With a new school year quickly approaching, most teachers are preparing their behavior management plans so that their classroom will run more smoothly throughout the year. Most of the time, the best plans include many different components that work together. Other times, the well-managed classrooms may have components implemented that work for them that you may not have even considered. Below are five behavior management tips for back to school that can be a great place to start when setting up your own classroom management system. We want your classroom to run like the well-oiled machine it can be!
1. Create a Classroom Community
The most important behavior management tip is to first create a classroom community. Creating an environment where they feel welcomed and safe absolutely affects the way children act. Younger students need to feel like they belong, and to feel important, too. Helping create this positive, communal environment for them will help reinforce positive behavior and curb negative behavior. The best way to implement this classroom management plan is to always act as though they have never had this experience modeled to them before. Building a community can look like reading books together or singing songs as a group.
Just like adults, children like to feel needed and have a sense of accomplishment, too. A great way to accomplish this is to get the whole class involved by assigning classroom jobs. This is a fun way to get everyone involved in effective classroom management. Consider it ‘group work time'. It also makes little ones feel even more important and lets them have a specific role within the classroom community. Jobs like ‘board cleaner' and ‘calendar helper' are simple enough for even kindergarten students to do. More importantly, this lets 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. I can assure you from my previous years of experience, this is one of the best tried and true classroom management techniques that many effective teachers implement.
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 and display disruptive behavior. That's 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 would like to do after completing their assigned 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 student behavior 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 provide them with clear expectations and clear rules around what expected behaviors in the classroom look like . 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's 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 just don't 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, individual 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. So what are some effective ways to combat this common occurence?
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 lose 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 aloud, 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 the age 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 displaying behavior issues 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 when we do that, we are not allowing everyone to experience success. I also like to use a growth mindset in the classroom and focus on the effort and not the end result. Every child should feel a level of success. We also have to keep in mind that whether they have been diagnosed yet or not, there are going to be little ones with learning disabilities. So we have to be mindful and sensitive to that. For some, rewarding may come from academics, while others, it's simply 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 thing 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. This also doubles at building good relationships between both you and each individual student. Fostering positive relationships is another sure way to curb inappropriate behavior because they are less likely going to want to let you down because how you feel about them matters to them. But it's generally a good rule of thumb not to expect children to know how to practice self-control if you haven't even taught it yet.
I hope these five behavior management tips for back to school 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 more likely 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 go to school to ruin their teacher's life. More often than not 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.
I really do hope you've found this blog post on behavior management tips will be able to provide you with some valuable insights. I'd love to hear what classroom management tips you find work really well for you. Perhaps there's an effective strategy not yet listed here that you'd like to share! I'm always open to learning about different strategies to help make the learning environment a better place. Comment your best classroom management strategy below!