In his book, Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys To Creativity, Hugh MacLeod points out that Abraham Lincoln penned the Gettysburg Address on borrowed stationary.
Hemingway wrote with a simple fountain pen.
Van Gogh rarely used more than six colors on his palate.
And MacLeod, himself an artist, sketches cartoons on the back of business cards.
His point is that there is zero correlation between creative talent and the materials and equipment used.
The same can be said about an effective classroom management plan.
A simple set of rules and consequences hand-printed on ordinary poster board is all you need.
There is no magic in the plan itself. It has no power to influence behavior.
Only you have the power to influence behavior by creating a classroom your students want to be part of and then strictly—obsessively—holding them accountable.
Therefore your plan doesn’t need to be elaborate, complex, or involved.
It just needs to be followed.
A Classroom Management Plan Is A Contract
A classroom management plan is a contract you make with your students that promises you will protect their right to learn and enjoy school without interference.
And once it’s presented to your class, you’re bound by this contract to follow it every minute of every day and without exception.
Otherwise, if you don’t, you’re breaking your word—and your students’ trust.
A classroom management plan has two, and only two, purposes:
1. To state the rules of the classroom.
2. To state exactly what will happen if those rules are broken.
Some will tell you that you need to include a system of rewards and incentives. But to really change behavior, to create the class you really want, you have to let go of this idea.
The “do this and get that” mentality is a short-term solution that may get you through the day, and thus is a good strategy for substitute teachers, but it won’t actually change behavior.
A Classroom Management Plan I Recommend
I recommend the following plan because the rules cover every behavior that could potentially interfere with the learning and enjoyment of your students, and the consequences, when carried out correctly, teach valuable life lessons.
It’s proven to work regardless of where you teach or who is in your classroom.
1. Listen and follow directions.
2. Raise your hand before speaking or leaving your seat.
3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
4. Respect your classmates and your teacher.
1st time a rule is broken: Warning
2nd time a rule is broken: Time-Out
3rd time a rule is broken: Letter Home
*For information on time-out, see How To Get Students To Stay Seated And Quiet In Time-Out and 10 Ways To Make Time-Out More Effective.
*For information on sending a letter home, see the article Why A Letter Home Is An Effective Consequence.
A Small Role, But A High Priority
A common mistake teachers make is assuming that a classroom management plan is able to do more than its intended—and quite narrow—purpose (see above).
On its own, it provides little motivation for students to behave.
Its usefulness comes from how it’s implemented, enforced, and carried out, from how you communicate with your students, from how much leverage you have with them, and from how much they enjoy being part of your classroom.
Your classroom should be exciting and creative. Your classroom management plan, however, shouldn’t be.
Avoid cutesy and colorful designs. Even kindergarteners need to know that your classroom management plan and the rules by which it governs are sacred, serious.
Let it have a look worthy of its utilitarian purpose.
Two large pieces of poster board or construction paper—rules on one, consequences on the other—will do. Put them up on your wall, prominently, so everyone who enters your classroom will know that behaving in a manner that is most conducive to learning is a priority in your classroom.
Then honor the contract you made with your students by following it exactly as it’s written.
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