Starting with the how… how does classroom management affect learning?
Do you want to know my dirty little secret? Okay, full confession it’s not dirty, and not a secret. So my not so dirty, not so secret secret is that … I LOVE classroom management!!! I believe it is the key to engaging curiosity and motivation. But … what IS classroom management and why is it important?
Now hold on before you press the snooze button hear me out. Classroom management is not a set of rules and strictures for “keepin’ those kids in line”. If you have images of me walking around the classroom tapping my hand with a ruler ready to pounce, then we are definitely of different mindsets when it comes to classroom management. Classroom management is how to promote curiosity in the classroom. Although management does require organization and expectations these things are not the essence of classroom management. Student curiosity and motivation is the goal of effective classroom management.
So what IS it?
Classroom management is the heart and soul of what you are passionate about. So I ask … what are YOU passionate about? How are you going to get the kids there?
Do want them to talk to each other? How are you going to focus that? How will you set that up?
Do you want the students to accept each other? How are you going to facilitate that?
Do you want to kindle the fire that can be the link between curiosity and education? Then how are you going to promote curiosity in the classroom?
Do you want your students to buy into (notice I didn’t say comply with) classroom expectations (notice I didn’t say rules)? How are you going to make that happen?
What’s your vision for your classroom, and how are you going to get them there?
The first time I hit all the notes I wanted to hit as a teacher, and the day I had worked towards every day before we got there, was a day of creative, controlled chaos.
As a class we were writing, editing and illustrating a book, painting a large mural of a forest, and accurately colouring animals for the forest.
We were also cutting out paper paw prints for a pathway through the class for when parents visited, and cutting out paper leaves for visitors to write a pledge our Promise Tree.
All of these things were going on simultaneously, the classroom was loud and busy, and everyone was on task. I answered a lot of questions, but there was not one, single, solitary discipline issue.
To get a group of students to work this way you have to teach them how to get there.
They need to learn to want to follow instructions, work with others, self-regulate, complete the task in front of them, wait for their turn at the preferred task, trust that this will all come together, accept that the outcome is in their hands, not yours, respect you, themselves, each other, be inspired and engaged with what you are teaching them, and so much more.
Wheww!! That’s a lot.
But you, yes you, can get them there.
This sounds overwhelming! Now what?
Learning how to get my students to this place took me years of patience, perseverance, learning, training, self-forgiveness, mistakes, and passion.
Wait … don’t quit. Getting you there faster than I got there is the purpose of this blog.
If you are just getting started, and you want that classroom, then you have found your village.
Come join me if you are wondering, “How does classroom management affect learning?”. I will share practical evidenced based tools and resources designed to address your classroom management questions and answers. These tools are evidenced based, so they will work in your classroom too.
If you have been teaching for a while you know that as teachers we always need refreshment, new ideas, rest, and encouragement. Welcome, and I hope you find a home in this village as well.
So, I ask you … what kindles your passion for the classroom?
In my classroom, there were certain pillars for success that I used. These pillars would create the environment and behaviours that created those wonderful days when the class would run itself.
How does classroom management affect learning?
Have you ever felt so stressed out teaching that you can’t focus and remember anything you had planned? This, of course, stresses you out more, and then things just get worse from there?
However, when you are feeling safe, confident organized and respected things go much better.
Students who are stressed out in a chaotic environment have a similar reaction. They too are less likely to learn to their potential. Some will still learn, not not to their potential.
Without classroom management your students’ ability to focus, experiment, problem solve, take risks, and more are undermined.
You are developing a classroom learning community, and for learning to happen your students will need the “community” to feel safe.
Some of the best learning comes from a student realizing they made a mistake, and then problem solving the solution. This process is more likely to happen if a student feels safe and included.
If they know that they are accepted as they are.
What does your classroom management look like?
Classroom Expectations Lay the Framework for Classroom Management.
Why are classroom expectations important? Because they are an investment in the students’ need to be in a safe place.
They need to know what is expected of them, and then they can relax into those expectations.
They need to know what they can expect from their teacher and classmates so they know are safe from physical and emotional harm.
Of course, children will test these parameters. You will need to reinforce the parameters, and how you do that is also essential to students’ feelings of safety.
Knowing yourself first
How we respond (not react) to poor choices is also essential to successfully managing classroom expectations. Do you favour punishment or discipline?
Punishment, by its definition means to inflict a penalty. Discipline, by its definition, means to disciple or teach. Learning the difference and deciding what our beliefs are about both the children and ourselves will guide our choices.
I know that sometimes, with some students the inclination is to lash out in hurt, anger, pain or frustration. The more likely path to long term success and fulfillment for both you and the student is to learn how to respond with patience, understanding and grace. That is not to say there are no consequences.
It does mean that the students are aware of the consequence prior to making a poor choice, and that we enforce the consequence with love.
Creating habits in the areas of knowing who you are and what you believe, practising consistency and communicating appropriate consequences will eventually carry you through those tough days.
Classroom Community and Classroom Management
Once your students feel safe, they will want to build or deepen relationships with you and their peers. Feeling a part of a community not only brings us joy, but it also contributes to those feelings of safety.
The beauty of classroom community building is that as it is built students grow in the healthy self-esteem that blossoms from it. Students become able to contribute back to the inclusion of others within the classroom communities and they are more likely to go along with the norm of classroom expectations.
The challenges with building strong classroom communities are many though.
How do we find the time when we already feel the day, week, month and year already are too short for what we are required to teach?
Once we have harnessed the day to have the time, what do we do with all of those chatty, friendly, social kids who just want to hang out with each other all day?
Also, what do we do with those kiddos who are still peripheral?
Or those who are still unkind?
We will keep talking about that in another post.
Differentiation in Classroom Strategy for Classroom Management
Have you ever been asked to do something you just aren’t able to do?
I mean, not something that you can’t do unless you get step-by-step guidance, but something you really can’t do like brain surgery.
Let’s make it more realistic, like a simple cartilage removal from a knee.
If we aren’t doing differentiation in the classroom we are asking some students to do something they quite literally can’t do. Now what would your behaviour be like if day in day out you were asked to do knee surgery, and people weren’t listening when you informed them that you couldn’t?
How about the opposite, if you could do brain surgery, and you were only ever asked to put bandaids on people to cover up their cuts? Then how would you behave?
I would be miserable to be around in either scenario, and I would likely become depressed.
Differentiation in a classroom is one way in which students know that we truly see them.
Often overlooked because of the stress, lack of training, lack of time to prep and lack of support, differentiation in classrooms can deescalate student behaviour quickly.
There are so many strategies for differentiation in teaching, and once we start to see the patterns of how to differentiate it becomes much easier.
Classroom Routines an Essential Part of Classroom Management
My students thoroughly knew my classroom routines and procedures. Why are routines important in the classroom?
Substitute teachers loved working in my class. As much as I would love to take that as a compliment to me, it really and truly was about the students.
Granted, I was always favoured with exceptional students when it came time to assigning classes (just kidding), but I do believe that having the students know my classroom routines was pivotal. The students were relaxed and confident about what was to be done next and how to do it.
Of course, there were also ebbs and flows within that routine, but because there were so many routines in the day those ebbs and flows were engaging not frustrating. They became the unique moments that created the change that we need after routine, rather than the frustration of never standing on solid footing.
Frameworks that allow for engaging repetition that increases the challenge or rotates activities (I’ll explain that all in later blogs) get your classroom humming on autopilot as they quickly, quietly and confidently know what to do next. This places them somewhat in charge of their day and builds confidence, community, engagement and self-esteem as well.
Love those by-products!
Every classroom routine will have tools that accompany it. Tools can be visual planners, binders, desks, pencils, game boards, storage bins etc. In essence, everything that goes into operating the classroom is a part of the classroom organization and routine that you want to have humming along throughout your day.
However, just like having your screwdriver in your garage is unhelpful if you keep forgetting which pile it is at the bottom of, lacking consistent classroom organization of tools in your classroom is going to undermine your routines.
When it is time to transition, my students know they need whiteboard markers, eraser, game board, and a plastic sheet protector, they also need to know which one of our routines will be used to access those (handed out or come and get it).
They also need to know where to put everything when they are done with it. Routines and organization go hand in hand.
The wonderful side effect of routines and classroom organization is that once children have their partners and materials they quickly are on task because they did not get completely dysregulated due to chaos and confusion in the process of getting ready for the task. We will talk more about classroom organization ideas in later posts.
Social Emotional Learning
What does social-emotional learning mean? Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which all people learn skills to support healthy development and relationships. In a world which puts so much emphasis on IQ or academic success, it is becoming more and more understood that EQ or Emotional Intelligence is a more important indicator of success.
In my childhood, I still remember hanging out all day with other children from the neighbourhood. There are photos of kids on front lawns, wandering by, visiting, and quite literally, just hanging. One day the boy down the street decided we should have a fair. I don’t know how old he was, but he couldn’t have been much older than 9 or 10. So we all pooled our resources, including money, and wandered down to the corner store, about a mile or more away.
Then we played games and gave the candies away as prizes. There was no adult supervision or leadership involved, although I suspect there was some adult input with the finances.
Generally speaking, we were part of a team and we treated each other kindly.
What is social emotional learning in schools?
In today’s world, this is not the norm for children. Unfortunately, too many children are are supervised at all times, and supervision often involves an adult on a cell phone.
The classroom and playground are two essential opportunities for giving students an opportunity to try different behaviours with their peers. In that scenario they are judged according to a jury of their peers. From that, they learn their SEL skills. Unfortunately, this is the blind leading the blind. They need a balance of focused supervision and opportunity for independent practice.
So then, what is social emotional learning in the classroom? Hopefully, there will be specific lessons on feelings, how they arise and how they are managed in the classroom.
However, we need to be doing more than that, but who has the time?
Does Social Emotional Instruction Need to be a Priority?
At school, I remember once seeing an upset during a soccer game. I was at quite a distance, and there was another adult closer so I let it go for the moment. Knowing my colleagues I knew that that moment with that adult was instructional.
As there were some boys from my class involved, I did check in at the end of recess. I learned that a very popular boy from another class had not been sharing well. When I asked if they wanted me to address it with his teacher. The response was encouraging, “No, that’s okay we can handle it, and he will stop.” They had been given some tips from the adult on the scene, and they were ready to handle it appropriately.
The next day they were all playing happily, and appropriately, together again.
Teaching kids Social Emotional learning in the classroom is a priority. Providing opportunities and contexts to practice these social-emotional learning skills is also essential. Children need repetition and practice, and we need to provide those opportunities.
How does Student Engagement and Motivation Impact Classroom Management?
Do you remember the last time you had to sit all day in professional development? It can be tough sitting and focusing that whole time. Even if I am excited by the topic, and if it is not something I have chosen to learn about, it is brutal. I am way less likely to be engaged, and there better be some good treats!
I have a strong memory of required classes at university, and I also have a strong memory of all the strategies I learned to avoid doing as much work as possible for those courses in which I had absolutely no interest.
In one course in the B.Ed. the program we were required to read a book that left me with that “ugh” feeling. We were to read it and then write a 250-word response to a specific question about that book. Well, duh. I located the portion of the book that answered the question, answered the question, and went to the beach.
Maybe I missed out on learning something profound, but somehow I managed to be a successful classroom teacher without reading it.
Oh no, then what do we do?
I consider myself a lifelong learner and there are books and online resources that I can become so consumed by that it is hard to tear myself away from them. The difference between my avoidance strategy with the school assignment and my intensely focused response is engagement.
I am engaged by one and not the other. The challenge for the teacher is how to create engagement where students have no natural inclination towards, or even an aversion to, the content.
There are strategies for student engagement that are joyful for both the student and the teacher. Engagement is absolutely key for creating a strong well tuned classroom.
One of the best student engagement quotes comes from Plutarch, and it speaks to engagement. “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” I LOVE it!!
Kids want to play, this is how they learn best. This is how we meet them halfway. They want to touch, explore, talk, and, in fact, learn. Creating opportunities to work together is one of the very effective ways of taking something a little less exciting, and turning it into a favourite activity.
So what are classroom management strategies?
These strategies are the scaffold that you create for the students to feel safe, secure, confident, able, seen, and loved which allows them the room to breathe and learn, and provides the setting to fulfill your dreams and passions as a teacher.
Once you have established your own pillars, you will have inspired curiosity and motivation. In short, I call it … Engaging Curiosity.
Check out my video below!