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3 Simple Classroom Management Tricks That Work

Updated: Jun 5

I know what you’re thinking – a blog about classroom management? Right now? I’ve been out of the classroom now for over a month, so I’ve been spending time thinking about the culture of my classroom and the relationships I have with my students. I do the same thing every summer. At the end of every school year, I ask students to provide anonymous written feedback on my course so I can think about how to improve it in the fall. I take the feedback home with me, take notes on their observations, and then change how I do things in September.

Any teacher knows the challenge of creating a healthy rhythm in class. There are so many styles to teaching – the teacher that thrives on silence, order, focus, deliberation, and attention and the teacher that thrives on noise, conversation, movement, and energy. I fall somewhere in between these two styles. I try to monitor the pulse of my classes and ask myself, when have I expected too much seat work that students might feel antsy, or when have I assigned so much work in groups that we’ve lost focus. When are we moving too fast or too slow.

Here's my three classroom management tricks:

1. Start Strong

There’s a few simple things I’ve learned over the years from experience or from reading. Starting strong is so crucial. Starting the year strong and starting each and every class strong. At the beginning of the year, I start with a philosophical conversation about the value of literature. I pull quotes from every great article, novel, or poem I’ve encountered about education, creativity, perspective, and art.

Every day I greet students at the door and always start class by introducing the topic in the context of the novel or story, and the context of the world we live in. If it’s a good topic, it should be relevant to the human condition, and the modern social and political world. The class starts with questions, not answers. After introducing the topic and asking some questions, I will sometimes interpret the first quote or passage to get things going.

2. Change It Up

Most often, I have an activity that suits the objective, but I will sometimes provide students with some options and ask them how they’d like to complete or divide up the work. I will also give them the option of working independently or in a group. If they work in groups, I always expect them to report their findings to the class after the conversation. That might be a verbal explanation, or it might be a PowerPoint, poster, sheet of paper, index card, or online assignment. This provides the opportunity to hear all voices in the class.

I generally avoid sitting down unless I’m giving an essay or leading a discussion where students do most of the talking. Walking around and interacting with students allows me to know if I should change the activity or how much time they should take to complete the work. I’ve never worried about how or where students sit, unless the activity requires a certain arrangement, like creating a large poster using four desks. If, on the rare occasion, I lecture for a long period of time, I try to make it as entertaining as possible, with stories and jokes. I’ve always been an enthusiastic note taker, so I always expect my students to take notes, and use those notes to write the essay.

3. Avoid Rules and Regulations

I spend very little time explaining rules, directions, due dates, expectations, grades, rubrics, and checklists. I have one simple homework assignment for the entire year: read and take notes on the books. Everything else can be done in class.

I started teaching to talk about literature and ask questions. Students get great ideas from reading and hearing ideas, so I try to avoid everything else. I manage my class by not managing at all. If our students come to class knowing that something exciting will happen, they’ll tune in.

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