A great classroom management strategy? Hmmmm.....
I have strong classroom management. But it's hard for me to pinpoint one single reason why. I think it is a lot of little reasons. I think clear management comes from consistency, clear expectations, focusing on the positive and loving your students. Relationship is still a big part of classroom management. I think students respond to that and respect your rules out of a desire to please. Which is a desire we all possess, but if students don't enjoy your class or feel like you don't care about their needs, they will have a harder time following your rules.
It's important to promote your class as a class/school family and to help students realize that their actions affect the whole class. That is sort of an ongoing theme for me. Last year I did something called Check In/Check Out with a Kindergarten boy. And every morning when I came to the classroom to check in, one of the songs that played during morning work was "We Are Family." I loved that. I almost always left Ms. Regier's room with a smile on my face, the music made me want to dance.... and I wanted to have a good day just hearing it. But honestly, I don't think you have to have music to start your day. I think that promoting the idea that while your family at home is MOST important, your peers at school are your school family and should be treated as such, is a valuable and powerful process.
I think the most powerful thing I have ever seen/done is "catching" students in the behaviors I desire. And then announcing loudly, "I love how *Susie* went to her seat and followed directions quickly!" I had a super-fabulous model of this when I was student teaching. When I grow up, I want to be a student-whisperer like Mrs. Hamilton!!
I think that giving students ownership of the rules plays a part too. My first year of teaching, students did not play a part in developing our 5 Classroom Rules. They did help me define them. This year, I am not sure how much it will be up to the students. We are going to develop School Rules as a whole school, it is one of our first projects. We know what we want our rules to be, so we'll guide the students to get there. But realizing that each student has a part in defining what it means to "respect others" is important. Talking about it, listing examples, and using role play are powerful ways to get there. If a student believes it is up to them to show the world our expectations, they step up and do their level best to be a good role model. I think the modeling and role playing are important too because some students' level best is not as developed as others. Maybe the student doesn't know how to respect others. Maybe at home when he/she is told to keep their hands to themselves, the boundary is not a two-way boundary and they are confused by it. I don't know what happens outside of school, so it is important to build that bridge and show them what the expectation is.
I don't ever want to be the teacher that expresses rules like this: "The next person I catch throwing a snowball will sit in the office during recess." This was actually spoken over morning announcements at a school I was in once. It was expressed by the principal to the entire school. I know that we all have days, and goodness knows I have had a few days in my life! But I don't think that going negative like that and expressing negativity school-wide is ever the way to succeed.
I got off track. The truth is, I think a lot of management strategies work, but praise works best. I like it in conjunction with some other form of positive reinforcement. We had sticker charts on desks. And then I could easily say.... "Wow! I love the way Susie is keeping her hands to herself and respecting others! Susie, you may put a sticker on your chart!" I also think Dr. Phil was right when he said, "What is their pay off? Find their pay off.... " and I think he was talking about potty training. It's not bribery if it works folks. That one student who is not motivated by the things that others are motivated by, find whatever it is that they are motivated by. Maybe they are not motivated by anything you offer at school but they are motivated by interaction with their parents. Quick! Catch them doing something praiseworthy (in some cases, you have to be VERY quick to catch a good thing, or just a thing that isn't a bad thing....), and send a note, email or text to Mom or Dad. Because there may a time in the near future when you need to talk to Mom or Dad and it's not so positive, and that might be the key, so pump up the positive if/when you get the chance. Or if they are motivated by extra recess or a chance to show off to friends, whatever it is, find THAT payoff and then promote that to them. And I know I say it a lot.... build relationships! You can't convince a student to respect you if you don't show them respect and kindness!
Don't forget to hop over to Big Time Literacy and read other great classroom management ideas/strategies that work! Thanks for stopping by!