Managing your classroom to manage your stress

As a future educator, one of the things I am most anxious about is managing a classroom. I don’t want to be too strict, to the point where students dread coming to my class, but I also don’t want to be the teacher that students can walk all over to get what they want. What strategies will mold me into a teacher that is somewhere happily in between?

  1. Engage students. The more students don’t want to do work, the more they will resist following instructions. If you just lecture students for 45 minutes everyday, you are going to have management issues because students won’t be listening. Similarly, students can only handle sitting still for so long. Get them up and doing hands on activities as much as possible to avoid students ignoring instructions or acting out.
    1. Many teachers worry about labs and activities being too loud and hectic to do in the classroom, but controlled noise shouldn’t be something to avoid. After all, if students are discussing and exploring concepts together, you can be pretty confident that they are learning.
    2. The more time students spend actively participating in the classroom, the less time they will have to goof off and press your buttons.
  2. Start each day with an activity. Taking attendance is a necessary responsibility, but students may take the opportunity to get off task and entertain themselves. By providing students with a short warm up activity posted on the board as soon as they walk in, you get a chance to take attendance while giving them a chance to warm up their brain and get their thinking caps on.
    1. A quick See. Think. Wonder. activity could be used to quietly open up the class. Students can write and turn in responses, or post on a classroom web app.
    2. Brain busters are a fun way to get students to think and discuss in a controlled environment. A riddle or puzzle is posed to the class, and together they can ask questions in order to solve it. You will have to give some of your attention to answering students’ yes-no questions so that they can work through the answer. Amazon has some really cool books with brain teasers.
    3. Consistently posting a quick warm up activity for students will get them into a routine, making the start of your class more smooth for you.
  3. Provide written and verbal instructions before activities/labs. Some students are more receptive when they hear something, other students need to see written instructions, and other students may need both to successfully complete a task.
    1. Hand out a worksheet with student directions, and read a summary of it to the class. You don’t want to drone on- some students are already eagerly squirming when they find out they are doing a lab today- but you also want to make sure you and your students are on the same page.
    2. Once students start working on a lab, they will develop questions, but if you can answer these common questions before dismissing them to start, you can avoid having to repeat the same information a dozen times (hopefully).
    3. In addition to seeing written steps and hearing a procedure, some students may require you to model some steps. If your students are not familiar with a certain technique, take some time to explain it by showing them how to do it, or by doing it together as a class.
  4. Set up experiments early. You can’t expect yourself to get out all the supplies and materials for a lab, and manage a classroom at the same time. You should set up labs/stations ahead of time.
    1. Old lunch trays are a great way to organize materials for groups to use, so that students are not running around the room looking for things during the experiment, either.
    2. Assign student roles during activities. Each group should have a materials manager- this role is integral for your sanity during labs, and it is clear who is responsible for finding missing supplies and cleaning up the materials after the class period.
    3. Store materials and instructions for a labs in separate, labeled plastic bins. Future you will thank you when they aren’t scrambling, thinking “Hmmm…. where did I store that thing I haven’t used in an entire year?”
  5. Don’t sit down. Get those steps in! You don’t need eyes in the back of your head when you are able to navigate around the room, in between groups of desks, in the front, back, and far corners of the room,
    1. During mini-lectures, you should use a laser pointer and clicker so that you are not glued to your computer. Walk around the room, keeping your eyes on students.
    2. During tests, don’t just sit at your desk. Students may have questions, and you should be able to walk to them as soon as they raise their hand. Most teachers will face the issue of cheating, as well. This makes it a lot more difficult for cheaters to do their thing
    3. Phones and social media are very tempting, and students are probably thinking about what is going on with their devices. When you notice their eyes drifting to this temptation, you can kindly remind them to get back on task.
  6. Tone of voice and proximity. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they yell all the time. To be honest, when some people yell, it’s more funny than it is scary. Scaring students won’t even work, anyway. You want them to respect you, not fear you.
    1. When correcting a student, avoid calling them out in from of the whole class. Instead, walk up to them and talk to them quietly to encourage them to get back on task.
    2. Placing yourself near a student who is distracting others can sometimes be enough to stop their distracting behavior.



  1. Meghan,

    I really liked your point about using strong openers. If you can hit the ground running and floor your students from the first second, that energy will stay with them throughout the entire lesson. They say the best classroom management strategy is a good lesson plan, and by utilizing your force of personality and keeping the energy in the classroom up, you can ensure that your students give you minimal problems. Great blog!

  2. Meghan,
    I really liked the tips and tricks you provided. I believe they will prove very helpful when starting out as a teacher and maintaining a healthy classroom environment. One thing that I thought was very important was to walk around. Often times, I feel this is overlooked as an effective classroom management strategy. Moving around the room helps to keep students on task and can help eliminate other outside distractions that could arise without the teacher’s presence.

  3. Meghan,
    Great blog post! I really enjoyed all of your ideas about managing a classroom. I think your idea of starting the class off with an activity is great! I think it is a good way to warm up the students’ brain and get them on task right away. And of course, I love brain busters! They are a fun way to get the students engaged and working together. I know you used some of the ideas that our placement teacher used in her classroom which is wonderful. She likes to use old lunch trays to keep an activity together and keep her labs in a plastic bin so that things are organized and easy to find! I know it is important to engage all of the students. So how would you help quiet students speak out more in the classroom or help them get their ideas across?

    • Katin-
      I really like using written discussions to get the quiet students who aren’t comfortable speaking in front of others a chance to convey their thoughts. I also believe assigning and alternating roles in teams is a good way to have students contribute in different ways. It gives quiet students a chance to speak for their group, while asking those who are more vocal to take a step back and utilize other skills to contribute to the group.

  4. Meghan,

    I love all of your ideas. I think most of us share a lot of similar ideas, not only because we’ve talked about some of them in management, but more because we’ve seen our own teachers in the past do it! Keeping students working on something and thinking will keep the classroom incredibly well managed. The instant they have any down time, you know they will take full advantage. I love the tone of voice and proximity idea! Making the student that is disruptive know it, but avoiding embarrassment is important! Excellent job!

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