When you’re in charge of a classroom, it’s important to update, revamp, and modify your classroom management techniques. Actively taking charge and crafting the learning environment to cater to your students’ needs will allow you to foster a positive and healthy environment. 

Having some expert classroom management techniques up your sleeve won’t eliminate the possibility of experiencing chaos or strife in your class. But, it will enable you to have more confidence when you do run into issues. 

After all, no classroom is perfect—it can’t be a smooth ride all the time. With all the different learning styles, personalities, and friend groups, you’ve definitely got to expect that your classroom will face some ups and downs. 

1. Offer positive reinforcement

Offering positive reinforcement is crucial for helping students maintain motivation, curiosity, and work ethic. If they’re working hard and seeing results themselves, yet not hearing any praise from their teacher, they may feel less inclined to put forth effort. 

While there may be some controversy about whether positive reinforcement is effective, research points to yes. 

Research on positive psychology has found that:

  • Teachers who spend more time encouraging responsible behavior than acknowledging irresponsible behavior are more successful.
  • Positive reinforcement around student behavior is linked to positive outcomes for students.
  • Praise can boost motivation and allow students to develop feelings of competence.

In addition, it’s important to provide positive reinforcement for effort versus outcome. Rather than applauding a student’s results, commending the work they did to get there can be a more effective method for garnering motivation and positive outcomes.

The reason for this?  Praising effort often results in students being more motivated to learn and grow, while praising their outcomes can result in students becoming stagnant. 

2. Utilize nonverbal communication 

When it comes to non-verbal communication, you may not have to think too hard about it. That is, for many people, it’s something that comes naturally. But for others, it can be difficult to remember that they’re giving off a completely blank stare or fidgeting every time they speak. 

It’s important to create cohesive lines of communication with students. This way, you and they can feel more confident voicing concerns and having discussions about progress, challenges, and performance. 

But to create that top-notch communication, you need to really feel comfortable with one another. Non-verbal communication is key here. This tool will help you to genuinely connect and feel as though you are on the same page. 

A study on the impact of teachers’ non-verbal communication notes that non-verbal communication is often more effective than verbal communication, and can convey meaning better than words. 

The researchers mentioned that often, a major obstacle between teachers and students is vagueness in the teacher’s speech. The study also found that a teacher’s “appropriate and timely verbal and non-verbal behaviors” were significantly linked to “students’ achievement and good behavior.”

3. Provide rewards

Providing rewards goes hand-in-hand with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement can often be verbal—but providing tangible rewards is also important for maintaining engagement and motivation.

For instance, when students are on their A-game for a week, recognize and reward their work by throwing a “party” or having a special lunch. 

It is, after all, the little things. When students understand that you see and value their work, they’ll be more incentivized to continue working hard. If they think you don’t see it, they may build up resentment, feel disregarded, and/or lack motivation. 

4. Assign open-ended projects

While projects that have rigid guidelines & checkpoints are beneficial in that they have unambiguous expectations, this may not be your students’ favorite work. 

This isn’t to say that some students don’t thrive under specific guidelines—they do!  But all students are different and have unique needs when it comes to producing their best work. It’s essential to recognize the power of creativity for students. Allowing them to think outside of the box, honor their own learning style, and think freely is an integral part of growth and development. 

Spice it up and try to sometimes gear projects to those students who work best when they have some amount of freedom to color outside of the lines. You can also provide them with several options for assignment type, which can be helpful for students who do thrive on instruction. For instance, if you assign a presentation, you can give students ideas of how to present, whether it’s via video, speech, poster, slideshow, etc. 

5. Gamify your lessons 

We all know that students may, from time-to-time, zone out during long lessons that involve a lot of sitting and listening. And while this type of lesson is often the most efficient way for teachers to present information, it may not be the method that yields the most engagement and retention.

The simple fact? Students enjoy games. And students love competition. Combine the two, and you’re golden. Often, students will be more excited and motivated when there is some type of activity involved. Introducing gamification: turning lessons into games!

A 2011 study from a South Korean university looked at how the type of activity in the classroom impacted student engagement. The study concluded that gamification is linked to both more motivation and engagement. 

A simple way to introduce gamification into the classroom is by referring to topics and units as “stages”. Students may be more inclined to engage in a topic when they’re motivated to compete, going from stage to stage. And you can even implement badge rewards and a point system to amp up student excitement. 

You can frame certain tasks and concepts as “challenges”, and use “stages” that refer to the requirement for reaching the next part of the material. 

Other simple ideas for gamifying your lessons include:

  • Scavenger hunts based on historical events/periods
  • Class lesson-themed bingo 
  • Kahoot quizzes or jeopardy for test prep

6. Set expectations

Setting clear expectations is an integral classroom management tool—and one that will help you develop a more harmonious environment.

Students often thrive when they have some sort of stability. And stability goes hand-in-hand with setting classroom expectations. You can do this in a very clear way by writing out expectations, going over them on the first day of class, and posting them somewhere visible in the classroom to serve as a reminder for your students.

7. For informal assignments, provide two (informal) scores

When students receive a big, fat, red ‘F’ on their assignment, they may be too upset to even review their mistakes. On the flip-side, if you only give out either “unsatisfactory” or “satisfactory”, you’re likely to get a better response from students. Students often have intense feelings around letter grades—and this type of scoring seems to elicit competition. This type of grading seems to be more serious to students and thus more intimidating.  

The result is that students feel more strongly about themselves and abilities in regard to their grade; basically, students tend to take letter grading more personally than alternatives.

For informal assignments, considering the stress that providing letter grading can place on students, it probably does more harm than good. Informal assignments may include short writing assignments, chapter reviews, and study guide prep. 

When you think you’ve gotten the lowest of the low, it’s easier to feel as if the assignment is this huge deal—even though it was always an informal assignment. 

But when they understand that the teacher only gives out two marks (which are informal), students will be less hard on themselves and more motivated to move forward. Basically, instead of having your students see “failure”, opt to provide marks that are more like notes. 

Note: a handy tip that may seem odd is to avoid using red to mark students’ work. Oftentimes, red marks are more intimidating than other colors, which can lead students to feel unnecessary anxiety or stress. 

In fact, one study found that using red pens to mark students’ work induced more negative feelings than when teachers used other color pens. 

8. Utilize group contracts

With group projects, it’s common for a student to feel as though they’re carrying most of the weight. At the same time, other students may have more trouble voicing their opinions and/or ideas. And this isn’t necessarily their fault—where a student falls on the introversion-extroversion scale can majorly impact their ability to contribute to group projects. 

To help promote more cohesive group projects, utilize contracts. And no, this isn’t a formal “contract” like one you’d draw up when making a large purchase.  A group contract can discuss the expectations students have for one another, certain responsibilities each student holds, and consequences for violating the contract.

Some ideas for what to include in a group contract:

  • Specific tasks, roles, & responsibilities
  • Due dates for each task
  • Number of group meetings

Running a classroom can be challenging and stressful, but luckily, you have plenty of tools at your disposal. If you’re a teacher, you’re shaping the next generation, and this can only truly be successful when students are in an environment that promotes positive growth and development.

So it’s in your best interest to take as many steps as possible to cultivate a positive and harmonious environment—remember: classroom management techniques are your friend.

Author: Lydia Schapiro