All too often, classroom management is a negative experience for both teacher and students. If 80% of what you say is highlighting things that are wrong, it can create a depressing atmosphere. Yet classroom management doesn’t have to focus on reigning in or punishing students – there are some very effective techniques that use positive messages to discourage disruptive behaviour. We explore four of the best ones below.
Establish a classroom identity
When students feel they’re part of something that’s valued, they’ll care more about how their behaviour and performance impact it. Try establishing a feeling of unity by referring to the class as a collective; for example, “I have high expectations of this class, because you’re such a strong group”. You might also like to praise the class as a whole, such as “overall, I got some great homework back from you guys, well done”. They’ll begin to feel a sense of pride in the group, and won’t want to let it down. However, it’s important not to punish the class for the bad behaviour of a few students, as this may leave the rest of the group feeling wronged and like their efforts have been wasted.
Assume the best from your students
Again, this is about making students feel that they’re valued, and therefore that they have something to lose if they behave negatively. If they do misbehave, reassure them that you think highly of them overall, but explain that their current behaviour is letting them down. For example, if Jasmine was whispering when you’d asked for silence, tell her “Jasmine, since I know you’re a good student I’m going to assume you’re whispering about the work, but it’s still not acceptable, because I asked for complete silence”.
Let your personality shine through
You don’t need to be a robot to gain respect – in fact, respecting a teacher often goes hand-in-hand with liking one. When students recognise your individual personality and form an attachment to you, they’ll place greater value on your opinion of them. Try talking to them about hobbies, TV series or sport for example, as well as giving them some stories about your background, such as what you were like at school and why you became a teacher. The more your students know about you and what you care about, the more they'll trust and respect you.
Give praise in real-time
Praising students for doing a good job while they’re doing it is a great way of motivating the whole classroom; it shows that you have certain expectations, and that those expectations are currently being met. Once again, this shows students that they’re valued, but highlights that they need to keep up the good work or risk losing that value. It’s also a great way of showing the class that you’re very aware of what’s going on, without being negative.