Classroom Management: Why & How

My ongoing nightmare beginning nightly the week leading up to the start of school:  I walk in the classroom door ready to start out a successful year and I see students who are throwing papers, hitting each other with backpacks, and using permanent marker to draw a mural on my interactive whiteboard.

It doesn’t matter whether I have met the students and parents or not – this nightmare always showed up just before the start of the semester.  Perhaps it was my subconscious reminding me that I needed to make sure I had a classroom management system in place.  Maybe it was my fear of not having control.  Or it might boil down to new year jitters {I don’t care HOW long you have been teaching, most teachers still get them every year}.

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t helping me sleep at night, so I might as well use that time to prepare my behavior system.  At least I would get something done, even if it wasn’t watching the back of my eyelids.

Why have classroom management?

You can call it classroom management or behavior management – I use the terms interchangeably.

For me, the definition of good classroom management involves a system where everyone in the classroom knows the expectations, guidelines, and consequences of behavior.

You should have your system at least mentally prepped inside your head before you step foot in the room.

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What is included in a classroom management plan?

Your classroom management plan should fall into several pieces, which when put together, create the overall plan.

  • Expectations/rules:  Will students help you to create the classroom rules?  If so, what rules are important that you have included?  Which are you flexible in leaving out?  Have you modeled exactly how you would like students to act – and how NOT to act?
  • Positive and/or negative reinforcement of those expectations:  Will students be held accountable at an individual, group, or whole class level?  Maybe a combination of all three?
  • Logistics:   How will students know whether or not they are meeting (or not meeting) the classroom rules?  Are there visual queues to keep students on track?  Will you need special documentation to keep track of your plan (notes home, behavior chart, punch cards, flip cards, etc.)?


10 different classroom management strategies

Here is a quick list of possible behavior management ideas.  This list is just the tip of the iceberg – there are hundreds of different strategies out there which is why it is important to find the options that work best for you.

  1. Classroom Economy:  In this model, students can earn “points” which can then be cashed in weekly for items in a classroom store.  Typically, parents donate used, but still in good condition, items to add to the store for “purchase.”
  2. Raffle Tickets or Auction:  This was a really fun option that a fellow grade level colleague came up with for our entire third grade team.  When students were “caught being good” they could earn tickets.  At the end of the week, all student who had tickets in the grade level were brought to one of the classrooms, where one of the teachers would “auction” off items that were again donated.  All students who did not earn any tickets were all watched by another teacher from the grade level in another room where they worked on something else quietly.
  3. Flip Chart:  Tried and true, many teachers use this – or a form of it – daily.  A pocket chart is hung in the classroom with each pocket labeled with a student name.  Each pocket has laminated cards in different colors.  All students start the day out with the same color, and students “flip” their card throughout the day based on whether good or poor behavior is demonstrated.
  4. Punch Cards:  Each child has an individually punch card.  As students are demonstrating positive behavior choices they receive a hole punch in their card.  Once the card is full, students are awarded a prize.  Prizes can be tangible (candy, toy, etc) or intangible (free homework pass, eating lunch with the teacher, extra computer time, etc)  *Note:  I personally prefer to use positive reinforcement for this method, which I have explained, but I have seen other teachers use it with negative reinforcement in the opposite manner too.
  5. Earn Positive Notes Home:  A cup with student names on popsicle sticks works great for this.  As you go about your day, randomly choose a stick out of the cup.  If the student is on task and had a good day, send a note home or make a positive parent phone call.  If the student is off-task, place the stick back in the cup.  Eventually you will get all students and can start over.
  6. Technology-Assisted:  Class Dojo, the Bouncing Balls website, Kahoot, or something similar.
  7. Whole Class Reward Spelling:  Students choose a class reward, such as extra recess or a popcorn party.  Each day the class (as a whole) has shown good behavior, you add a letter of the prize to the board.  Once the whole word is spelled, students earn their reward and start again with the next.
  8. Spin a Surprise:  Grab some library pockets and fill them with small reward slips (sit at the teacher’s desk for the day, be line leader, etc) and then clip them on a round spinner which you set on a shelf in the classroom.  Pick a “team” of students each day who showed exemplary behavior to come and pick out a pocket.
  9. Peer Pressure:  This model really works well with those students who struggle with self-control.  It is the goal of the classroom to help this particular student to meet the behavior expectations – via positive reinforcement.  Each person in the classroom encourages the student throughout the day to stay on task.  Whole class applause when he or she meets the individual behavior goal set for him or her is proudly given.
  10. Cup Management:  Stack 3 plastic cups on top of one another:  one green, one yellow, one red.  When students are allowed to be working quietly with one another, display the green cup.  As they are getting too loud, change the cup to yellow.  Red is shown and the students must work in silence until the cup is changed back again.   This model works well for whole class or small groups.


Effective classroom management can change its look from year to year.  Each group of students is unique and comes with unique challenges.  What might work one year, probably won’t work the next.  Trying new classroom management ideas from time to time not only keeps students engaged, but helps you to see whether another solution might work better for you too!