When you’re in charge of a classroom, it’s important to update, revamp, and modify your classroom management techniques. Actively taking charge will allow you to foster a more 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 empower you to act with 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, 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. This can be a more effective method for garnering motivation and positive outcomes for students.

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

2. Utilize nonverbal communication 

When it comes to non-verbal communication, you may not even 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 you’re giving off a completely blank stare or fidgeting every time you 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 our 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 lack motivation. 

4. Assign open-ended projects

While you may assign projects that seemingly require rigid guidelines and checkpoints, 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 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 go outside of the lines. You can also provide them with several options, which can be helpful for students who 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 implant badges and a point system to amp up 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

Think about a time when you didn’t do as well as you had hoped on an assignment. Your teacher may have written a big, red “F” on your hard work, or maybe, your teacher provided you with an “unsatisfactory”.  

When students face the big former, they may be too upset to even review their mistakes. On the flipside, if you only give out either “unsatisfactory” or “satisfactory”, you’re likely to get a better response. We have this perception about letter grades—one it that brings out more competition in us, leading us to feel more strongly about ourselves and abilities. Essentially, this type of grading seems to be more serious, and thus more intimidating.  

For informal assignments, it really does more harm than good to provide letter grades and in turn, places more stress on students. 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 students understand that the teacher only gives out two marks (which are informal), they’ll be less hard on themselves and more motivated to move forward Basically, instead of having your students see “failure”, opt to provide informal marks that are more like notes instead of serious grades. 

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

In fact, one study found that using red pen 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. 

To help promote more cohesive group projects, utilize group 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 may include:

  • 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 tools at your disposal. If you’re a teacher, you’re shaping the next generation, and this can only truly be successful when they 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.

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