Ouch! Common classroom management mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Ouch! Common classroom management mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Classroom management is crucial to good teaching.

In fact, it is such an important part of what makes a lesson successful, that poor behaviour management can turn a great lesson into an average one.

And that got us thinking – are there any common mistakes that teachers and teaching assistants make that should be avoided at all costs?

To get an answer, we asked four behaviour management experts from around the world the following question:

What is the most common mistake you see teachers making when it comes to whole class management? (And how would you avoid it?)

Are you guilty of any of the following?

Behaviour advisorDr. Mac (behavioradvisor.com)

To the eye of the experienced consultant, two blunders are especially common:

1) The rules and consequences charts are prominent on the front wall, but now partially covered by subject matter posters. When addressing inappropriate behaviour, the teacher never refers to the charts while s/he ad libs warnings and threatens all sorts of punitive outcomes. If only those rules had remained the standard, and the teacher’s focus placed upon recognising those pupils who displayed appropriate actions, the classroom climate would be much different. (http://www.behavioradvisor.com/4Components.html)

2) The phrasing of directions, praise, criticism and other commentary is stated in ineffective, or even counter-productive wording. Unaware of recent research, teachers tell kids that they are “smart” and “good”, and criticize youngsters with “you are…” messages. They tell kids what NOT to do versus what TO DO. (http://www.behavioradvisor.com/715TipsInsert.html & http://behavioradvisor.com/Praise.html & http://behavioradvisor.com/Criticism.html)

There are a grand number of helpful websites offering free tips for master teaching. Youtube is filled with how-to-do-it videos on classroom behaviour management. Immerse yourself!

Tom McIntyre, a former teacher of students with behaviour disorders and learning disabilities, is now a Professor of Special Education and Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Behavior Disorders at Hunter College of the City University of New York. An entertaining presenter, and author of 3 books and over 100 articles, he promotes practical, positive, and respectful management of defiant and aggressive behaviour.

Bob Brandis (reliefteaching.com)

The most common mistake teachers make with behaviour management is to plan for misbehaviour instead of learning. Students relate best to teachers who are authentic. These are the teachers who plan for learning and value add to students’ days. Authentic teachers plan their days around students’ learning needs with little thought to misbehaviour in the classroom.

Students respond to authenticity because they see the value that participation has for them. It is in their best interest to participate.

It is a common mistake to plan activities that keep students quiet and passive. Such is the proliferation of the handout and the worksheet. The “DO THIS and SIT QUIETLY” activity.

Students will disengage from this style of activity and the teacher is forced on the defensive for the duration of the lesson. The teacher will be forced to respond to misbehaviour until the student believes there is an authentic reason to participate.

Seriously! How long would you engage in an activity that you feel is not going to value-add to your day?

Bob Brandis’s website (reliefteaching.com) is about effective classroom practices – particularly for those relief teaching and in the role of providing support for students while their regular teachers are on other duties.

Pivotal educationOllie Frith (Head of Training at Pivotal Education)

The feeling of ‘in control’ is an odd one, and distorts a teacher’s idea of how to interact with a whole class. The desire to assert one’s status as a means to establish classroom management will just foster resentment or at times mockery. ‘They wouldn’t behave badly for me, they wouldn’t dare’ attitudes are completely counter productive.

There is no need to constantly remind your class of your position of authority, your learners will appreciate it more when you talk to them on the level and don’t hide behind redundant power struggles in order to feel authoritative. You are not there to control them, your role as teacher is to create a positive environment to empower your learners to manage their own behaviour effectively.

Creating a collaborative culture where your learners don’t feel the need to battle with you will encourage their respect and desire to work alongside you.

Pivotal Education Ltd is a multi award winning Education Consultancy working in the UK and Internationally. Founded in 2001 Pivotal Education has always been committed to providing exceptional training for teachers and across institutions. Its aim is to practice what we preach, to train teachers as skilfully as the best teachers teach students.

Dr BrooksDr. Douglas Brooks

The most common mistake that classroom teachers make in the management of whole classes is that they do not have an organised and systematic first day of school. Effective teachers use the first day of school to meet the emerging student needs in the order in which they emerge. Needs emerge in the following order regardless of grade level. What changes is the emphasis placed on each one depending on grade level.

1. Am I welcome here?
2. Am I in the right room?
3. What is this first day going to be about?
4. Where should I sit?
5. Are you interested in my as a person?
6. What are the rules in this classroom?
7. What are we going to learn. How are we going to learn it? and How am I going to be assessed?
8. Are you interested in me as a learner?
9. Who are you as a teacher and individual?
10. What should be done to be ready for tomorrow?

The longer students are in school, the more they expect the teacher to meet these needs on the first day. The longer students are in school, the more experience they have with effective teachers. So, at some point the students know what effective teaching looks like, they just want to see if the teacher knows. This starts with the organisation of the first day of school.

1. Greet the students at the door.
2. Take the role/register.
3. Provide a visual organiser for the first day and explain it.
4. Establish a seating arrangement that transfers to the next day.
5. Collect information about the student (3×5 cards work)
6 Review at least six essential rules for any classroom.
7. Discuss the content, methods and assessment strategies that will be used in the class.
8. Assess preferred learning styles (online formats or paper and pencil).
9. Describe some of your experiences in school (interests, hobbies, favourites).
10. Close the session by sharing what the next day will look like.

Dr. Douglas Brooks is a full professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Dr. Brooks’ is recognised as the first educational researcher to record and compare expert and novice clasrsoom teacher behaviour on the first days of school. He currently teaches courses in classroom management and grant writing.

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