One 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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