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Classroom Management Fundamentals

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Dr. Bob Kizlik

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Updated Janaury 25, 2018

The evidence is irrefutable. Surveys of graduates of education schools and colleges indicate that the #1 area of concern of new teachers is their feelings of inadequacy in managing classrooms. Despite clinical experiences, practicums, student teaching, and other observations in classroom settings, this problem has persisted for decades. There is no magic elixir that will confer skill in this area of professional responsibility. We only wish there were.

Classroom management and management of student conduct are skills that teachers acquire and hone over time. These skills almost never "jell" until after a minimum of few years of teaching experience. To be sure, effective teaching requires considerable skill in managing the myriad of tasks and situations that occur in the classroom each day. Skills such as effective classroom management are central to teaching and require "common sense," consistency, an often undervalued teacher behavior, a sense of fairness, and courage. These skills also require that teachers understand in more than one way the psychological and developmental levels of their students. The skills associated with effective classroom management are only acquired with practice, feedback, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. Sadly, this is often easier said than done. Certainly, a part of this problem is that there is no practical way for education students to "practice" their nascent skills outside of actually going into a classroom setting. The learning curve is steep, indeed.

As previously mentioned, personal experience and research indicate that many beginning teachers have difficulty effectively managing their classrooms. While there is no one best solution for every problem or classroom setting, the following principles, drawn from a number of sources, might help. Classroom teachers with many years of experience have contributed to an understanding of what works and what doesn't work in managing classrooms and the behavior of students. The following information represents some of the things that good classroom teachers do to maintain an atmosphere that enhances learning. It is written in straightforward, non-preachy language, and will not drive you to distraction with its length. I think most students appreciate that. With that in mind, I truly hope this information is useful to you. Should you decide to purchase my Catalyst: Tools for Effective Teaching 2.0   program, you will be treated to a great deal of additional classroom management resource material that you can put to use right away or down the road when you start teaching.

Please send any comments, suggestions, or questions to Dr. Robert Kizlik

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An Effective Classroom Management Context
(these four things are fundamental)

1. Know what you want and what you don't want.
2. Show and tell your students what you want.
3. When you get what you want, acknowledge (not praise) it.
4. When you get something else, act quickly and appropriately.

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While good classroom arrangement is not a guarantee of good behavior, poor planning in this area can create conditions that lead to problems.


The teacher must be able to observe all students at all times and to monitor work and behavior. The teacher should also be able to see the door from his or her desk.

Frequently used areas of the room and traffic lanes should be unobstructed and easily accessible.

Students should be able to see the teacher and presentation area without undue turning or movement.

Commonly used classroom materials, e.g., books, attendance pads, absence permits, and student reference materials should be readily available.

Some degree of decoration will help add to the attractiveness of the room.


*Teachers should identify expectations for student behavior and communicate those expectations to students periodically.

* Rules and procedures are the most common explicit expectations. A small number of general rules that emphasize appropriate behavior may be helpful. Rules should be posted in the classroom. Compliance with the rules should be monitored constantly.

* Do not develop classroom rules you are unwilling to enforce.

* School-Wide Regulations...particularly safety procedures...should be explained carefully.

* Because desirable student behavior may vary depending on the activity, explicit expectations for the following procedures are helpful in creating a smoothly functioning classroom:

- Beginning and ending the period, including attendance procedures and what students may or may not do during these times.
- Use of materials and equipment such as the pencil sharpener, storage areas, supplies, and special equipment.
- Teacher-Led Instruction
- Seatwork
- How students are to answer questions - for example, no student answer will be recognized unless he raises his hand and is called upon to answer by the teacher.
- Independent group work such as laboratory activities or smaller group projects.

Remember, good discipline is much more likely to occur if the classroom setting and activities are structured or arranged to enhance cooperative behavior.


* Effective teacher-led instruction is free of:

- Ambiguous and vague terms
- Unclear sequencing
- Interruptions

* Students must be held accountable for their work.

* The focus is on academic tasks and learning as the central purpose of student effort, rather than on good behavior for its own sake.


* Address instruction and assignments to challenge academic achievement while continuing to assure individual student success.

* Most inappropriate behavior in classrooms that is not seriously disruptive and can be managed by relatively simple procedures that prevent escalation.

* Effective classroom managers practice skills that minimize misbehavior.

* Monitor students carefully and frequently so that misbehavior is detected early before it involves many students or becomes a serious disruption.

* Act to stop inappropriate behavior so as not to interrupt the instructional activity or to call excessive attention to the student by practicing the following unobstructive strategies:

- Moving close to the offending student or students, making eye contact and giving a nonverbal signal to stop the offensive behavior.

- Calling a student's name or giving a short verbal instruction to stop behavior.

- Redirecting the student to appropriate behavior by stating what the student should be doing; citing the applicable procedure or rule.

Example: "Please, look at the overhead projector and read the first line with me, I need to see everyone's eyes looking here."

- More serious, disruptive behaviors such as fighting, continuous interruption of lessons, possession of drugs and stealing require direct action according to school board rule.

Assertive Discipline has been used by many schools, and is an effective way to manage behavior. Find out more by clicking here.


* In classrooms, the most prevalent positive consequences are intrinsic student satisfaction resulting from success, accomplishment, good grades, social approval and recognition.
* Students must be aware of the connection between tasks and grades.
* Frequent use of punishment is associated with poor classroom management and generally should be avoided.
* When used, negative consequences or punishment should be related logically to the misbehavior.
* Milder punishments are often as effective as more intense forms and do not arouse as much negative emotion.
* Misbehavior is less likely to recur if a student makes a commitment to avoid the action and to engage in more desirable alternative behaviors.
* Consistency in the application of consequences is the key factor in classroom management.


* They are not stupid and they can hear what is being said.. They just don't necessarily understand the language or culture, yet.
* They come from a variety of backgrounds, even in the same country. For example schooled, unschooled, Americanized, etc.
* It is easy to misunderstand body language and certain behaviors. For example, eye contact, spitting, chalk eating, etc.
* Don't assume they understand something just because it seems simple to you. Simplify, boil down.
* Even when they have lost their accent, they often misunderstand common words and phrases.
* Correct repeated patterns or mistakes.
* Good E.S.O.L. strategies are good teaching strategies.


(Applies primarily to praise associated with instruction and student performance) 

Effective Praise

Ineffective Praise

1. Is delivered contingently upon student
performance of desirable behaviors or
genuine accomplishment

1. Is delivered randomly and indiscriminately without specific attention to genuine accomplishment

2. Specifies the praiseworthy aspects of the student's accomplishments

2. Is general or global, not specifying the success.

3. Is expressed sincerely, showing spontaneity, variety and other non-verbal signs of credibility.

3. Is expressed blandly without feeling or animation, and relying on stock, perfunctory phrases.

4. Is given for genuine effort, progress, or accomplishment which are judged according to standards appropriate to individuals.

4. Is given based on comparisons with others and without regard to the effort expended or significance of the accomplishment of an individual.

5. Provides information to students about their competence or the value of their accomplishments.

5. Provides no meaningful information to the students about their accomplishments.

6. Helps students to better appreciate their thinking, problem-solving and performance.

6. Orients students toward comparing themselves with others.

7. Attributes student success to effort and ability, implying that similar successes can be expected in the future.

7. Attributes student success to ability alone or to external factors such as luck or easy task.

8. Encourages students to appreciate their accomplishments for the effort they expend and their personal gratification.

8. Encourages students to succeed for external reasons -- to please the teacher, win a competition or reward, etc.

For an explanation of how this information relates to lesson planning and implementation, be sure to visit the ADPRIMA Instruction System page by clicking here.

Here is a page devoted to classroom management mistakes often made by new teachers.

There are many other areas on the ADPRIMA site that might interest you, and you are invited to take a look, get what you want, and let us know what you think. Your opinion is important and valued.

Here are some excellent print resources for classroom management

The Laughing Classroom: Everyone's Guide to Teaching With Humor and Play

Reluctant Disciplinarian: Advice on Classroom Management From a Softy who Became (Eventually) a Successful Teacher

Tribes: A New Way of Learning and Being Together

Iti: The Model Integrated Thematic Instruction

Setting Limits in the Classroom: How to Move Beyond the Classroom Dance of Discipline

Classroom Discipline Problem Solver: Ready-To-Use Techniques & Materials for Managing All Kinds of Behavior Problems

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Robert Kizlik & Associates

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