Teachers’ actions impact their students’ behavior. That’s why many teachers often look for practical strategies they can implement in their classrooms to help students be productive and stay connected.
Here are five effective methods teachers use to manage their classrooms:
1. Teach every routine just like content, no matter how old the students are.
Whether it’s how to move from their table spot to the meeting area on the rug or how to clean up stations in the science lab, investing time in building students’ automaticity with routines saves time in the long run. To teach a routine, students need to know what the objective is—and the rationale for why learning a particular routine will help them. Modeling that shows them what it looks like. Then practice and feedback will help make progress toward the objective.
2. Use visual information to empower students.
When giving students information, tasks, or practice activities, if the teacher explains directions only verbally, students have to spend energy remembering what to do while they’re trying to focus on the content. If they forget or didn’t hear a detail from the teacher’s information, they are dependent on the teacher repeating directions. If you can provide instructions visually, this will help keep students independent and help them be more productive.
3. Never do something for a student that they can do for themselves.
When teachers feel short on time, it’s easy to unintentionally create unnecessary dependence on the adults. Teachers may do small things for students like getting them a new pencil, turning the page in their book, or delivering a new paper to their seat. If the teacher has used visual information with students (tip #2), the teacher can avoid moments of over-helping by directing students’ attention to the board where it shows them what to do. Pushing a student to take care of small tasks increases their independence and empowerment in the long term.
4. Ensure every lesson has a variety of ways for students to participate.
Too much of any one teaching mode leads to boredom and disengagement. The most common mode that teachers get stuck in is asking students to raise their hands to take turns speaking. Some other helpful ones include choral response, turn and talk, internal processing, writing, group conversation, and kinesthetic responses. Variety makes the lesson feel like there’s something for everyone and increases students’ attention spans.
5. Build relationships more than manage behavior.
When students feel connected to their teachers and classmates, they are primed to be engaged at a deeper level, take more academic risks, and be even more creative in their thinking. It’s easy for teachers to get stuck in a cycle where their interactions are overly focused on behavior management. They can use reminders like “Stay in your seat,” but these often leave students feeling micromanaged. Even interactions that positively reinforce behavior like “I appreciate you raising your hand” can send the message that teachers only care about students being compliant and acting a certain way. Instead, students need moments where teachers show genuine interest in who they are and what they care about—for example: “I appreciate how curious you are about this topic” or “What’s your favorite place to go when you’re not at school?” These interactions will help really develop a connection.
Teaching Partner Nathan Elliott contributed his expertise to this blog post. The Classroom Management Certificate in Bethel’s Graduate School will help teachers build their awareness of the ways their actions impact students’ behavior.