Classroom Management Reconsidered

Effective classroom management creates a welcoming learning environment that supports all learners, even when they experience challenges
264 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

When pre-service teachers learn about the key elements of teaching, whether in traditional or untraditional teacher preparation programs, one of the main areas of focus is classroom management. While it's true that it's important for a classroom to be well-managed, sometimes the rules that schools and teachers establish focus more on compliance than community building and are not considerate of students' ways of being. Additionally, when students violate school/class rules, the response can sometimes be to exclude the students from the learning community instead of exploring the reasons behind the misbehavior and finding ways to restore relationships damaged by students' choices. This way of responding to students breaks down the connections in a learning community and can contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. In addition to helping teachers employ classroom management strategies that help create and sustain effective and inclusive learning communities, this strategy also includes ways to reroute the school-to-prison pipeline.

Implementation Steps

  1. Review your classroom and school rules and policies to evaluate the intended outcomes of these rules. Are there rules that potentially punish students for different ways of being, meeting basic needs, and/or rules that are arbitrary/antiquated (i.e., using "inside" voices, going to the bathroom without permission, bringing food into the classroom, being out of uniform, "talking back," and/or chewing gum or eating candy in class)? The Reframing Classroom Management resource published by Teaching Tolerance can help.

  2. Consider what the consequences for breaking these classroom/school rules tend to be (loss of recess, moving the students' clip on a behavior chart, removal from class to see a Dean of Discipline/administrator, demerits, loss of class dollars/points, name written on the board or other public shaming, calls home, silent lunch, detentions, suspensions, exclusion from field trips, etc.), and if those consequences help you to create and maintain an inclusive learning community. Do these consequences help you to achieve your intended outcome of creating an inclusive, considerate, restorative learning community?

  3. Reconsider classroom rules that don't help you to achieve your intended outcomes, and enact alternative ways to respond when students break class/school rules. The Restoring Justice resource linked below can provide the support you need.

  4. Repeat this process as needed throughout the school year.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you find yourself primarily using rewards (praise, prizes, merits, stickers, etc.) and consequences (punishments, silent time, demerits) to attempt to alter student behavior? Do all students receive both rewards and consequences? Does this practice help to create a healthy community?

  • For elementary teachers, how does having your students move through the halls in silent lines prepare them for middle and high school, and for life (i.e. streets, supermarkets, malls)? Are there other ways for students to move through the halls (i.e. "Out of consideration for others in the halls, and the classrooms we'll pass, please stay to the right and walk quietly.")? What would happen if you equipped students to focus on moving through common spaces purposefully instead of silently and in lines?

  • If you notice that the rules in your classroom or school focus more on compliance than community building, do you have colleagues who might be interested in helping you to reconsider some of those rules?

  • Who are other stakeholders to partner with as you work toward a considerate and restorative approach to class/school rules and policies?

  • Does your school have a zero-tolerance policy? What is the rationale behind this policy? Are there restorative ways to work with students who break school rules?

Extending the Learning: Restorative Justice Practices

Explore the resources below to learn more about restorative justice practices such as restorative circles and talking circles, and also about the value of community in supporting a positive school climate. 

Additionally, see the Collaborative Conversations strategy for an alternative approach that can work well with students with behavioral challenges.

Extending the Learning: School to Prison Pipeline

Explore the resources below to learn more about rerouting the School to Prison Pipeline, reflecting on school uniform policies, and responding to trauma.

Extending the Learning: Responsive Discipline

Explore the resources below to learn more about the Code of Conduct: A Guide to Responsive Discipline published by Teaching Tolerance.

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Education Specialist

Employing classroom management strategies that help create and sustain effective and inclusive learning communities is a foundational tool teachers can use to support all students with disabilities.  In particular, it is a crucial tool in supporting students with emotional and behavioral impairments as they are often disproportionately negatively affected by punitive classroom management tools.  In order to create an inclusive classroom management structure, consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Teacher knowledge and acknowledgment of student disabilities is a key way to create an inclusive classroom for them. Before finalizing classroom management tools, especially of a punitive nature, teachers should consult with special education department administrators or specialized teachers for information on not only specific disability types and needs present in a classroom, but how students want those needs acknowledged. See the "Dear Teachers: Heartfelt Advice from Students" and "19 Big and Small Classroom Management Strategies" resources in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Public acknowledgment of disabilities that may be present in a classroom is important prerequisite information that needs to be shared by teachers with their students.  All students in a classroom should be empowered to learn how impairments may impact their peers and the overall classroom culture. See the "I started talking about disability in my classroom. It changed both me and my students." and the "What Famous People with Learning Disabilities Want to Tell You" resources in the resource section below for more information.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

This strategy provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to reflect on the goals of the rules and policies in their classrooms and how their management practices can better reflect the learning community they build for all learners. 

English learners need to listen to and respond to rules and policies of the classroom. Learners may also be required to read and write as they engage in restorative justice practices. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Ensure English learners understand school rules and policies. Check for English learner understanding of school rules and policies by using a response protocol. See the Response Protocol in the resource section below for more information. Create classroom anchor charts with visual supports that remind learners of the rules. Partner with learners’ language specialist to determine appropriate formats for reinforcement of rule understanding throughout the school year.
  2. Ensure differentiated learning tools are provided. English learners require scaffolded learning materials and classroom supports in order to learn English and content at the same time. Learners who are not supported academically may feel frustrated and act out. Ensure that learners are working with materials they can understand in order to avoid academic frustration based misbehavior.  See the "12 Ways to Support English Learners in the Mainstream Classroom" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Consider cultural implications of behavior. Work to understand cultural or personal factors that could have affected a learner’s ability to follow the rules. Investigate to determine if missed or misunderstood language or body language may have been a factor in a learner violating a rule. Consider culture and linguistic load when determining consequences. Partner with learners’ language specialist for support. See the following resources in the resource section below for more information:  "How culture may impact behavior in the classroom,"Culturally Responsive Classroom Management," "Culturally Responsive Classroom Management for Native Learners," and "Addressing Student Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression."

Additional Reading

See the articles below for related reading about rethinking classroom management.