How To Get Control Of Any Classroom

Slow Down To Gain ControlWhen confronted with a difficult class—whether a new class in the beginning of a school year, a class you’ve had for a while and lost control of, or one you see once a day in your subject area—the best thing you can do is slow things down to a glacial pace.

Too many teachers have the opposite reaction to unruly students.

They get stressed and excitable, and they speed things up. They talk louder, get frustrated, demand, yell, and show their anger.

When you head down a negative road like this, the only way you can gain control of your class is through intimidation; being mean enough and threatening enough to cause students to cower and relinquish control back to you.

If you choose this course, however, every day will be a battle.

The Slow Down Strategy

The moment you’re confronted with an out-of-control class, what works best is to slow everything way down. Follow the guidelines below, and you’ll gain control and respect from any classroom.

  • Start from the beginning. As soon as you see your students, first thing in the morning or when they arrive at your door, stop them and don’t let them proceed any farther until they’re quiet and attentive. If it takes 10 minutes, so be it.
  • Move deliberately. Slowing down has a calming effect on students. You will also discover that, surprisingly, both you and your students will get more accomplished.
  • Speak softly and slowly. Make your students have to strain slightly in order to hear you. You can even tell them that you’re going to whisper your instructions to see how well they can listen.
  • Decide that, no matter what, you will not talk over your students or move on with instruction until they are quiet and attentive.
  • Use short, direct sentences, and offer simple instructions that incrementally get students to do what you want. (“Place your math book in the top corner of your desk and stand up.”) Increase complexity gradually.
  • Pause often and a beat longer than feels comfortable. This technique has an almost supernatural way of drawing attention to you and what you have to say.
  • At any point during the day, if your students aren’t giving you exactly what you want, stop them immediately.
  • Don’t transition to a new activity until every student understands your instructions. Give them the signal to begin only after a long pause.
  • Take your time, but never be boring. You can still be happy and enthusiastic in front of your students while at the same time taking things slowly.
  • Relax and enjoy your day. If it feels stressful, then you’re doing it wrong. Classroom management doesn’t have to be difficult to be effective. Moreover, your peaceful disposition has a profound effect on students.
  • Once your students are calm and you have established yourself as the leader of the classroom, teach your classroom management plan over again, as if it’s the first day of school.

It’s important to point out that the slow down strategy is just a starting point, a way to get your class under control. You can increase the speed and complexity of your instruction as your students become more attentive and more responsive to you, but being unhurried is always a good idea.

Thanks for reading.

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28 Responses to How To Get Control Of Any Classroom

  1. Dana January 1, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    I’ve posted on a few other articles, and I just want to say, as a first-year teacher entering the second semester, this site has been profoundly helpful. This article is just what I need, too, as I am calmly preparing myself for the first day back. Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin January 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      Thank you, Dana!

  2. Jessica Knott February 14, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    This information is very helpful. I have been using the slow down strategy for a while now , I never believed in raising my voice just speaking in a soft but stern tone using eye contact to the students misbehaving.

    Thank you

  3. rob November 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    I like this. Slow everything down and happy times begin. I,m a retired teacher after 33 yrs. and wish I had learned this a long time ago.

    • Michael Linsin November 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      Thanks Rob!

  4. kaab Dukuly February 18, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    hi, slow down strategy Works, In fact I did a photocopy and share it Among my colleagues.At the end of the semester I got award for being a Team player in my department.

    • Michael Linsin February 19, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      Cool! Way to go, Kaab!


  5. david March 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    This really helped me

    • Michael Linsin March 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Excellent David! I’m glad to hear it.


  6. Laura March 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    What about when you wait quietly and calmly at the front of the room for the students to quiet down before moving on… and they never get quiet, but louder and more disrespectful? Any advice?

    • Michael Linsin March 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Hi Laura,

      Are you asking about your own classroom or a subbing situation? Please email me. I’m happy to help.


  7. Raquel March 25, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Hi Michael,

    Like Laura, I am dealing with a similar situation. It’s a bit complicated and it might be better to email you about it for your advice, if at all possible.


    • Michael Linsin March 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      Sure, I’ll do my best.


  8. Colleen Elia April 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    I am forwarding this to our teachers. It is the end of the school year and I know everyone will benefit from Smart Classroom Management posts. Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin April 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      You’re welcome, Colleen!


  9. Nelwin Dugbei June 20, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    it good of you to impact the life skills others

    • Michael Linsin June 20, 2013 at 6:21 am #

      Thanks Nelwin!


  10. nasir August 5, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    when students of grade 1oth are so destructive they r just try to destruct the class….. which method we need to use…

    • Michael Linsin August 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

      Hi Nasir,

      I’m not sure what you’re asking. Please email me with more specifics. I’m happy to help!


  11. Regan Moore August 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Great article- this is exactly what I need to do! Thanks for the information!

    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      You’re welcome, Regan!


  12. Sandra Walker September 7, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Michael I just read your article, and I am going to try this slow down method. However, my students do tend to make me lose my cool sometimes and I get a bit loud, but with this slow down method I’m hoping it will help me as well as my students. Wish me luck Mike. Thanks for a great post.

    • Michael Linsin September 7, 2013 at 6:52 am #

      Good luck, Sandra! Keeping your cool is a must.


  13. Mike September 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Does this work with high school students and is it ever too late to regain control? And what if the students get louder and more disrespectful?

    • Michael Linsin September 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Hi Mike,

      The strategies are based on my experiences teaching students from kindergarten through 8th grade. However, many, many high school teachers are regular readers of our blog. I do have credentials to teach high school, and if the day comes I decide to do so I would use the methods and strategies found on the site–with mostly obvious modifications. As for your other questions, no, it’s not too late and if you take your time and stay calm, your students shouldn’t become more disrespectful.


  14. Asha Frank October 14, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Dear Micheal, I am a new teacher at a Caribbean school used to punishing kids in a corporal punishment manner such as lines, standing in the sun, de merits, staying in at break, staying back after school. Considering all of this and as a new teacher with no teacher training as it is not required on my island to teach how do I manage a class of 38 mixed ability, mixed age range (11-15) students? I am teaching them History. I have been using your website and I have a classroom management system of 5 simple rules. I am struggling with the following things: constant chatter in the class, children moving from the chairs which is a rule that they continuosly break. I find it difficult to remember all of their names eventhough they are in boy girl seating plan! I did a icebreaker the first time to try and learn them all so now I can recall at least 15 of the 38. I have the class once a week and sometimes twice depending on the timetable! I am not struggling with any of the other classes and some of them range up to 28 students. I would really appreciate some help in terms of how to have more control and perhaps a better disciplinary structure. Help! Miss Frank

    • Michael Linsin October 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Hi Miss Frank,

      My best advice is to picture in your head how you want your students to behave for you and then show them precisely how to do it. Model in a highly detailed way how you want them to do everything, have them practice until they get it, and then hold them to it. I recommend reading through the articles in the Routines & Procedures category, which will describe the strategies you’ll need.