Classroom Management Principles and Guidelines

As an educator, you must practice strong classroom management skills. Routine and clear communication, active classroom monitoring, and engaging instruction are four keys to a successfully managed classroom. Think of the classroom as a mini-business. Everyone in the business operates efficiently when instructions are clear, the chain of command is well drawn, and feedback is positive.

Structure and organization will keep the students knowing what is coming next and how to respond to the assignments placed before them. This can be tough as each child learns at their own pace and has unique habits and behavioral patterns. This means addressing classroom learning diversity as well as quickly and consistently addressing problems that may arise.

The best way to manage problems is proactively preventing them from happening in the first place. This could take a few weeks of getting to know your students and getting both teacher and classroom acclimated to each other, the procedures, and what is expected.


Kids crave routine both at home and at school, because routine gives them a sense of security and control. Coming to the same desk or seat each day, clearly establishing daily schedules, maintaining consistent consequences, and having everything in its place or station will go a long way in keeping order and an organized classroom. An organized classroom will also help students learn self-management skills.

  • The days of row and column seating have been replaced with u-shaped, arced, or table row seating. No longer do teachers simply stand in front of the class and tell the students what they need to know. The teacher stands and walks among the desks or tables, which are arranged so that the students remain engaged.
  • Post daily schedules. If something on the schedule changes, discuss so that all the students understand the change.
  • Make sure that the schedules stay in the same place and try to tend to the schedules at the same time each day, if possible.
  • Keep to a routine. If changes should occur, teach the students about flexibility.
  • Teach students to keep their cubbies, backpacks, and desks organized.
  • Let students know that they are responsible for their own pencils, handing in homework, and returning library books.
  • Keep students focused on the current task by helping them organize their thoughts and attention to detail by providing clear, step-by-step instructions.
  • Develop consistent activities that transition students from hands-on learning to quieter desk activities that do not involve hands-on activities.
  • An organized classroom makes it easier to "go with the flow" as well as maintain routine.
  • Reward good organization with a periodic free day that puts their learning to good use without them knowing. For instance, giving them the choice of a movie to watch or game to play that builds on previous learning.


Creating an environment conducive to learning is what communication is all about. Teachers must send information that will be received positively by students of all levels and learning styles.

  • All the organizing in the world will not affect a well-managed classroom without clear and credible student communication that extends to the parents. Sending the message and receiving the message are the two basic skills of communication.
  • Send out the message that you want to send out immediately. 
  • Talk to, not at, your students. Show them the same respect you expect as a teacher.
  • Be a role model. Speak using polite phrasing.
  • Don't speak in the third person. Using the word "I" creates accountability in the eyes of the student - it is more personal.
  • When speaking, speak concisely. Make declarative statements and state facts.
  • Send positive messages and feedback to students. Acknowledge, but limit praise, so that praise means something when you administer it.
  • Be an active listener, not a passive listener. Be empathetic, not sympathetic. Maintain eye contact. Keep body language non-aggressive, and don't invade personal space.
  • Repeat or paraphrase back to the student so that your student understands you have been listening and that you understand what has been said.
  • Be a leader and give your students the opportunity to communicate their leadership skills.


Teachers observing the faces of their students will notice when a student is tired, uninterested, bored, engaged, or having a problem. By periodic monitoring of the classroom, even during quiet time, teachers can spot potential behaviors that need to be addressed in a timely fashion.

  • You can't see what is going on in the class if your face is turned away from them. Look up often, scan the room. Is there a problem? If so, deal with it immediately.
  • Demonstrate the behavior that you would like your students to emulate. Approach problems in your classroom calmly and positively, and the students will respond in kind.
  • Use positive reinforcement.
  • Classroom rules should be clearly posted so that all students can see them and be reminded of them when needed.
  • Be consistent with the consequences when a student breaks a classroom rule.
  • Make sure that the students clearly know that if they continue a bad behavior that a certain line of consequences will occur.
  • Make sure that the students know that they are responsible for their choice of behavior and the ensuing consequences.
  • Don't use palliative consequences for bad behavior, use educational ones that will curtail further bad behavior by teaching good behavior and what happens when good is chosen over bad behavior.
  • Don't single out a student or a group of students for misbehaving in class in front of the rest of the class.
  • Keep those not misbehaving working, focused on the task at hand, then talk to the misbehaving students by getting down to their eye level and looking them in the eyes to keep them focused. Assess the situation and then remind the students about the consequences of continued misbehavior.

Delivery of Instruction

Icebreakers, games, parent involvement, and recognizing diversity in learning styles, all help deliver instruction that engages students. Instruction should be mostly active, not passive, with certain periods of downtime.

  • Keep kids absorbed in age-appropriate instruction that doesn't speak above their heads.
  • Begin the year with icebreakers to engage the students and bring them into your mode of instruction.
  • Students love to give feedback. Let them evaluate the class, themselves, and your instruction periodically.
  • Outlines, study guides, and weekly letters help students and parents understand what is expected of them, helps them to better organize and prioritize what they are receiving as instructional material.
  • Give students plenty of time to answer questions unless the delivery method is otherwise.
  • Every student learns differently. Some learn by doing, some learn better by reading, and some need extra help. Address this diversity by using teaching aids as needed.
  • Most special education students have been mainstreamed into the general classroom, which means teachers must adjust their instruction delivery to address those special needs at the same time they are addressing the general classroom population. Those with mixed expressive/receptive learning disorders, for instance, may hear the class instructions, but the instructions get mixed up in their brain. Students with MERLD learning disorder need concise wording and often a show, don't tell, approach to instructional delivery.
  • Children learn best when they can relate learning to something that they already know. Kids want to know how what they are learning applies to their lives.
  • Move! Kids crave activity, laughter, and animation. They are more likely to participate in learning activities that engage them physically.
  • Most classrooms engage students in group or team work. Students love competition and reward.

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