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Three Must-Do Classroom Management Basics

classroom management

What do teachers usually worry about the most at the start of the school year, especially when they are not as experienced? 

If you guessed classroom management, that would be correct. Yes, there are plenty of other concerns to keep everyone busy, like getting classrooms set up or learning how to navigate new technology platforms. By and large, however, the anticipation and excitement that comes with preparing for students to arrive can be tempered with some anxiety, especially for teachers who are early in their careers. However, even for a newbie, achieving effective systems for managing even some of the most challenging classes is not only well worth doing, but completely within the realm of possibility with enough consideration and advance planning. In particular, focusing on three essential basics of classroom management increases the chances of getting a new school year off on the right foot. 


At one time or another, every teacher has struggled to get a noisy class to pay attention. Usually, it’s not even that students are being defiant or off-task; they are just involved in whatever they’re doing, and it can be hard to recapture focus. To begin, it helps to select one attention strategy that is effective and use it consistently for the first few weeks of school. It can be as simple as raising a hand and cueing students to do the same until the room is silent. Then, once a single method of gathering attention is established, teachers can increase their repertoires by drawing inspiration from colleagues. For example, during pre-service week, consider creating an “attention bank” for your teaching team. This can take the form of a shared online document, and everyone can use the space to write down their most effective strategies for getting students focused quickly. That way, when students have responded well and adapted to one method, teachers can try another strategy and see how that works to establish and maintain student attention.


Without taking the time to set up a structure that moves learning along smoothly with appropriate pacing and momentum, the classroom environment can slowly devolve to a less than ideal state. All of us like to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and where things will end up. When students are explicitly told the rationale behind their learning and are given clear ways to achieve goals, they are far more likely to engage in what is happening around them. Each day of instruction might bring its own ebbs and flows, but certain elements should almost always be in place: a clearly stated learning objective, a daily agenda, and consistent opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning informally. 

In addition, adding small elements of choice where possible can be a great way to increase shared responsibility, and it can be as simple as giving students the option of doing any of three listed agenda items first. Finally, ensuring that there is designated time for students to demonstrate language production in the four domains (speaking, writing, reading and listening) is one really effective way of checking for understanding by centering learning more around the kids in the room.


Often, the term “classroom management” is used synonymously with the word “discipline,” but they do not mean the same thing. The truth is, classroom management encompasses many areas, and discipline is just one of them. With some exceptions, behavior management doesn’t tend to exist in its own bubble. When kids act out, it frequently occurs because they are frustrated with what is happening around them. If classroom structures like the ones outlined in the section above are not clearly laid out, kids are more likely to get distracted. 

Furthermore, concerns that seem to be behavioral often lie truly within the instructional realm. For example, if knowing what it takes to be successful in a class is opaque, students will become upset at what appears to be a rigged game and disengage. For that reason, keeping learning targets transparent can help everyone feel a little more grounded. Beyond that, when students act out, the most important thing to remember is not to engage in any power struggles. Kids always have a choice to engage in class appropriately. It’s not something that can be forced, and maintaining a stance of wanting to help while not getting pulled into battles that cannot be won is a delicately balanced skill worth developing. 

While classroom management encompasses so much more than the three areas outlined above, it is less overwhelming to pick just a few places to start focusing efforts, especially toward the start of a new school year when so much is happening at once. By zooming in on the details around attention strategies, structural processes and disciplinary concerns, both newer and more experienced teachers can begin the year with a plan that works well at the outset, and that has potential to continue growing as both students and teachers acclimate to learning with one another.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam Plotinsky is an instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has taught and led for more than 20 years. She is the author of Teach More, Hover Less, Lead Like a Teacher and Writing Their Future Selves. She is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be reached at or via Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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