Even the most engaging and inspiring teacher can fail to engage students without an effective classroom management plan. This kind of plan is critical no matter what the subject area or grade level.
Whether you are a creative and boisterous art teacher, a soft-spoken yet firm literature teacher, or an energetic and laser-focused math instructor, you need a successful classroom management plan to help your students master the content of your lesson and achieve their learning goals.
For most teachers, getting caught up in the “doing” of teaching—grading papers, conducting interventions, or even managing a conflict at recess—is to be expected, but you should not sacrifice planning to manage the “doing.”
Planning and prepping for classroom management is a must whether you are in your first year of teaching or your 20th. And as we all know, even the best plans need to be modified from time to time.
Your classroom management plan from your first year of teaching may not be suitable for your classroom a decade later, as trends in education and technology evolve and change. (Think about an educator who may have started her career decades ago before student cell phones were a concern!)
What Is a Classroom Management Plan?
A classroom management plan is similar to any plan you might use to manage a group of students toward completing a task.
Suppose, for example, you were the manager in charge of a catering crew. You would consider environmental factors (Is the kitchen large enough for us to prep food for 200 guests?), the tools and resources you need for the job (Do we have blowtorches for the crème brulee?), and the ground rules for your team (Arriving two hours before the event or refraining from checking cell phones in front of guests, for example).
Just like any other type of manager, a classroom manager must consider these factors when planning: the learning environment, the tools and resources, and the ground rules.
Your Classroom Environment
Your ability to keep students engaged and focused is in many ways linked to the physical learning environment, so your classroom management plan must take into account everything from the setup of your space to the lighting and accessories.
While traditional rows of desks work well for many classes, your style of teaching (and the students’ learning styles) might demand a semi-circle arrangement of desks where you lecture in the middle, or you might have younger students around small work tables for group projects.
Ensuring everything has its place in your classroom is another important part of the plan. Try eliminating clutter, which can create a visual distraction, and use soothing color palettes in your wall coverings. Fluorescent lighting can drain students and teachers, so sometimes the warm glow of a reading lamp creates an inviting space in a corner nook “library” for your classroom.
By managing your space well, you will give yourself a leg up on managing your students well.
Classroom Tools and Resources
Take stock of what you need every day to do your job, and make sure you have it available. This could mean essential items like classroom supplies (copy paper for handouts or glue for art projects), and it could also mean resources you personalize for your students.
For example, you might use reward certificates to motivate the students, which they can earn by turning in assignments on time (or early!), participating in group discussions, or helping other classmates. For example, ten certificates might result in a free homework pass or a choice in their next assigned seat.
Other tools and resources might be a daily agenda walkthrough, where you begin each day by clearly outlining the goals, and an end-of-day wrap-up, where you and the students assess performance against goals.
Also, bear in mind your greatest resource when it comes to developing your classroom management plans: other teachers! Your colleagues can offer advice on smart classroom management techniques that have worked for them in the past. They can share insight on ways to tweak your plan to increase student learning and engagement.
The Ground Rules
No classroom management plan can function effectively without ground rules, and you must communicate these clearly (and often!) to your students.
The first day of a school year or a new semester is when many teachers review their ground rules, but it is also important (especially with younger students) to reiterate the class rules and expectations often.
Because students have different learning styles, be sure to share them in several ways—on a handout, in a verbal explanation, and perhaps keep them posted on the wall as students walk into the room.
Class rules may be simple for younger students (“Stay in your seat” and “Raise your hand if you have a question”) and become more nuanced and complicated once you reach high school.
For example, you might set as a ground rule with your tenth graders that they must spend five minutes each Monday morning talking to a classmate they do not know or check out one book from the library in a genre they have never read and report back to you on it by the end of the semester.
Your behavior management plan will still include the basics (such as arriving on time and prepared each day) but may also include something such as “No Tik Tok dance challenges filmed during class!”
Your ground rules help students understand your overall expectations and give them a framework for appropriate behavior in your classroom. You should always meet them with consequences so individual students take the rules seriously.
However, there is no reason why your ground rules cannot also give students a glimpse of your personality and interests, and they can also reward empathy and compassion for others (“No idea is a bad idea in this classroom, and we do not make fun of others’ ideas.”)
Beyond these basic categories, you will also need to tailor various other elements to your specific plan and daily routines. But by considering these broad elements of the plan first, you will have the right building blocks to create a management plan for your classroom community that yields student success.