Classroom Management 101

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Did you know that without classroom management even the best designed lesson and most engaging tasks will be useless?  Classroom management is the foundation of teaching, without it chaos can rule.  When classroom structures are in place everyone can thrive including the teacher.  Significant research has found classroom management  has the largest effect on student achievement (Marzano, 2013).

Rules and routines are not inherently intuitive for any student.  Students may enter the classroom with notions about what is positive behavior based on their culture, home life, previous school experiences, as well as lack of knowledge.  A student who has never been to the library before does not know that silence is golden.

When it comes to classroom management explicit direct instruction is paramount.  Don’t assume anything even for adult learners I am still reinforcing the notion of active classroom participation and be on time.  Here are three simple steps you can take to enforce classroom management:

Step 1: Have a discussion about importance of rules, procedures and routines.

Step 2: Clarify procedure through modeling

Step 3: Practice daily and discuss what worked and could be improved.

For example if the rule is to line up at the door before class begins and to enter the class room quietly.  There are a few things that students must practice and you must address.
 First students need to know what it means to get into a straight line.  There should be one student behind each other and not side by side.  Potential problems may arise such as the dreaded “you cut me”.  As a teacher you need to foresee potential issues in classroom management and set up a “procedure” that will remedy any issue.
For example once you leave the line then you must go to the end of it.  Next once the students have practiced and rehearsed getting into a straight line then they may enter the classroom.  You will want to discuss why they need to get into a straight line and how they should enter the classroom.  If students do not enter the classroom quietly then don’t just let them go to their seats, let them go back into a line outside the class and practice until they have achieved this.

From the way students file into the class, to the placement of student belongings, expectations and the tone are being set and internalized by the students.  So what’s a new teacher to do on the first day of school.  Here are my top ten tips for new teachers:

1. Greet students at the door.  Shake their hand and ask their name.

2. Set clearly designated areas in your classroom for students to place their belongings, turn in homework and get materials.

3. Create a syllabus of your classroom assignments and expectations (this is especially important for middle and high school).  Be sure you review this with your students and have parents sign and return.

4. Get to know your students with an icebreaker and have them complete this autobiography to find out about their home life, culture, and learning style.

5. When issues arise address them immediately.

6. Be consistent in your policies and expectations.

7.  Establish hand signals and cues to get students attention.

8. Write your agenda on the board everyday.

9. Be fair and firm.

10. Don’t let them see you sweat until summer time. 🙂 Always keep you cool and stay positive.

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Here are some links to videos on these models:

Fred Jones: Positive Discipline

Curwin Mendler: A Common Teaching Mistake

Curwin Mendler: Proximity, Eye Contact, & Privacy

Kagan & Scott: Win Win Discipline

Gossen: Restitution

Classroom Management at Teacher Channel: Overall Strategies

Which model most resonates with you? How might this approach be developmentally appropriate for the students you work with? How will this approach support you in the classroom working with diverse students from various backgrounds?

I look forward to hearing your response!
Dr Dickenson



24 thoughts on “Classroom Management 101

  1. Hi Dr. Dickenson,

    The Curwin and Mendler model resonates with me. “Don’t take it personal” is something I had to tell myself multiple times throughout my first year teaching in Oakland. That statement is definitely one of those phrases that is easier said, than done. When dealing with students with strong personalities it is important to remain calm. I believe a lot of students come from environments that are not calm, and therefore they need the teachers and support staff to model it for them. Without an appropriate model they will never learn how to control their emotions. With that being said, I like that this model includes the reminder “model and teach the behavior you expect.”



    Posted by Lauren Brown | September 28, 2015, 11:18 pm
    • Hi Lauren,
      I agree with you. If students come from a background where they basically have to fight for everything they have, they are going to bring that mindset into the classroom as well. In Oakland, it is tough because the environment for children is so stressful and the exact opposite we want for children. It is up to the teachers as you said, to model appropriate behavior and teach the behavior you expect. Of course, it is not like the turnaround is instantaneous, it will take a while for the children to catch on and demonstrate appropriate behaviors.


      Posted by Paige McComas | October 3, 2015, 5:34 pm
  2. Hi Dr. Dickenson,
    The Curwin and Mendler model also really resonates with me. Learning to not take a student’s actions/words as personal really is imperative to keeping the even keel and smooth maintenance of the classroom going. Every student has their own unique background and challenges, they also have tremendous strengths that have to be remembered when a situation may cause the teacher to only see the negative. I try to make sure that I treat each of my students the way not only I want to be treated, but how I want my own children to be treated when they are off at school each day.
    ~Emily Duncan


    Posted by Emily Duncan | September 29, 2015, 2:36 am
    • Hello Emily,
      It is tough to read something and say this is how it will be the first time around and when it is nowhere close, we get very disappointed. When we first teach we expect the children to be well behaved and have zero behavioral problems. That is rarely the case. If we have a student that says hurtful things to us, it is really difficult to act like those words do not cut and continue teaching the other students. if you can get above the pain and work with the student and try to treat them the way you want to be treated, then keep at it and it will pay off in time.


      Posted by Paige McComas | October 3, 2015, 5:39 pm
  3. “Which model most resonates with you? How might this approach be developmentally appropriate for the students you work with? How will this approach support you in the classroom working with diverse students from various backgrounds? ”

    Hello! I loved the video bout overall classroom management strategies (the last video). This teacher is in the exact position I am in, she is a new teacher at a school and her students are also new to the school. I am also a first year teacher and my students are mostly freshman.

    The advice about creating classroom routines was definitely spot on. I failed to create those routines from the first day of school and now i am paying the price and struggling to implement them 7 weeks in! I think creating routines is going to be especially essential for freshman students who are new to high school and need to learn appropriate behavior and general classroom procedures for the high school level.

    I liked what Professor Dickenson said at the beginning of the post: “A student who has never been to the library before does not know that silence is golden.” This is definitely true for my kids who are from all different backgrounds; creating those routines and expectations in their freshman year will help them greatly as they move through high school!



    Posted by Chelsea Geber | September 29, 2015, 3:28 am
  4. In raising my three children, my wife and I found that we should never use an idle threat. We always followed through when consequences were stated. A threat without any teeth is useless. So Mendler’s advice aligns with that. I agree that students will push buttons as long as they feel there is no consequence. So hand out the consequence when it will have the required effect.
    When I had to discipline a student in the second week his defense against getting sent to the office was “I didn’t get a warning yet”. He knew he was disruptive.
    I tried the calm is strength in my first week in front of the class, and I followed the textbook response of do not reward calling out behavior. The whole class took to calling out. It was a disaster.
    Just like there is no single answer to how to raise a child, there is no single answer to how to manage a class. Teachers need to be very flexible and adaptive.
    All that said, I still have a lot to learn about classroom management. When I resorted to the iron fist, the student held a silent revolt and their learning was slow.
    The number one thing I have learned so far is that when students are fully engaged, classroom management is easy.


    Posted by Bill Henry | September 30, 2015, 1:40 am
  5. Hello Dr. Dickenson,

    As a new kindergarten teacher, the Fred Jones Model resonates the most with me. The opening slide that stated “Calm is strength and upset is weakness”, is definitely an idea that is representative of an average day in kindergarten with five year olds. Classroom structure is essential in creating a productive learning environment for these young students. Without calmness and order, chaos would reign and no learning would ever take place. This strategy is not only good for the younger student but for a diverse class of students as well. Where there is a need for common ground, rules of a class can be the foundation that all students can understand to keep them safe and welcome. I also like the idea that they mention to praise, prompt and leave which encourages students by praising good work, but also urges them to think on their own!



    Posted by Tamie Riley | September 30, 2015, 3:39 am
  6. Dr. Dickenson,
    This idea resonated me as I read through your blog post: First impressions are important. Many of my teacher friends have different styles, but a common piece of advice they give is to be warm, welcoming, yet firm when first meeting and getting to know your students. They argue that educators should first establish the understanding that students must respect their teachers, before seeing them as friends or just someone watching them for an hour. While it is important to develop relationships with your students, lowering your guard, or being lax can result in poor time management or students dismissing requests and instruction. This post reminds me of how important it is to be professional, address issues immediately, and remain level headed at all times. Thank you for the practical tips.
    Toni Reyes


    Posted by Toni Reyes | September 30, 2015, 5:14 am
  7. Hello Dr. Dickenson,

    The model that most struck a chord with me was that of Curwin Mendler’s thoughts on Proximity, Eye Contact, and Privacy. PEP, as he refers to it for short, is the simple practice of a teacher moving around the classroom as he or she gives the lesson. Ideally, the teacher comes into near proximity to each student for at least some length of time. While doing so, eye contact is established with the students, and private remarks can be made on a one-on-one basis with the students. The overall idea behind this process is to have the teacher better connect with each student, thereby lessening the likelihood of the students becoming disruptive in class. As an aspiring high school teacher, I believe that this model would serve me well in maintaining in class relationships with my students. The stronger those relationships are, the better the learning environment will be overall.


    Posted by Greg Kirtley | September 30, 2015, 5:37 am
  8. Classroom management is a juggling act, simply because there are so many different personalities within one classroom. I really liked Mendler’s approach with PEP, Proximity, Eye Contact, and Privacy. I like this approach; and I believe it would work well with middle school students, which are the grades I would enjoy teaching. I think it is very appropriate how he very briefly stopped his lecture and engaged, only for a few seconds, got close to his student, looked directly in his eyes, and privately spoke to him. I believe this speaks volumes, as it did not take time away from the other students in the classroom.Too often, time is taken away from valuable instruction in order to manage a classroom. Unfortunately, there is not a one fits all method; however, I believe this simple approach is very effective for the older students. Things do not have to be explained with this approach. I would have liked to have seen what his next step would have been, had the student not responded to this PEP approach.

    Ruthann Schuler


    Posted by Ruthann Schuler | September 30, 2015, 1:46 pm
  9. Hi Dr. Dickenson,

    I enjoyed watching and learning about the Curwin Mendler model of proximity, eye contact, and privacy. The demonstration that was given in the video is a classroom management strategy that I would like to use in my classroom. It teaches teachers how just their presence can stop a students misbehavior. I think that it will be useful because it doesn’t draw unwanted attention to the student and doesn’t disrupt the whole class. The video demonstrates how to be calm and approach a student in a positive way. I think that this can be very challenging sometimes especially if the students are being disruptive. A lot of students do not respond well to being yelled at or reprimanded in front of others. By quietly walking over and telling the student to stop doing what ever they are doing in a nice way will greatly help the situation. I hope that I can demonstrate this level of calmness and collectiveness in my classroom.


    Posted by mekalasheedy | September 30, 2015, 4:25 pm
  10. Hi Dr. Dickenson,

    I enjoyed watching and learning about the Curwin Mendler model of proximity, eye contact, and privacy. This is a classroom management strategy that I would like to use in my classroom. The video demonstration shows how a teacher’s presence can change the way a student acts. I think that this strategy can be very valuable because it doesn’t distract other students or pull unwanted attention to a student. By standing near a student or telling them something quietly then walking away a teacher can defuse a situation that could have been much more disruptive. There are a lot of students who do not respond well to yelling or being reprimanded in front of the class. A teacher should always be calm and collective and by using this strategy it will ensure that the teacher acts professionally. I hope to exhibit calmness and collectiveness when I have my own classroom. It helps the students, myself, and over all classroom atmosphere.


    Posted by mekalasheedy | September 30, 2015, 4:56 pm
    • Dr. Dickenson,

      I really enjoyed the videos, and especially those featuring Dr. Mendler. I have worked as a behavioral aide for the past year and have been in classrooms with a very strict disciplinary system with the first offense being their name gets written on the board, second offense is a check mark, followed by eventually contacting the students parents and referrals. This method often resulted in students immediately acting out multiple times as the students thought of the first two consequences as being insignificant. Dr. Mendler covers this brilliantly, in my opinion, by not using a numerical system and adding the “other” category. I think this would have worked much better in the classrooms I was a part of, and will definitely think about integrating it into my own classroom in the future. I think this would be a much better way to deal with the very different personalities and behaviors found in a classroom. I also like the emphasis on taking things personally! Having worked with some children with special needs I have found that if I took their behavior personally I would have never been able to continue doing my job.


      Posted by Abe Goldman | October 1, 2015, 8:46 pm
  11. Hello Dr. Dickenson,

    In my experience with the group of students that I have worked with, the Curwin and Mendler model works the best. I’ve done the majority of my sub teaching at a the continuation school in the district and often times the students can be difficult. The mantra of “don’t take it personal” constantly runs through my mind. So often the students are looking for a reaction out of you, so they say what they say mostly to entice a negative response. I learned to not play that game.. I try not to sweat the small stuff and concentrate on building relationships with students and the class in general. I also agree with the notion that you must treat students with dignity. I try to keep it simple, just talk to them. Not talk down to them as an authoritative figure but rather as one person to another person. I’ve found this strategy work time and time again with most students.


    Posted by Mark Maselli | September 30, 2015, 9:47 pm
  12. Mendler’s PEP model (Proximity, Eye Contact, Privacy) is strategy that I would love to implement into my classroom. Essentially, this model is a low-key response to particular behaviors that the students present at any given time—whether it be for positive behaviors or negative behaviors, Mendler insists that it is important to calmly, yet firmly, address such behaviors. As Mendler mentions, when this strategy is use correctly, a teacher can both compliment and correct the same student within minutes. Some students do not react favorably when being reprimanded in front of the entire class—in fact, some do not even like being praised in front of the entire class. PEP is a strategy that allows a teacher to deliver quick and private messages to each student throughout a lesson, promoting a more positive classroom atmosphere.

    Matt Silvernale


    Posted by Matt Silvernale | September 30, 2015, 10:28 pm
  13. Hello Dr. Dickenson,

    Thank you for sharing these helpful videos. Personally, I believe that the Curwin and Mendler model regarding proximity, eye contact, and privacy is an appropriate selection for a physical education teacher. I move around the classroom a large portion of the time during my lessons. In the video, Dr. Mendler discusses the importance of redirecting negative behavior through positive reinforcement. I use this strategy on a daily basis. However, Dr. Mendler uses a quiet and “private” voice when directing his students. By highlighting a student that is demonstrating good behavior, a visual model is provided for the class as a whole to follow. I do not like to raise my voice and yell at the students during instruction. In doing so, a teacher may feel more stressed and lose control of their classroom. I believe that the strategy proximity, eye contact, and privacy may be effective in both an elementary and high school setting. Overall, I believe this strategy will provide myself with the opportunity to have minor discussions with students without stopping the lesson.


    Cole Campana


    Posted by Cole Campana | September 30, 2015, 11:17 pm
  14. Hello Dr. Dickenson,
    My beliefs on classroom management are that if you have trouble students, establish early on that they can gain favor or points if they do something correctly or nicely. Starting out the year with firm rules are necessary to ensure good classroom behavior and a safe environment. If a child is acting up, moving closer does put the normal child at attention and focuses their behavior. However, if the child has no idea that what they are doing is wrong, then problems will arise and good behavior needs to find a system and appropriate reinforcement.


    Posted by Paige McComas | October 1, 2015, 1:25 am
  15. I identified most with the PEP model of classroom management, and with the first speaker in the Super Tools video. I use PEP regularly in my classroom, and find that circulating around the room is one of the most valuable tools for classroom management. I identified with the Super Tools speaker partly because I also work in after school care, but also because I liked what he said about discipline coming from the word disciple, meaning “a follower of the doctrines of a teacher or a school of thought,” (disciple, n.d.).

    disciple. (n.d.) Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. (1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003). Retrieved October 1 2015 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/disciple


    Posted by Jeff Castleman | October 1, 2015, 6:49 am
  16. Hello

    All of the classroom management methods have great ideas and reasoning. The model that I enjoyed and will most likely use in the classroom is the Fred Jones model of using positive discipline. Each student has different needs and learning capacities. There are students that respond well to negative discipline and find motivation inside to get it right or show they teacher that they are wrong about them. But the majority of students I would say do not respond well to negative criticism, and do not find the words motivating or encouraging to change. As a teacher you should always show care and passion for your students learning. If you show to them calm and positive actions and they understand you care for each students learning then you may easier grab their attention and respect.


    Posted by Brian Aguailar | October 2, 2015, 7:29 pm
  17. Dr. Dickenson,
    I enjoyed reading the post on classroom management techniques. And after looking at the models, I believe the Fred Jones model resonates with me most. Although reading about these things helps tremendously, I feel actually experiencing a teaching environment is another thing. Instructors need to get a feel of what works for them and what does not. I have learned a lot about my teaching style over the last six years of coaching swimming and now I have a better idea of what works for me. I have found the same side approach that was discussed in one of the lectures to be extremely helpful. I will typically pull a disruptive swimmer out of the water and have a private conversation with him or her , and let them know that I care about them, and that I want them to succeed. I’ll also tell them that by them disrupting others not only are they hindering their own success, but also the success of others. I also feel that even just getting to know students and asking them how their day was has a tremendous impact on their feelings towards you, and how hard they will work for you. I’m looking forward to the class.


    Posted by Brett Frazier | October 2, 2015, 8:00 pm
  18. Dr. D.,

    I like your #1 tip of meeting the students at the door. I will start in a new TA assignment come Monday October 5 at DCP here in downtown San Jose. The teacher I am going to support uses this exact strategy. She says hello to each student and makes eye contact. They of course reciprocate. The students fie in one-by-one, greet the teacher, pickup their chromebooks and their composition books and then take their seats. There is a good initial connection with the students at the beginning of the class.

    I seem to gravitate toward is the Kagan & Scott Win-Win model. Perhaps this is a natural extension of my years of working in the technology sector in silicon valley. I have been trained to find the win-win solution to problems. I am interested in diving a bit deeper into the model to understand how we determine why a student may be misbehaving and the tools and strategies to redirect their behavior in a positive direction. Like a dog chasing a cat; it is wise to leave the cat an option out. Teachers should always do the same for their students.


    Posted by Rich Read | October 2, 2015, 10:03 pm
  19. Dr. Dickenson,
    I really enjoy seeing many different classroom managements broken down in one area. Also, steps 1-3 seem to be priceless in an situation where students are being instructed in some way. In the past year and a half of substitute teaching and I have tried to clarify what I expect for behavior, progress, and what they can expect from me. Of course I try to align myself with the rules their teacher have left me; therefore, this will be one area I will be needing improvement on.
    I really resonate with Curwin & Mendler. Up until about college graduation I used to struggle with taking things personal. I know the various jobs and volunteer positions I have held since then have really brought me to the point of not making everything personal.
    “Discipline with dignity” just make sense, in my opinion. This allows student to know they will not be called out in front of their classmates, they know they will be treated with respect, but they also know issues will be addressed. Consistency is extremely important.
    I will allow students to get to know me in hopes to bring their guards down to share their lives. I am currently a youth counselor at my church and my kids share about themselves in many different ways and some don’t share anything at all. I think building the trust to share with each other and allowing my future students to bring their lives into the classroom will establish a closer community.


    Posted by Alynn Peckham | October 5, 2015, 11:44 pm
  20. Hi all! The Win Win Discipline struck me as something I identify to. This is because it is well-structured and tested. Instead of discipling the child for acting out, one should change their behavior all-together. Dr. Spencer Kagan says that this model is based on clinical experiences/trials. Win Win Discipline looks beyond the behavior and asks, “Why is this behavior happening?” We can teach students to get attention in more responsible ways. This is possible because students can easily tell the difference between disruptive and non-disruptive ways to get attention in class.
    There are 4 basic behaviors: Aggressive, Rule-breaking, Confronting the teacher, and Disengaged. This approach is comprehensive because it looks at BEFORE,DURING, and AFTER the disruptive behavior. Before these events happen, it is helpful to form relationships with the students. It shows you care to ask how their day is going, etc.. During the disruptive behavior it is best to guide child to responsible behavior. Ask the child: “What would it be like right now if you were acting correctly?” This engages the student in the mental process. This way, the child internalizes the process and will eventually do it on their own. After the behavior issue, it is best to follow-up with the student by having an individual meeting.



    Posted by ame1717 | October 7, 2015, 11:34 pm
  21. Interesting post. I really resonated with the idea that “[r]ules and routines are not inherently intuitive for any student”. It seems that early establishment of routines, rules, and procedures are the keystone to classroom management. I know, from my own experience as a student, that I am much less stressed out and more on task, when expectations are clear from the outset. As an adult student, I appreciate a roadmap of the course’s assignments and major outcomes, along with well-fleshed out rubrics.

    For children, I think that all of us pre-service teachers have noticed the importance of creating a plan and sticking to it, reinforcing good behavior and addressing bad immediately.


    Posted by Karey Stoltz | October 8, 2015, 5:01 pm

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