How To Improve Classroom Management By Doing Less

balancing rocksIt’s natural for teachers struggling with classroom management to try to do more.

They talk more, move around the room more, and meet with students more. They raise their voice and micromanage. They hover and pace.

They race through lessons hoping to finish before losing students to the hum and distraction of a rowdy class.

They create another chart, try out another incentive, and have another go at behavior contracts.

Before long, they become so accustomed to the frenetic pace that it becomes normal, the cost of being a teacher.

But what else is there to do but something more?

Doing Less Equals More Control

Take a deep breath…

If you slow down, move less, talk less, and at times do absolutely nothing, you will gain more control.

And classroom management won’t be such a challenge.

Here’s how to do less:

Slow Down

It’s always smart to take your time. If you rush or get ahead of your students, you’ll lose them—and control of your class. By slowing down, you’ll cover more material, get more done, and have better behaved students.

Move Less

You’ve probably been told that teachers should move around the room a lot and avoid staying in one place. But unless you’re checking in on students working independently, this is poor advice.

Your students need to focus on you and your instruction and nothing else. This is best accomplished by staying in one place. There should be no misunderstanding about where their eyes, ears, and thinking ought to be.

Talk Less

Most teachers talk too much. The reality is, the more you talk, the less your students will tune in and the more likely they are to misbehave.

If you want your words to have meaning, be brief, get to the point, and move on. Save your voice for inspired lessons, readings, stories, and activities.

Pause Often

When giving directions or providing information, pause often. Allow a beat or two of silence between sentences.

This helps students focus on your message, allows them to process what you’ve told them, and gives you a chance to see how well they’re following along.

Do Nothing

If your students aren’t giving you what you want, stop whatever you’re doing. Stand in the most prominent place in the classroom (I like to stand on a chair) and do nothing.

When your students are silent and looking at you, wait some more. Gather your thoughts. When you’re ready, tell them again precisely what you expect and then have them do it again.

Lower Your Voice

When you raise your voice, you train your students to listen to you only when you get loud and to tune you out the other times. It says, “Okay, I’m yelling because I really mean it this time!”

If you want your students to listen, speak softly. They should have to lean forward ever so slightly in order to hear you.

Trust Your Classroom Management Plan

You created a classroom management plan for a reason. So use it. Let it do the heavy lifting. Pull yourself away from the drama and frustration of trying to plead, persuade, counsel, manipulate, intimidate, bribe, and will your students to behave.

These methods, all examples of trying to do more, don’t work.

A New You

Decide today that you’re going to start doing things differently. Gone are the days of trying to do more, of chasing trends, of being stressed and in a hurry, of hoping your students will behave.

Instead, decide that you’re going to do what really works.

Students respond predictably to certain teacher behaviors. You can’t just wing it. You can’t just do what comes naturally or what feels right.

More than any other area of teaching, effective classroom management requires you to work smarter, not harder.

Today’s topic is a perfect example. Rather than doing more and having little to show for it, do less and become more effective.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for sharing this website and these articles with your friends via Facebook and Twitter or by other means. I appreciate it!


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6 Responses to How To Improve Classroom Management By Doing Less

  1. marisa skiles September 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    I have good classes this year. No major behavior problems, but what gets me so frazzled is the constant chatter. Any time there is a pause in my lesson they immediately start their conversations. My other issue is when this happens and those sweet ones who are perfect but they contribute to the chatter. The problem is that I have a hard time disciplining them. Please help. I need answers.

  2. jill September 21, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    I’ve taught 13 years, and I have one of the toughest classes yet. I have 5 behavior problems in a room of 18 children. They are ADHD/ and or defiant. What can I do ? I’m very frustrated at this point.


    • Michael Linsin September 21, 2013 at 6:36 am #

      Hi Jill,

      It isn’t just one thing or one bit of advice. This entire website, all 225+ articles were written with you in mind. I recommend starting in the Difficult Student category of the archive and going from there.


  3. Sydney Valukas February 20, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I am 18 years old and currently trying to instruct a Homework Help group at Lighted Schoolhouse. What should I do if the kids look at me like a friend rather than a teacher?

    • Michael Linsin February 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

      Hi Sydney,

      Assuming it’s a problem and getting in the way of you providing the best possible help, you have to be straight with your students. Make sure they understand your role and where your boundaries are. Let them know what is and isn’t okay. Depending on how many students you have, you might want to consider a classroom management plan. Please refer to our archive for details.