Building a Classroom Community (management)

classroom management discipline teaching Jan 02, 2023

I recently had my long observation and; afterwards, my principal asked me what I did to build the classroom community he saw. I took a couple of days to think about it and wrote a really long paper: too long for anyone to read! I realized that what I had written was really two separate articles. One was on how I get my students engaged and the other was about classroom management. I feel that to foster an inclusive environment involves two pieces: the students feel respected (read about it here) and the classroom management is consistent.

Do I have discipline issues in my class? Absolutely! And, I had more than normal on the day I was observed! If a student, or the class, is acting out, here are the steps I follow.

  1. Don’t let the students take control of the class. I have lots of ways to get the class's attention depending on what is going on. If it’s mildly loud, I will say, “Bate Bate” and the class repeats “chocolate”. I do that three times and on the third time I say, “Agua dice” and the class responds, “Shhhhhhh,” I love this so much I can’t even tell you.

  2. If it’s medium loud; loud enough that I would have to raise my voice to get their attention, I will clap my hands in a rhythm that they need to repeat back to me. I do that 3x and by the third time, everyone is quiet and paying attention. (Any rhythm – doesn’t matter.)

  3. If it’s crazy loud, I will hold up my hands in the signal for quiet. I copied it from the Kindergarten class at my school! It’s called the Quiet Coyote sign. Place your two middle fingers against your thumb with your pinkie and ring finger up in the air. All I need to do is hold up that sign and pretty soon the entire class is mimicking me and it’s completely quiet.

But what if it’s just one or two students that are causing a distraction?

  1. Be still and quiet and look at the student. Don’t move, don’t speak. Just be still and stare. This can be difficult to do. It feels awkward to just stare at someone but, trust me, it works 99% of the time. When they finally notice that I’ve paused the class I will often ask them if they are ok or if they need to go to guidance. A gentle reminder that unless they are having an issue big enough they need to talk to the counselor, they should be paying attention to the lesson.

  2. If the above doesn’t work, I get out the big guns and write their name on the board. I have never had that fail me. I don’t say anything to the student(s) who are speaking, I just go over and, without pausing my teaching, write their name on the board. If they can self-correct in an appropriate amount of time, I will erase their name. Nothing is ever said between us. If they continue to disrupt the class, I’ll put a check next to their name. The consequence? If I don’t erase their name, they have to stay after class for 30 seconds. A check means they have to stay after for 60 seconds, and another check means they get sent to the office along with receiving a lunch detention.

  3. I will also sometimes take a challenging student out into the hall and have a chat with them. I always start out by saying, "I'm not mad at you. I want to speak to you adult-to-adult and figure out why you are struggling to stay focused in class."

And, don't forget to thank your students! A mistake many teachers make is when they yell at the entire class. I know because I've done it myself. It's easy to let the frustration build and then yell at 'everyone.' When you feel yourself becoming frustrated, stop, breathe, and then start thanking the students who aren't causing you problems. "Jayden, thank you for quietly listening." "Sam, thank you for doing what I asked." Pretty soon, you will realize that the class was really being disrupted by only 1 or 2 students, not 'everyone'. This will help you to focus on the challenging students while helping the others feel validated and appreciated.

And, this may sound odd, but the website Class Dojo also helps with my classroom culture and management. I was accused once of having favorites. I denied it but they told me that my face isn’t quiet about who I like and dislike. LOL I was told, by my students, that I only ever called on people that I liked. It wasn’t intentional! After learning this about myself, I researched ways to randomly call on students and found It’s a great website that will randomly show a students name and now I don’t have to worry about whether I’m playing favorites!

Sometimes, just to be different, I will ask the class, who don’t I ever call on? Who is just feeling sadness in their heart because I never call their name? It’s always good for a few laughs and sometimes I will get quiet students that raise their hand and ask me to call on them more often! lol

If I look at what I do, everything is aimed at respecting the student and treating them as an adult. I respect their feelings, the choices they make regarding school, and the demands on their time after school, but I still hold them accountable. Can’t stay quiet in class? Desperately need to talk to your friend? I respect that you chose to make that decision but it comes with consequences. Basically, I think that’s why my classroom culture is, 90% of the time, perfect. The students know I see them as adults, with adult choices.


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