin the lesson while some students are visiting with their neighbor, searching through their desks, or even walking around the classroom!

One of the best practices you can use is to get your students into the habit of giving you their attention with a special signal. Whether you’re on a field trip or your students are working on group projects, an attention signal will help out no matter what the situation is. Here are a few ideas:

  • Clap in a rhythm and have your students clap the remainder of the pattern.
  • Ring a bell once.
  • Raise your hand quietly and wait until everyone else has his or her hand raised.
  • Give them five seconds to get in order. You might say, “Class, I need your attention in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” By the time you get to “1”, all attention should be on you. Sometimes students need a few seconds after a signal to be ready. This method proves to work well in such cases.

This next step is very important. DO NOT begin until you have everyone’s attention. If you continue without their attention, students will feel like it’s OK for them to show disrespect for the person who is speaking. Teach that when it takes longer to gain their attention, a consequence may follow. One such consequence may be taking time away from recess or removing other privileges from the disrupting student(s). Maintaining consistency with this procedure will help students to quickly learn what you expect from them. This is also an important lesson for students to learn as it pertains to substitutes, guest speakers, and peers who are presenting information to the class in the future.

Action Thought:

  • What will my “attention signal” be for my teaching?
  • Will it be always be the same?
  • Why is it important?

Out and About in the Room

As a teacher, it would be very easy to stand up, give your lesson and then return to your seat to work on projects or papers from the comfort of your own desk. If you have a tendency to do this, you’re setting yourself up for a managerial failure in your classroom. Don’t let it happen to you!

Being “out and about” is as simple as it sounds, but this simple suggestion is powerful. Be amongst your students! Students are less likely to misbehave when their teacher is in close proximity to them. Walking around the room while teaching and as students are working will keep students alert and on task. Students who might be having trouble with the work in front of them will appreciate the easy access they have to your ready and willing help. If you notice that several students are running into the same problems, now is the time to take them aside for extra help or address the entire class with some additional teaching at the board. By moving around the classroom, you can also make sure that the “slow-to-get-started” student is ready to get moving, the “distracted” student gets back on track, and the talkative student is silenced.

Do you have more than one student at a time needing your personal attention? Here’s a suggestion to help minimize the distracting calls of “Teacher! Teacher! Over here!” Give each child a 3×5 index card with a giant question mark printed on it. Laminate the cards for durability. Pass these cards out to each student to keep in his or her own desk. Instruct your students that when they have a question which you cannot attend to at that moment, they are to simply lay out the index card on the top right-hand corner of their desk. As you are walking around checking on students, you can quickly see, at a glance, those who need your immediate help – without distracting others to gain your attention.

Action Thought:

  • Am I going to be an “out and about” kind of teacher?
  • What will it take for me to do this?
  • When is it OK to sit down at my desk?
  • How will I teach students to seek my help without disturbing the rest of the class?

Cuing Students: Verbal and Non-Verbal

According to Webster’s dictionary, a “cue” is “any sound, word, or action that signals an action; a guiding hint or suggestion.” Delivering cues to your students, both verbally and non-verbally, will aid them in understanding the message you are trying to explain.

Just before you tell your class something very important, cue the upcoming statement. One suggestion is to say, “Students, I have something very interesting I want to share with you,” or “Jonathan (address by name), I am going to tell you something very important.” Statements such as these will focus students’ attention on you. Use these same statements when redirecting misbehavior. After using such a statement, proceed to tell students exactly what you expect of them.

Non-verbal cues also play an important role in the classroom. Perhaps you have an individual student who has a difficult time paying attention in class. One idea is to take that child aside before school starts and discuss a “non-verbal” cue that only the two of you will know and use between yourselves. For example, “Kate” is having trouble with her eyes wandering around the room when she should be working. Pull Kate aside and briefly discuss a plan of action with her that the two of you will take when you notice that she is not staying on task. When you notice this, you will point to your eyes and then to her eyes with two of your fingers. When she sees this, it will become her immediate cue to get working. No one else has been disrupted and Kate is working as she should. If you have a student who is constantly talking to his/her neighbor, a non-verbal cue may be to walk over to his/her desk, place your palm face-down and quietly tap the desk twice. Once again, you are redirecting the behavior without any disruption to the class and almost without skipping a beat in your teaching!

Action Thought:

  • What verbal cues can I use to preface important statements to my students?
  • What are some non-verbal cues I can use with certain students in my room to help curb misbehavior without disrupting the entire class?

Use Praise Effectively. Use Rewards Selectively.

“Way to go, Jesse!” “I knew you could do it!” “Look at how this spelling test score improved from last week!” “You have been working so quietly during math today. Thank you.” Some of the best rewards you can give your students will come from your own words or actions. A smile, a wink, a “high-five”, or a word of praise will go far with students.

Effective praise is given to students who are creating progress in the classroom. Effective praise is given to students who are making strong efforts not only in subject areas, but also for those who are managing themselves in a constructive manner. Effective praise is given to students who are succeeding because they are trying. By doing this, you help students know that in the future they can continue to succeed as long as they put in the effort. And finally, effective praise is given in very sincere, genuine, specific and upbeat verbal and non-verbal communication.

So, when you see good things happening in your room, embrace it! Acknowledge it! These things help reinforce the behavior you desire. Write a small note to a student and leave it on his/her desk thanking that student for a job well done. Surprise a parent with a POSITIVE phone call or e-mail. They’ll be grateful you went the extra mile.

Ideally, we want each of our students to be able to manage their own behavior, be responsible for it and intrinsically want to always be their best. From our own experience, we believe a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation works best. Do not overuse rewards. Be selective in how you utilize extrinsic motivation in the classroom.

Would you like to recognize a student who is “putting their best foot forward”? Here’s an idea! Surprise a new student each week by placing the “Silver Sneaker”* on his/her desk. Buy an old sneaker from a thrift store and spray paint it silver. This will become an icon that students will want to see on their desk sometime during the year! Roll up our Silver Sneaker certificate* and tuck it inside the sneaker. The silver sneaker should stay on the corner of that student’s desk during the entire week, reminding him/her and the rest of the class how “stepping up” to good behavior is appreciated!

Silver Sneaker Certificate*

Action Thought:

  • How can I make my praise more effective in the classroom?
  • How will my students know that I am sincere when I praise their efforts?
  • How can I help them feel successful?
  • What techniques will I use to reward students?

*The Silver Sneaker certificate is given to you, our on-line seminar participant. You may make as many copies as you would like for your classroom use. This reproducible, and many others for managing a classroom can be found in Surviving Your First Year (or Any Year!) of Teaching and Loving It! by Kris Thurgood & Kim Christopherson, available at the A to Z Teacher Stuff store.

Seek Help When Needed

Teaching and managing a classroom is not an easy task. Many of your efforts will pay off, while others will not prove to be as effective. Please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Thousands of teachers have dealt with the same issues that you face in the classroom. One of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to SEEK HELP WHEN NEEDED! Don’t be afraid to talk to a fellow colleague about a problem you are experiencing with a student or group of students. Unfortunately, we are sometimes under the impression that by asking for help we are showing weakness. But, in reality, just the opposite holds true!

Try working through some of your more challenging situations by utilizing a team approach. Seek help from principal of your school. You can also get assistance from the parents/legal guardians of unruly students. There are several steps we advise you to take when resolving these management issues.

  1. STEP 1 – What is the problem? What exactly is the child doing that makes his/her behavior an issue? For example, “Haley needs to be better” is not as effective in curbing misbehavior as, “Haley needs to keep her hands and feet to herself during class.” By being specific, the student and whoever else is involved in this process will know exactly what is expected.
  2. STEP 2 – Record how often the problem is occurring and what steps are being taken to resolve it. The following are two ideas of how to organize your records:
    – Assemble a 3-ring notebook containing a page for every student in your room.
    When you notice a problem reoccurring, begin writing it down. Be sure to date each entry. You may even want to have older students write the documentation themselves.
    – Keep a recipe box full of 3×5 index cards on each student. Again, write down the problems you are facing with a student on his/her card when it happens.
  3. STEP 3 – Use these records to decide how to best help the student. If needed, his/her information could be shared during a parent/teacher conference.

Manage your classroom with CONFIDENCE knowing that there are literally thousands out there who are cheering you on!

25 Children. One Classroom. You are the Teacher. ARE YOU READY?!
A wealth of experience is waiting for you in Surviving Your First Year (or Any Year!) of Teaching and Loving It!. This great guide, authored by Kris Thurgood and Kim Christopherson, has helped thousands of teachers understand the four essentials for running a successful classroom and begin experiencing the joys of teaching. The eBook, which includes nearly 50 ready-to-use reproducibles, can be ordered and downloaded RIGHT NOW for only $9.95! Your satisfaction is guaranteed.


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