Cassie, from www.adventuresinbehavior.com, is a special education teacher in Texas and has worked for the past 5 years in an elementary behavior classroom for students with behavior disorders or autism. She has a Master’s degree in special education and a graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis. Cassie is a self-proclaimed behavior nerd and loves to talk about all things related to behavior, coffee, and Harry Potter.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of teachers being driven out of their classrooms and out of the education field because of student behavior! It seems like these stories are popping up across social media more and more these days and it can be so scary as a new teacher. While I don’t have a perfect solution or a one size fits all approach, I have found that a systematic and structured approach to classroom management can make sure that you avoid a classroom that looks like this…. Yikes right?!?!
Across the last 5 years of teaching in a special education behavior classroom, I’ve found that there are 3 super important pieces to a classroom management plan:
- Reinforcement System
When you think about your classroom rules or classroom norms, my best advice is to keep it short and simple. 3-5 rule statements is best practice. You also want to tell students what you WANT them to do, not give them ideas of how to get in trouble. For example, instead of saying “Don’t hit” we would say “Keep hands and feet to yourself”. The rules set the tone of the classroom and are your non-negotiable expectations for your students. Some things to consider though are to make sure that you are consistent in your follow through with consequences for not following the rules. Many sets of rules have things like “Raise your hand to speak” yet when I visit a classroom, teachers allow students to call out. Totally okay to accept that, just don’t have it as part of your classroom rules.
I know I might get some negative feedback here on this one, but hear me out first. We wouldn’t put forth nearly the same effort that we do as teachers if we weren’t paid for it. Heck, some of us wouldn’t show up at all! That’s our version of reinforcement for doing our job. Reinforcement simply means something that increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring again. If you don’t believe in tangible types of systems that is ok! You most likely have some sort of praise system where you point out students’ behaviors that you want to increase. The point is that you NEED to have some way of telling students when they are doing well and reinforcing that behavior. I love to use group contingencies where students are grouped in teams or as one cohesive classroom team. It increases positive peer interactions and decreases lots of the disruptive classroom behaviors. This is something I am using next year in my classroom and cannot wait to see the results!
Procedures are the day to day processes that occur on a regular basis. Think about all those things that drive you crazy! Restroom, pencil sharpening, getting help, what to do when they finish, etc. I really recommend brainstorming, then brainstorming some more, and coming back one more time to your list of procedures. Within the procedures, I strongly recommend that you consider how you plan to share your expectations for student behavior within your daily routines and changing activities. I have used a CHAMPS visual system since my first year of teaching and LOVE it! CHAMPS is part of my procedures for changing activities and I review each section with my students. I’ll share an example of how I display this.
C – Conversation level
H – How to get help
A – Activity we are doing
M – Movement level
P – How to show active participation
S – Special instructions (or some just have it say “Success!”)
It can be overwhelming to remember to plan for all of these pieces of the classroom management plan so I created a classroom management planner that you can download for FREE. I’ll link it below. It has a spot for you to record your thoughts or ideas for each of these three key classroom management areas. The best part? It’s an editable PDF so you can also use it in a sub binder or to submit to your administrators if they require a formal plan to be submitted.
You can click here to access it. You’ll need to download to your computer from google drive. I hope that the planner helps you to organize your thoughts when you are planning out your classroom management for next year!