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6 Classroom Management Tips for Back to School

When the new school year comes around, I’m always filled with a sense of excitement and a little bit of anxiousness at what challenges await, especially when it comes to classroom management.

In my experience having effective classroom management can really make all the difference in how the whole year unfolds. And that work begins in the very first days of school! 

These six classroom management tips are drawn from my own experience and they have helped to alleviate my initial worries about going back to school. Plus, they set me and my students up for success right away.

classroom management tips for back to school decorative image with whiteboard and class jobs

1. Establish Clear Expectations

Starting the year by setting clear expectations with your students is important. From day one, you can build a strong community of learners by establishing and modeling effective expectations.

In grades 5 to 8, some effective expectations could include having students raise their hands to share in class, being prepared with necessary materials for the lesson, using classtime appropriately, and most importantly, respecting class property and classmates.

Visual aids such as posters that outline the expectations in clear ways can also reinforce those expectations for students. I like to use this set of posters to clearly showcase what we call class promises as well as displays of hand signals using ASL that can be helpful for teacher and student signaling. 

2. Create a Positive Classroom Environment

Buiding a strong community of learners to create and foster a positive classroom environment is developed from establishing clear expectations. It can also be accomplished through co-creating expectations. This is a great first step to include student voice in your classroom. 

When students know their voices are heard and valued, it creates a welcoming and inclusive classroom from the very beginning of the year.

Along with this your classroom décor and organization create that positive environment and can complement the created expectations. Think about posters such as these that you can use to display classroom expectations and be able to refer back to throughout the year. 

3. Develop Consistent Routines

Everyone thrives when they have some consistency. I know I do! And I know my students do too. It doesn’t mean being rigid and keeping everything to the minute; instead, it’s having a good flow to the day that includes some consistent routines for students.

In my classroom, the first days of school mean outlining what happens when students arrive for the day, how transitions between lessons work, and even how to prep and move to gym, library, lunch, etc.

There are a lot of classroom routines that can help with effective classroom management. To help you with these routines, grab this FREE 6-page guide that goes through every single routine you need to teach your students. It includes classroom management tips and real examples from my classroom. I also provide an implementation guide so that this runs smoothly, all year round!

classroom management tips classroom routines and expectations

4. Use Positive Reinforcement

We all know that we feel great when we’re given a compliment or told we’ve done a good job. The same is true for students where positive reinforcement can have an impact on student behaviour. 

Positive reinforcement can include reward systems but it doesn’t always have to be a reward system.

Here are some ideas I use in my classroom:

Free-time Friday – When the class is behaving in an “above and beyond” kind of way, I put a tally on the board for free time Friday minutes (e.g., not JUST doing what is expected… but doing it very well or going out of their way to do something positive). The number of tallies they have at the end of the week they get back in minutes for free time. 

Make sure you’re keeping an eye on your tallies because that time can quickly add up and you want to make sure you’re able to follow through with the reward.

Sunshine Squad – Students shout each other out for positive behaviour at the end of the week and I send home a note with one person that acknowledges something great they did. I use student shout-out slips to promote positive interactions in my classroom! You can download a FREE set here and start having students fill them out for one another and read them at the end of the week 🙂

Grade 6 is probably as high as I’d go with the note home depending on your group… but student shout-outs I would do with all grades. And an alternative if you think your group has outgrown the note home is a quick call or email home – a Sunshine Call. 

When I have to make those more difficult calls home about student behaviour I always make sure to end my calling list with a Sunshine Call. This means I make a good news call or send an email about a student whose behaviour or work has been stellar or a student who has made improvement from a previous week’s challenges. This final call on the list always leaves me in a better frame of mind!  

5. Communicate Effectively with Students

One of the most important classroom management tips I can offer is about how essential it is to communicate clearly and respectfully.

In many ways this is about the impact of your actions rather than the intent. Accepting criticism, even when it’s constructive, can be challenging no matter one’s age. Be gentle but direct. Keep it less ‘you’ statements and more about the issue. 

This communication doesn’t just have to do with how you share your thoughts with students but about how you listen to students as well. Think about the ways that you are demonstrating your active listening. 

  • Face the student but don’t require eye contact from them. 
  • Listen to non-verbal cues/body language as well as what the student says.
  • Let the student speak – don’t interrupt or jump to conclusions/judgment.
  • Repeat what you’ve heard from the student. This will ensure you’re clearly understanding the student’s point(s).

6. Address Misbehaviour Calmly and Fairly

Effective communication also extends to how you handle misbehaviour in your classroom in a constructive manner. 

One of my top classroom management tips is to stay calm and fair. This is not always easy. Certainly there are times when it’s been a long week and there’s more going on inside and outside the classroom than I’d like to have to deal with but figuring out how to regulate myself before responding to a student is necessary.

Channeling some inner calm will ensure that a situation doesn’t escalate. Remember students’ behaviours are not personal, even though it feels that way sometimes. Take a moment and address the misbehaviour in a way that can refocus the student rather than escalate the interaction.

  • What is a choice that can be given to the student to provide them with some power to find control in the situation? 
  • What has worked in the past to address this issue (with this student or with others)?
  • How can I keep this situation in check at this moment and address the root cause (now or even a bit later – but still remain timely)?

Use that teacher voice! You know the one! My husband jokes about my teacher voice, which sometimes comes out when I’m trying to remain calm. He heard it often when I would be talking with caterers and florists, etc. while we were planning our wedding. 

Take-Aways about Classroom Management Tips

Whether you’re reading this post before the new school year or when it’s already started, these six effective classroom management tips are here to help you!

Having easy to implement strategies goes a long way in creating a positive and well-managed classroom environment. And making use supports, tools, and resources available to you can make it even easier. 

These Classroom Posters: Rules, Voice Levels, Hand Signals & More are an effective classroom management tool that you can use to add visual impact to your classroom décor.

For more classroom management resources, click here

Read more strategies, including classroom management tips, to help start the year off right:

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I’m Katarina and I teach elementary students in Toronto, Canada. I’m passionate about creating authentic learning experiences that students will love and remember. If you are looking to improve your classroom management and engage your students with easy-to-implement resources and tools, you’re in the right place!

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