With a new school year quickly approaching, teachers are preparing their behavior management plans so that their classroom will run more smoothly. Most of the time, the best plans include many different components working together, and sometimes, the well-managed classrooms may have things working for them that you may not have even considered as behavior management. These five behavior management tips are a great place to start for setting up your own classroom management system so that your classroom can run like a well-oiled machine!
#1 Create a Classroom Community
The most important management tip is to create a classroom community. Creating an environment where they feel welcomed and safe absolutely affects they way children act. They need to feel like they belong, and they need to feel important to the classroom community. Always act as if they have never had this experience modeled to them and read books, sing songs, etc. to work on community building.
Just like adults, children like to feel needed and have a sense of accomplishment. A great way to accomplish this is by assigning classroom jobs. It makes them feel important and lets them have a role within the classroom community. Jobs like board cleaner and calendar helper are simple enough for even kindergarten students to do. More importantly, they let students know that you trust them to be responsible with their job. Taking steps to create a community within your classroom will do wonders for your behavior management system!
#2 Keep Students Engaged
I think it goes without saying that the more engaged students are, the less likely they are to make poor choices. That is why keeping students engaged, even when their regular classwork has been completed, is so important! One way I like to do this is by giving students choices in what task they will do after completing their work. This can be done with a simple choice board or with early finisher task cards!
Many teachers see this as just another task added to their never-ending to-do list, because they think they have to have numerous activities prepared in addition to the regular classwork they already put together. However, it doesn’t have to be like that! There are many no-prep early finisher activities that you can give students. Journal writing, rainbow writing, and room cleaning are all simple ways to keep students engaged that don’t require any extra preparation on your part. Keeping students engaged throughout the day is a great way to avoid negative behaviors that might occur if students have unoccupied time.
#3 Let Students Know What to Expect
If you want students to meet your behavior expectations in your classroom, you have to let them know what to expect! At the beginning of the year, have explicit discussions about how you expect students to behave in your classroom and post them with visual reminders, if possible. Throughout the year, revisit them often so students know your expectations have not changed.
It is also helpful to let students know what to expect in terms of how their day is going to go. I like to use a visual class schedule, so students can see what we have planned for that day, and in what order. This is especially helpful for children who do not transition well. Some things change from day-to-day, such as our specials, while others like our reading block and recess time stay the same.
Not only can visual schedules let students know what to expect from our day, but they also help us to avoid those interruptions with questions like, “When do we go to lunch?” and “How much longer until we go home?” Instead, students can look at the schedule and see how many more activities we have until the time of day they are looking forward to. Letting students know what to expect in our classrooms, both in behaviors and in schedules, is crucial to any behavior management plan.
#4 Anticipate Bad Choices
It's not hard to see when a student has checked out. We can anticipate when students will make bad choices and try to avoid them simply by watching them. As mentioned earlier, we know when students are not engaged, they may find negative behaviors to occupy their time. We can plan ahead for that scenario with choice boards and early finisher task cards. We need to do the same with other situations in which our students could easily make bad choices. Some children need movement or sensory stimulation to help them focus and practice self control.
Children have to build stamina to do anything. This takes practice. We can't expect them to just come to school and sit on the carpet for a 15 minute lesson. When we see them start to fidget and loose their attention, we can be ready. I can't tell you how many times I stopped in the middle of a lesson, or even a read loud, to do a brain break. Yes, I could say over and over, “Stop talking. Stay still.” but that wouldn't solve the problem. I was only making things harder on myself by not listening to what my student(s) need.
We can combat this issue by keeping brain break ideas on hand. If we can think ahead to times when students are most likely to make bad choices, we can also plan ahead to avoid them. What is it like when you are in a PD or after school meeting and it goes too long? Do you go somewhere else in your head? Maybe check your email on your phone? Now, think of what it is like to be four or five with the inability to tell someone what you need. This is why paying attention to our student's body language and adapting our lesson and schedule to meet their needs is so important. When you do that, everyone wins. You spend less time discipling and more time teaching. They spend less time acting out and more time participating.
#5 Reward Good Choices
I haven't used a behavior chart in years. I personally love having a Safe Place / Calm Down Corner for my students to process their feelings and develop coping skills. We adopted our oldest children through foster care and as they navigated their trauma, they were diagnosed with several behavior disorders. Being the “bad kid” just made things worse when it was on public display. As a teacher, I never liked the first thing parents say when they see their child is, “Did you move your clip today?” It minimizes their learning experience and places focus on their poor choice. Now, that choice ruined their school day and their home night.
I do love to reward good choices. My rewards were never for a specific task because we when do that, we are not allowing everyone to experience success. I also like to use growth mindset in the classroom and focus on the effort and not the end result. Every child should feel a level of success. For some, that comes from academics while others, it's the ability to play nicely on the playground with their friends. Children need to understand what it means to do the right thing because it's the right things to do. This doesn't mean that we can't sprinkle some fun in between.
Young students need this type of positive reinforcement to let them know that you notice their good choices, and there are so many simple ways you can do this! Giving students special privileges like getting to wear a hat in class or have lunch with you as a reward is always a nice surprise. The most important thing is that we only hold them accountable for what we have modeled and taught them. Don't expect them to know how to practice self control if you haven't taught it.
I hope these five behavior management tips are helpful to you as you are developing your system for the upcoming school year. Letting students know what to expect, creating a classroom community, keeping students engaged, and giving positive reinforcement can all go a long way when encouraging your students to make good choices. Planning ahead also helps to keep your classroom running smoothly, even when students may be getting close to making bad choices. Overall, students will be on their best behavior when you have a well-developed plan prepared and in place.
At the end of the day, I hope you remember to see the child and not the behavior. There is always a reason that children are struggling. If you can figure out what that is, it can completely change your year. I promise, no kids goes to school to ruin their teacher's life. They really want to make you happy, they just don't have the coping skills or vocabulary to tell you what they need. If you are looking to ditch the clip chart (and I hope you will consider it), click here to read all about creating a safe place for your students.