So you lost control of your classroom. You thought you had your classroom management and procedures all down. You have been reading blogs and pinning the best content on Pinterest, but you must have missed something. What could it have been? Where did you go wrong? How did you lose control of your classroom?
Good news…you are not alone! So many teachers have had to find solutions for getting back control of their classrooms. Sometimes, the only thing that prepares us for solid classroom management and procedures, is experience. Unfortunately, the only way to gain experience in the classroom is to jump in feet first. Whether you are a first year teacher, or you are notice your control is slipping, here are some valuable tips for regaining control of your classroom.
I polled the Education to the Core Community, and here are a variety of solutions to this common problem:
“Community and caring are paramount. The children need to be invested in the classroom and in their classmates’ lives and learning, And the teacher must show care, concern, and love for all students. They will not care about you if you do not care about them.” -Martha G.
“Create a community right away. Let kids tell you about their day, weekend, lives. Circle up and let them share what’s troubling them and what’s going well. Let the “crazy kid” go first and respond to them in a loving and positive way. That student is the leader among their peers and if you can get them on your side then the others will join in. In my classroom, I call it family time. There is nothing that can be done to reign in an out of control class until you have their respect…and this is the fastest way to get it, in my opinion. Once you have their respect you can really enforce the rules of your classroom with success because they will begin to trust you more. Another way to strenghten community is by using team-building activities and games. (Don’t try this until you’ve calmed your classroom though or it won’t work!) I love to use low-ropes initiatives in my room, especially at the beginning of the year. Don’t forget about consistency! Make sure to intentionally build community in your classroom every week.” -Crystal K.
“The community building is key, of course. I would start with a classroom meeting to discuss what we want our classroom to look like and sound like, and what we can do to accomplish that. Follow it up with a team building exercise. I would pass out tickets (for the prize jar or class rewards) generously for those who were on the right track, while finding a reason to give them to the challenging kids. I also have found that playing music helps keep the kids in control TREMENDOUSLY. During energizing activities I play their favorite songs, and they know if they misbehave I will turn off the music (I always do to make a point the first few times). During testing or quiet times I have a mellow playlist. They love it!” -Brenda S.
“Celebrate small successes…10 minutes of quiet, all homework turned in, etc! I was placed in a class at a new school, where the other 4th grade teachers were able to select the students coming to me. Needless to say, I had quite a few behavior problems. That was such a hard year, but probably one of my most successful ones!” -Sonia T.
“Pick one thing at a time. Frame it positively – “we do ___ because…”, not “we don’t do ___ because…” Model, scaffold, praise, celebrate. Choose the next thing and repeat. I’ve read somewhere – we expect kids to need modeling and explicit instructionn to learn how to read, so why do we expect them to behave perfectly without the same? Seems excessive and like you’re wasting time, but I’d argue that a completely out of control classroom is a bigger waste of time. Look for the reason behind misbehavior. Kids don’t always act up because they want to. Maybe the ringleaders are low academically and trying to mask that through making their friends laugh or impressing them. Maybe it’s time to take a serious look at yourself. (I know this can be tough, but be honest!) Are you sure you’re planning enough material for the class? Are you engaging students? Are you explaining directions clearly enough? Do they have a lot of wait time while they just sit there until you give the next directions? Is the work purposeful or does it come across as busy work?” -Tova F.
“Explicitly teaching routines and procedures, front loading cooperative structures, and creating a positive classroom culture by finding out about your students’ lives. I would also include positive phone calls home. I had some students where I knew I would have to make that call quick if it were going to be positive! However, those students and parents were on my side if there was an issue later. One parent told me that I was the only teacher at my school who saw the good in her child. What an impact it can have!” -Nicole W.
“I love disruptors because they bring so much of themselves to the classroom. I listen and do what I can to integrate what they have brought to the conversation into part of the lesson. I think about why they followed the impulse that took them away from what most students are doing. I get as close to them as possible, so I can understand what motivates them, what makes them think, what interests them. Then I shape learning so that it supports them to be who they are, so they can grow with the rest of the class instead of against it.” -Rac E.
“Go back to the first week of school mentality. Model the behaviors/routines/procedures that you want the students to exhibit, and then have them practice over and over until it’s how it should be. I would need to do this a couple of times a year in the schools I’ve worked in, usually after long breaks.” Shawn P.
“Out of control? Simple.. You put THEM in control. Praise them, and give small rewards for doing a job well done on getting themselves to work together on being an efficient class.” -Genevieve G.
“Start using Kagan Cooperative Learning structures. By building community and team building the students are engaged and too busy working together to be out of control!!!” -Linda G.
“Talk to the counseling office and see if you can get insight into life at home for those students. I have found that almost always the home has been unstable and the parents are disengaged and unsupportive of the child and the school. Talk to the student(s) individually to let them know that you both have the same goal: their success. When they don’t have their posse to impress, they often open up. Praise them when they are doing well. Notice the little things, even the smallest effort. Sometime all they want is a little reward, like a candy at the end of class, or to help you tidy the room at the end of the day. Always speak calmly; never escalate the situation nor raise your voice. That is often what their comfort zone is, what they are used to at home, and they know how to manipulate that way. Calmness is foreign to them, and they are off guard and don’t have an “answer” or trigger reaction. Troubled students tend to act out about 2 weeks before a vacation or holiday, because they know they won’t have routine or even safety at home for that period, and they are anxious.” -Sophie K.
“Other than proceures- my class created a twitter wall. I laminated sentence strips. As I cut them out in front of the class, I discussed how the parts I was cutting away were the bad perceptions and poor choices that were being made in our class. We discussed procedures and expectations. We also discussed goals. Each student was given a laminated sentence strip. We hung them in the room and updated our individual status to show what we were working toward (mastering the times tables, learning how to form a good conclusion, how to be quite when others are talking). When students would begin to get off track, I would go to the wall and remind them of someone who was working toward a goal during that time and how their actions were impacting that person’s learning time.” -Haley C.
“Instead of lecturing them in the hallway (hallway is key for that one kid so they don’t try to front), ask them, “what’s stopping your learning right now?” It disarms them and focuses on learning vs their poor behavior and has bought me a lot of time having to “discipline” because they feel heard. Many will tell you right away too!” -Perras S.
“Last school year was a bit rough behaviorally for my class. I made sure each student felt valued and loved by greeting them at the door each morning and shaking their hand. I had also read about spending 3 minutes daily talking to “special friend(s)” about anything they wanted to talk about. I used brain breaks, walks to specials or lunch to take those important minutes. I also changed up incentives quite frequently, about every 2 weeks. I used so many things (individual and whole group incentives) this last year (i.e. smellies, stickers, stamps, special erasers/pencils, table points, extra recess, ClassDojo…you name it, I did it.) But I think most importantly, the key is be set the expectation the first day and be consistent every day the rest of the year.” -Shana W.
“Lower your voice. The quieter you are, the quieter the students will be. I also like to use small candies as rewards for students who are in control while others are not (even if it’s just one). The other students will want one too, then the strive for better behavior.” -Jennifer M.
“I seek out (which isn’t usually too hard-lol!) the “hardest to love” student in the room. They are usually the student that everyone follows in regards to behavior. I then find out what interests that student and work with them on their specific behaviors while working with the class on procedures through modeling, modeling, modeling the procedures for class. I also praise students verbally or nonverbally whichever works best for that child. I find that once the “hard to love” student is on board, the others will follow. I also try to provide an environment that is one of safety and respect. The quote I teach at the beginning says it all…”Fair does not mean equal; fair means everyone gets what they need to succeed.” -Marlene B.
“The first thing I did, was seek help. I was lucky enough to have an amazing assistant principal, that I asked to come by and give me some honest feedback on how I could change things and gain some control back. Not everyone has that opportunity, but I’ve seen that a good portion of the time, pride can be the only thing that is holding a teacher back.” -Kari S.
“Post classroom rules and review each morning (maybe during morning meeting) and discuss them everyday until they become habits. I would also reward every success in some small way while they learn the rules (marble jar etc). My prize would be extra recess or free time on Friday if they fill it or meet the goal.” -Lori H.
“Learn who your students are! What’s going on at home and in their lives that could be a contributing factor to the out of control behavior! Living arrangements, parents (married, divorced, separated, in jail, ill, deceased), economically disadvantaged, and so on! Then from there I can figure out how to fix it!” -Anna M.
“I believe strongly in asking for help especially among colleagues that you trust. Have a couple of people come in and observe at different times and days. Ask for feedback and work together. Support among colleagues can be really helpful.”-Cheryl B.
“Never talk over them. Patiently wait for them to be quiet (I calmly say “I’ll wait.”) Speak when you have their attention. Avoid power struggle. Be fair, firm, and extremely consistent. Relationships are very important, but students should see you as their respected leader and coach, not their friend.” -Katie L.
“The best classroom management tool is planning lessons. On days when I have well planned out lessons using multiple modalities and making sure all time is accounted for, I rarely have problems. If you are facing management issues, chances are good you need a friend or mentor to review your lesson plans” -Terri W.
Do you have any tips for teachers who may have lost control of their classrooms? Comment with your ideas below, and be sure to pin this post for your teacher colleagues on Pinterest!