How To Improve Classroom Management Every Day

Smart Classroom Management: How To Improve Classroom Management Every DayOne of the secrets to exceptional classroom management is to aim for the stars.

It’s to accept nothing less than what you want for your classroom, your students, and your career.

It doesn’t matter where you teach. It doesn’t matter who is on your roster.

It doesn’t matter if chaos and disorder reign supreme in the hallways of your school.

If you have a vision, and the right tools, you can take any group of students and transform them into the class you desire.

You can have peace, a safe haven, a sanctuary of learning within the four walls of your classroom.

We hear from teachers every week who have done just that.

Anyone can do it.

But you mustn’t settle for just okay. You mustn’t merely hope to keep a lid on your classroom. You mustn’t wish for just a little better.

Effective classroom management doesn’t work that way.

To have the well-behaved class you want, you have to push your students to get better every day. One easy way to do that is with a strategy that I call “The List.”

The way it works is that you’re going to keep a short daily list of the routines, behaviors, and activities that were done perfectly as well as a list of the areas that need work.

Logistically, I recommend keeping a single sheet of paper on the same clipboard you use to keep track of consequences.

On the top half of the page, jot down what went well. In other words, what expectations were fulfilled exactly as they were taught?

So, if your students were fully engaged during literature circles, for example, or if their attention was spot-on during your instruction, then write it down.

On the bottom half of the page, make note of anything that didn’t go according to what you expressly taught to your students.

If you had to redo a routine or reteach an expectation, if you observed off-task behavior or directions that were semi-followed (or not followed at all), you would add it to the bottom list.

This isn’t something you have to do immediately. You can even wait until the end of the day. But the next morning, first thing, you’re going to pull out your list and share it with your students.

You may say something like:

Quickly, I wanted to mention that I thought you were excellent during literature circles yesterday. The discussions were interesting and in-depth. I heard some great ideas. Everyone was involved and participating the whole period.

Also, your focus and attention during the science lesson was especially good. I don’t expect any better than that. Well done.”

Then move to the bottom list:

Some areas we need to improve . . . Yesterday, when I gave the signal to line up for lunch, there was some bumping and pushing, which is why we had to do it over again. Today, I expect it to be done correctly.

There was also talking during independent work time, and those students received a consequence. Today, let’s be sure to give everyone a chance to concentrate on their work without disruption.”

And that’s it. Very simple. You won’t add a lecture. You won’t threaten or feign disappointment. You won’t over-praise, raise your voice, or give anything but the unvarnished truth.

What you are doing, however, is providing feedback.

Feedback, in the form of letting students know directly and honestly how they’re doing, and if what they’re doing is, indeed, how you taught them, is a little-known key to effective classroom management.

It works because it reinforces their understanding of where your standard is. It further illuminates the proper path and gives them something to improve upon every day.

It moves your class closer and closer to your dream destination—until the bottom list all but disappears.

The list strategy is a tangible way of keeping score, of knowing how you’re doing, of communicating to your students where you’re headed and what being a good student and an exceptional classroom looks like.

There is deep pride in doing things well, in seeing evidence of progress, in getting better every day through the pursuit of excellence.

No matter who your students are or how jaded they appear, it’s highly, endlessly motivational. It’s intrinsic and pure.

It keeps the momentum rolling. The pedal to the metal.

The goal within reach.

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37 Responses to How To Improve Classroom Management Every Day

  1. Samina Iqbal January 21, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    Thank you. This is very valauble, and being an avid list maker, I’m going to give it a go.

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      You’re welcome, Samina.


  2. Patricia L January 21, 2017 at 9:24 am #

    What a great idea – I can’t tell you how transformative your articles have been for me. I’ve always had pretty good classroom management – last year I had a class that made me question that. This year – unreal the difference. Kids that were disruptive in previous years are doing so well. And they really do buy into the expectations. Thanks so much for creating this blog!

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 10:13 am #

      That’s great news, Patricia! So glad to hear it.


  3. Ernest Efa January 21, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    this was very important and helpful for me.thank you.

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 10:13 am #

      You’re welcome, Earnest.


  4. Carissa January 21, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    I love this! We’ve gotten moved to a new classroom and several new students since Christmas. I had been feeling frustrated and annoyed even though behaviour is ok. I realized it was because I was accepting less than the best from them behaviour wise (2/3 of the new children are ‘behaviours’). Monday I’m reteaching routines but I really like this so in future I can catch it before we slide so far. I’m also starting a tea with teacher at recess, I’ve got a few who desperately want my attention ALL the time. They want to read me a story and tell me their dreams etc. I’m thinking if I create a set ‘tea time’ then I can set firm boundaries around telling me stories at other times without feeling like I’m shutting them down. I remember you saying you used to eat lunch with students and while this isn’t really ‘done’ in my school I like the idea of having some humanizing time.
    Keep doing your good work! Every one of my student teachers (I have 3 this year at various times) must read your books before they can teach a single lesson in my class.

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 10:20 am #

      Hi Carissa,

      I think your tea time idea is a good one and will no doubt improve rapport with your students. Thanks for being a regular reader and sharing my books with others.


  5. Kim January 21, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    This is a terrific idea! Do you think posting the list could be helpful? Would kids benefit from having the goal right in front of them?

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

      Hi Kim,

      Perhaps, but I don’t think it’s something you need to do. However—and I didn’t mention this in the article—it’s helpful to bring up the area of improvement just before performing it. As in, “Hey, remember, we struggled with this yesterday. Let’s do it right today.”


  6. Sue January 21, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    I love this idea. I have a very difficult class this year (my last–I’m retiring in June!) and your articles have helped so much!

  7. Jane Nichols January 21, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    So very wise are you! I teach a history class to all the 4th and 5th grade students at my school. That’s about 225 students a week. My classroom is set up with 8 tables, 2 chairs on each side of table, facing each other, but with visual access to the front of classroom and me. Since our return from winter holiday, I’m noticing more students distracted by the student sitting across and more chatting. I’ve been holding the students responsible for the class rules (just like your suggestions!), but the problem is literally half the time I can’t discern who’s doing the talking, because, I think the students face each other and not me (except when their heads are turned to the front). I think it would be easier if all the students, bodies and faces, faced me, but that doesn’t seem to work with the furniture in my room. Also, I do a lot of cooperative learning in groups of four. I want to be utterly fair and not guess who the talker is, but not being sure, exactly, is letting too much chatting go without consequences. I think this shortcoming is inadvertently giving students permission to break the rule, knowing that there’s a pretty good chance they won’t get “caught”! I’m desperate for any suggestions and/or insights. Thank you, Jane

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

      Hi Jane,

      I’ve written about this topic before, but don’t recall the title of the article. I will, however, put it on the list and revisit it again soon.


      • Jane Nichols January 22, 2017 at 10:00 am #

        Thanks. I’ll wait anxiously for your reply. I hope It addresses my concern and I recognize it!

  8. Gogo January 21, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

    Can you translate this to Preschool and Kindergarten?

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

      Hi Gogo,

      Other than the obvious differences in speaking to younger students, you would use the strategy the same way.


      • Suzanne Siebert January 29, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

        I agree. I teach kindergarten and plan to use the strategy the same way you suggested in your post. Love the idea. I plan on implementing it tomorrow using my “Handy, Dandy, Clipboard”.

  9. Kathryn January 21, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

    Your newsletters are so helpful! I have bought two of your books but I never seem to find the time to read them during the school year. I shall have to read them this summer. I’m wondering if you’ve thought of creating an app so teachers could access by topic your wonderful tips.

    • Michael Linsin January 21, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

      Hi Kathryn,

      I haven’t, but it’s a good idea. I’ll certainly consider it. Thank you for the suggestion. We do have an archive along the sidebar and a Search function on the right side of the menu bar.


    • Kim January 21, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

      I second Kathryn’s suggestion.

  10. Kim January 21, 2017 at 9:43 pm #

    I think this was excellent advice. I’m going to be a teacher soon with my own class and will be using this strategy as part of my classroom management regime. Thank you so much! This was quite a valuable technique.

  11. haleem January 22, 2017 at 12:01 am #

    very valuable ideas and notes here we wish for long service and also doing well future and send us new guides

  12. Rolando Barcelon January 22, 2017 at 4:07 am #

    Hi Sir Michael! Thanks a lot for sharing this article. I am a fan of yours actually. You have been helping me since I bought your books in 2014. I can’t wait your next article. More blessings to you.

    – cheers from Quirino High School, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

    • Michael Linsin January 22, 2017 at 11:39 am #

      Thanks Rolando! Already working on it.


  13. Adewale Ojo January 22, 2017 at 6:17 am #

    This is indeed another ‘tonic’ for a class that has been headache-prone. It is worth implementing. I am very optimistic of its efficacy in a disorganized and troublesome class room. Bravo!

    • Michael Linsin January 22, 2017 at 11:39 am #

      Thanks Adewale!


  14. frustrated January 22, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

    Thank you for the tip.

    Do you have any suggestions for a grade 2/3 class that is very very VERY chatty? We go over the rules (the 4 rules you suggested) and routines every day. We practice being quiet during recess, even though I don’t believe in keeping students in when they could benefit from releasing their energy outside. It is becoming impossible for me to teach because I can hardly get a word in. They ignore the quiet signal, even though we practice every day. I wait until they are quiet before speaking, but I sometimes wait up to 2-4 minutes for silence from the kids.

    Please don’t say, “Just stick to your classroom management plan,” because that would mean sending a note home with two thirds of the class every single day.

    Please can your next article be about whole-class chattiness, and whole-class misbehaviour? I’M STARTING TO LOSE IT.

    • Michael Linsin January 22, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

      Hi Frustrated,

      There is no doubt that you’ve lost control of your class, but I would have to speak to you and pose a few pointed questions to nail down the reason. You may want to consider personal coaching. As for future articles, I’ve written about these topics extensively. I encourage you to check out the archive or use the Search function along the menu bar.


  15. Della January 22, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

    I use your pointers with a group of adult GED learners who have been homeless. I can’t tell you how transformative your pointers have been for me, and in turn, my class. You have made a tough assignment so much easier, and even the one guy who yells at teachers is buckling down and participating in class. Thank you so much!

    • Michael Linsin January 23, 2017 at 8:59 am #

      Awesome, Della! Way to go. Thanks for sharing your success.


  16. Eric Pearson January 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

    Hello Michael
    I am the training manager for the nations largest provider of substitute educators. I am interested in seeing if there is interest in engaging in one of your personal coaching sessions where the focus would be on tips and techniques for a substitute teacher. I’d like to record the session and make it into an audio lesson that our substitutes could access to supplement our professional development options. If you are open to exploring this opportunity, please email me directly at or call me at 248-273-8843. I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Thank you for all your tips and techniques, we provide links to your web site and to your publications and the feedback we hear from our substitute educators has been great!

    Eric Pearson
    Kelly Educational Staffing

  17. Robyn Williams January 31, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

    Thank you Michael. I’m finding your articles particularly useful, even in my role as a Temporary Relief Teacher. I’m looking at how your ideas can be applied when working for a day, with different classes each day. I always find it useful to provide students with feedback throughout the day. Your simple strategy could be modified to apply for my circumstance. Feedback for the class teacher is also a priority for me. This format would be of great assistance.

    • Michael Linsin February 1, 2017 at 8:38 am #

      You’re welcome, Robyn. I’m glad you find the articles useful.


  18. Robyn Williams January 31, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

    I would need to see the teaching program left for me…at the beginning of the day. I would work out goals to be achieved for students. I would share those goals at the beginning of each lesson and provide feedback, preferably at the end of each lesson.
    Hopefully a method of simple recording would allow me to provide accurate feedback to the class teacher as i write notes at the end of the day.

  19. Courtney Hyde February 5, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

    What a great article. I really like the idea of making a list, and reviewing it with your students the next day. I think giving prompt feedback is important and will help improve their behaviors. I also like how when making the list we are not to just focus on the negative behaviors, but acknowledge and talk about the appropriate behaviors as well. I am going to try this in my classroom. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin February 6, 2017 at 9:19 am #

      You’re welcome, Courtney. I think you’ll like the strategy.


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