Chelonnda Seroyer, a high school English teacher in Atlanta, says, “My students enjoy having a predictable classroom. They feel safe because they know what to expect each day. They like consistency in a world that can be very inconsistent.”

The most important principle you should establish at the start of school is consistency.

Students do not welcome surprises or embrace disorganization, especially those who come from a disorganized home life. Each day, 1.5 million children come to school from a homeless situation; 8,000 children are reported to public agencies as having been abused or neglected; and some quarter-million students refuse to come to school for fear of being bullied. What these students do not want is a school and a classroom that have no procedures and follow no instructional plan, where neither the teacher nor the students know from moment to moment what is going to happen next.

A Teacher’s First Priority

When class begins, getting students to work should take precedence.

To do this, post a daily agenda that’s visible to everyone. An agenda includes the day’s schedule, an opening assignment, and a lesson objective that allows students to be clear about what they are to learn and when they are to learn it. As Renee Tomita, a kindergarten teacher in Oak Brook, Illinois, says, “My greatest responsibility is to empower the students to become as independent as possible. Once they are able to perform the ‘getting started’ procedure on their own, that allows me to work individually with the ones who might need extra help with lessons from the previous day.”

Students become responsible for starting the class or period when an agenda is posted. This enables kids to be self-starters who are on task from the moment they enter the classroom. You’ll hear a lot fewer students asking, “What are we doing today?”

Students thrive in organized environments with routines and consistency. Posting the daily agenda allows both you and your students to refer to it throughout the day. This keeps things on task for everyone.

A well-managed classroom is perhaps even more important to students than to teachers because it gives them a sense of security. In a consistent classroom, students know from day to day how the classroom is structured and organized. If they break a pencil point, they know what to do. If they are tardy, need help from you, or need to move from one activity to another, they know what to do.

A student attending a school in an at-risk community said, “I like coming to this school, because everyone knows what to do. As a result, no one is yelling and screaming at us, and we can get on with learning.”

What Is Classroom Management?

Classroom management refers to all of the things that a teacher does to organize students, space, time, and materials so learning can take place in a consistent environment.

For instance, J. Robert Hendricks Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, has a consistent procedure for storing lunches. The students put their lunch boxes in a class basket when they come to school. Just before lunchtime, two students take the basket to a designated location in the hallway. When the bell rings, there is no mad scramble in class to find and fight for “my lunch.” Students go to the class basket and take out their lunches. A teacher is present during the entire procedure, which takes but a few minutes. At the end of lunchtime, lunch boxes are returned to the class basket; the class monitors return the basket to the classroom; and class immediately resumes for learning — in a culture of consistency.

Successful Classrooms

A well-constructed management plan for the classroom creates structure, promotes consistency, and provides security for students. In classrooms with effective management plans, students are comfortable, relaxed, focused, eager to learn, and excited about achieving success.

The students are responsible, because they know and can easily follow the structure and organization of the class. Thus, they are engaged and focused on learning. They do their work and produce visible results — all because the teacher started the school year with a well-prepared classroom management plan.


Question for our columnists?

Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong are coauthors of the best-selling book The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher and the recently published The Classroom Management Book.


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Photo: Courtesy of Harry and Rosemary Wong