SEL Teacher Resources

Classroom management strategies that work

Managing the learning needs of every student isn’t easy, especially when you’re dealing with behavior issues in the classroom. Having solid classroom management strategies under your belt is a must for keeping the school day running smoothly. We asked teachers across the country to share their best tips for fostering an environment where students are on task and ready to learn.  

Read what they had to say about building relationships and routines, setting expectations, and more!  

Build and nurture relationships

The best classroom management tip is to develop solid caring relationships with the students and among the students. This alone makes all the difference in the world! – Marcia S. 

The most effective classroom management strategy that I have found to be successful is focusing first on relationships and classroom procedures before starting ANY type of academic work. The first month of school MUST be spent on building relationships. – Alyssa K. 

On the first day of school, I introduce myself to each student individually (yes, all 204 of them). I tell them my name and if they don’t tell me theirs, I ask what it is. Then I look directly at their face and tell them I am glad they are here today; I couldn’t do my job without them. I believe in establishing mutual trust and respect from the very first day. That way, they are better prepared when I ask them to “do hard things.” – Jeff B. 

Concentrate on building routines and community for the first few weeks. Practice moving from one place to another (chairs to rug, rug to chairs, lining up, walking in the hallway, coming in and out of the classroom, getting book boxes, reading to self, finding and taking care of supplies, morning circle, etc.).  Practice these things until they are perfect! Start small, move slowly, etc. Your classroom will move much more smoothly for the rest of the year! – Stephanie H. 

Build your classroom culture with games, discussions, or even an attendance question — you learn so much about each other. – @emily_rcb 

Teaching routines with patience. Building a relationship for the first 21 days and allowing mistakes to happen, followed by communication. – @rationaltrends 

Create a culture of respect and positivity  

Best classroom management tip: Let the kids know how happy you are to share your day and your life with them every day. If they know you like them and value them, they are so much happier and open to learning! – Anne N. 

It can be hard, but focusing on the positive helps both me and my students. If I can find something that mischievous kid is good at and keep him busy with that, he won’t get into trouble. And if I can find something to compliment a troublemaker on, she may know that I see her value even when I have to correct her. – Kristi F. 

Positive narration — naming and thanking students who are on task or following directions. – Matt R. 

Involve students in rule-setting  

Have your students help make the rules/expectations chart during the first day of school. – Raeleen K. 

Give students voice and choice when able! This creates ownership. – Erin V. 

As a first-grade teacher, one of my classroom management tips is prepping learning tools for the day. A lot has been crammed into the school day as of late, so saving time by prepping math manipulatives, science tools, and writing utensils is essential in maximizing instruction time. It also helps with keeping students engaged instead of losing them in the process of acquiring the tools needed for the next activity or assignment. This, accompanied with consistent class routines (and timers), makes classroom life much easier! – Donisha A. 

Allow students to participate in the the “development” of classroom expectations. This gives them ownership in what happens in the classroom. Hold them to the standards they have set. – LaWanda B. 

Use a timer for visual and audio cues  

During independent work time, students work in stations engaging in hands-on learning using a variety of skills. To keep everyone on track, I usually display a timer from YouTube. This keeps everyone rotating throughout the stations every 15 minutes. When students notice the timer is about to go off, they begin to pack up. As the school year progresses, I don’t have to say anything to the students, they know what to do. – Sharisha G. 

Routines make my day go smoothly! A timer always comes in handy to stay on task and keep moving along! – Jose A. 

Take time to teach procedures the first week or two and then be consistent with them. Timers really help too! As the teacher, I can fully engage with students and not be watching the time, the timer keeps us all on routine and on time. – Linda S. 

A timer is essential in my PreK classroom. We are play-based, incorporating playful centers in the mornings and child-directed learning during the afternoons. – Sharon J. 

Always having a timer on the board so students can plan and prepare for what comes next and how much time they have! – Brittany G. 

Be consistent and follow routines  

Consistency is a must. Most students do better with a tried-and-true method of learning that includes a routine for the day. They also do well with chunks of time that aren’t so drawn out and lengthy. They are children and need to move about even while learning. – Arlakay S. 

Be consistent! With my second graders we have consistent, predictable routines that are always the same. Kids like to know what to expect and what is expected of them. – Niki J. 

I teach middle school. You must be consistent in enforcing your rules. You also need to keep students engaged by using lots of activities that they can fully participate in. – Donna Z. 

Consistency is vital, but also engagement. If students are engaged, behavior issues are less of a problem. Be creative and make learning fun! – LaDonna C. 

I teach kindergarten — super routine-based so everyone knows what comes next. Focus on expectations and routines in the beginning to go faster as the year progresses! – Brianna B. 

Explicitly teach procedures and routines. First, make an anchor chart, next let students be demos of desired behavior, model how not to do the behavior (they always get a chuckle), and allow time for all to practice. Reinforce the desired behavior. Repeat if necessary. – Heather I. 

I teach preschool. Routine is king! The students know what is going to happen and what they are to be doing. Procedures on how to line up, finding your snack, cleaning up, and moving from room to room make the children feel confident and safe. – Donna S. 

Set expectations  

Set expectations for everything you do in your classroom and model with the students what they look like and sound like! – @juliegonzalez70 

Having solid classroom procedures, routines, and explicit expectations is the key to a successful classroom environment. – @gloria.capetillo 

I’m an EC Gen Ed teacher (mostly pulling students to work on specific IEP goals). The best classroom management tip I have is setting up procedures and expectations in the first week of school. When kiddos know what to expect and what is expected of them, they can thrive. Also, positive behavior callouts reinforce desired behaviors. – Geraldine M. 

Going over expectations continually is a must. I also have an assignment or activity for them to do when they enter the classroom. – Nancy S. 

I have found that being clear with expectations from the beginning and having lots of expectation visuals helps mitigate behaviors before they start. – Stephanie F. 

My management strategy is to teach and reteach expectations many, many times! – Abby J. 

Providing structure, routines, and explicit expectations is the key to helping students succeed academically and socially. – Gloria C. 

I teach high schoolers, and I am a strong believer in consistency and respect. I am a CTE teacher and I have several foods classes. I often remind students that our classroom is our home and their lab partners are family. Without everyone pitching in they will struggle with being successful. This also includes them understanding the why behind the rules. It’s not just because it’s a school or classroom rule. There is a valid reason behind each of my expectations and we discuss that when setting expectations at the beginning of the semester. – Jaime F. 

Start teaching routines and expectations on day 1. Be consistent and kind! My students help me make classroom rules as part of Responsive Classroom. They are active participants in all we do! – Julie B. 

More great classroom management ideas 

As a FCS teacher, cooking with my students in a 38-minute period can be a challenge. My best classroom management tip for cooking lab days is to give students time warnings while they’re busy in the kitchen. “15 minutes left, you should be finishing up cooking.” “5 minutes left, please finishing cleaning up your kitchen.” Students get caught up in the cooking fun, so keeping them aware of the time helps them learn how to manage their time while cooking. As we practice cooking more, they eventually learn to regulate themselves. – Jenna P. 

Bring music into everything! Make it fun! – Carrie J. 

Teach basic ASL to communicate visually and master intention and awareness in the learning space. – @infinityreflected 

I have several classroom management tips: Establish relationships with students, positive learning environment, set expectations, organize my lessons, focus on students’ strengths, and behavior-specific praise. – Lorena C. 

Don’t take it to heart if a parent doesn’t like you. You got those other parents are thankful for all you do and that’s what counts. – April H. 

I put an outline/agenda for the class period on my screen (using Google Presentations or so students know what all to expect and what all needs to get done during class. This helps them focus and stay on task. – Amanda S. 

High school: A daily warm-up journal prompt at start of class to introduce, reinforce, reflect, or simply to ask a burning question. – Julie T. 

Best classroom management tip is to let the class know that a dissection (or 2 or 3) or a field trip is coming up soon. Only those students who behave (with zero phone calls or emails to parents) will get to participate in the lab or go. This is also stated in my lab safety agreement and syllabus. My classroom behavior is mostly respectful and on-task because who doesn’t want a dissection or a field trip? Works every year. Note: I still let the misbehaved kids participate in the end — I just don’t tell them that. – Chris C. 

What’s your best classroom management strategy? Tell us in the comments below! 

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