We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
Even the most experienced teachers sometimes struggle to maintain focus and encourage learning in the classroom. Overcrowded class sizes, lack of resources, and repetitive learning distract students and make behavior management in the classroom challenging.
AdoptaClassroom.org surveyed 4,665 PreK through 12 teachers at a mix of schools in the United States. Researchers found 81% of educators say their workload increased, while 80% spend more of their teaching time dealing with mental health needs.
What Can a Teacher Do to Manage Behavior in a Classroom?
The way classroom management works from one year to the next varies. One group of students may thrive under a set of rules and processes, while another fails.
In addition to the typical demands of teaching, the last couple of years presented unprecedented situations for students and faculty. Many students fell behind during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Teachers struggle to get them where they should be for their level.
A well-focused class is better able to grow and catch up to peers. Fortunately, there are numerous things you can do to ramp up behavior management in the classroom. A focused class is one learning and growing.
1. Give Students Ownership
You likely have a good idea already of what processes work well for your classroom. However, give the students input in the areas you can tweak. Ask questions about what would help them focus or follow the rules. Implement the good ideas they have. Younger students may need more direction to establish guidelines, but older ones will have solid suggestions to offer.
2. Build Teamwork
Are your students supportive of one another? Ideally, they’ll come alongside and help others. Learning to work together is a vital life skill. Encourage recess games to teach working well with others.
Reward effort. Did one of your students quiz another during free time for the upcoming test? Recognize teamwork and uplifting others.
3. Avoid Shouting
If you’ve been teaching for a while, you may face a bit of burnout. Noisy students refusing to quiet down when it’s time for a lecture or presentation may find the one nerve you have left before a break and jump up and down on it.
Educators are human, sometimes making the mistake of shouting to be heard. However, shouting shows the students you aren’t entirely in control and may worsen the situation. Instead, fold your hands in front of you and stare silently at them. It may take a few minutes for them to begin quieting.
If the stop-and-look method doesn’t work, try flicking the lights on and off or creating a fun clap everyone repeats.
4. Establish Rapport
Have you ever worked for a boss you adored? You were likely to do your best and listen to the person’s input. You knew they cared about you, which encouraged you to try harder.
Whether you’re teaching kindergarteners or college students, the underlying emotions behind why students try their best remain. Some may do it for the sense of self-satisfaction doing well brings. However, most have outside encouragement from a parent, grandparent, or you.
How do you show you care? Learn their names. Find out little facts, such as their favorite color or pet’s name. For example, “Good morning, Presley. Is your cat feeling better? I know Princess Jelly was sick last week, and you were worried.” Watch your students’ faces light up.
If you have multiple classes, such as in middle or high school, making stronger connections becomes more difficult. Keep notes and review them before each class until you remember little details about your kids.
5. Use Positive Reinforcement
One of the most powerful behavior management strategies involves rewarding the behavior you want to see. When students work together, study or pay attention, give them a few free minutes, pass out candy or throw a class party for improvement.
Never give out rewards unless they’ve met the goals you set for them–make objectives attainable. Seeing every other high school class get a popcorn and movie party at the end of the term can motivate a failing class to do better the next quarter. Part of teaching your students how to act in the classroom is making the tough choices of when to reward and withhold praise.
Take a Breath
Behavior management in the classroom has been challenging since the first teacher taught in the first one-room schoolhouse. You may feel overwhelmed after a particularly trying day. Sometimes you need a break for a few minutes between classes. Take a few deep breaths and remember your training in school and on the job. If one thing doesn’t work, keep trying new approaches until you find the one that does.
latest in learning!
Get the latest updates in learning, teaching and everything in between! Whether you're a student or an educator, we offer the inspiration you need to fuel your classroom experience.