Middle School Classroom Management Tips for Educators
In the fall of 1996, I began teaching at a large urban district in Texas. Like many first-year teachers, I had thoughts of changing the world. But, in my first year, I was not effective in creating classroom procedures, and I thought that my students would not learn if I was not always nice to them. I also suffered from trying to be the “cool” teacher, which certainly did not serve me or my students well. Because of this, I had zero control over my classroom, and I have too many cringeworthy moments to share.
By my second year, I was determined not to make the same mistakes with my classes, so I overcompensated for my leniency the previous year and behaved somewhat like a tyrant. I used these procedures to have near-perfect control over my classroom, but I was so strict that it was difficult for students to relate to me. During the following years (and for the next 12), with experience, I got better at classroom management. Here are some classroom management ideas I’d give to any educator looking to take control of the middle school classroom:
To combat the chaos that can ensue from student transitions into the classroom from busy hallways and playgrounds, I began greeting each student at the door. As students arrived, I welcomed them and made eye contact when saying their names. Spending a few moments welcoming students promoted a sense of belonging and helped me address and fix misbehavior by creating a classroom environment that discourages misbehavior in the first place. Even educational research agrees. In a study of 203 students in 10 classrooms, research concluded that greeting your students at the door helps set a positive tone for the rest of the day and can directly improve academic engagement. Need more convincing? Check out this blog post for eight more reasons you should welcome your students to class.
Question of the Day
After greetings, students found their seats in my seating chart, which I changed quarterly. We began each day in the classroom the same, no matter what. On the board each morning, I had a question of the day, which was usually something fun like: “If a movie were made about your life, who would play you?” The students would discuss the question of the day while they were coming into class (before the bell). This gave me a chance to check roll and do other housekeeping tasks I needed to complete during the first few minutes of class. The students held me accountable to putting questions up for them to discuss. On the rare occasion I forgot, I would never hear the end of it, and you do not want middle school students asking their own questions to the entire class due to their level of humor!
Once the bell rang, I would randomly select three students to share their answers to my question of the day as students began their warmup or bell-ringer work. I always added a space on the bell-ringer work to answer the question of the day. On occasion, I’d add a question on a unit exam like: “Who answered that his or her favorite fruit is a kumquat this semester?” This activity did not cause me to lose any precious class time, but it did help students focus at the beginning of class, develop a sense of community in the class, and support a daily routine.
Students tend to do well within a class routine. The majority of my teaching career was in 90-minute block classes. After the question of the day, in the next portion of the first 10 minutes of every day, the students began with warmup activities. As the years passed, that work shifted from slips of paper to a Google form, but it focused all of us for the next 90 minutes. The routine helped with classroom management by filling a stimulation gap. In other words, if the teacher does not have a plan, the students make their own plan.
Routines can help minimize the risk of student planning by constantly creating engaging activities for students to complete. In my experience, if students know what is expected at certain times of the class, they (more often than not) follow through on the task versus inventing their less-constructive activities. An example routine for my 90-minute math class period was:
- Question of the day (5 minutes)
- Warmups via Google Classroom (10 minutes)
- Homework check and review shoulder partner (15 minutes)
- Instruction: “I do, we do, you do” math instruction (20 minutes)
- Collaborative group: Break out practice on new objectives (15 minutes)
- Instruction: “I do, we do, you do” more advanced problems (15 minutes)
- Independent practice on homework assignment (10 minutes)
At the end of the day, you must assume your role as teacher and let your students assume the role of the learner. Without classroom management, teachers lose valuable teaching time because they are focused on behavior. All of the activities I planned for effective classroom management focused around students working more productively in a safe atmosphere of mutual respect. This allowed students to get the most out of their time spent in school and directly impacted my sanity.
Looking for classroom management strategies to implement into your classroom? Check out this post on how to motivate your students using neuromarketing-based strategies.