Classroom Management: Managing with Class

Thanks for being part of this series on Classroom Management. I hope you are enjoying these people, learning new tips, and making new twitter friends!

Today's lucky contestant on who gets to write a guest post is Joel Wagner from So You Want To Teach?. Joel is a band teacher in southern Texas. I quote and link to his blog quite a bit and for good reason:

Behold, King of the Lists.

I always talk about how I love order, organization and lists. But no one could compare or even come to close to Joel's passion. This is just a glimpse into his list-loving-life:

That was one post. And who could miss his homepage?

Double lists.
So true to his style, he created a huge list on classroom management. [Where were all these people when I needed votes for my classroom management poll? lol] Oh sure, he tried to disguise it with a paragraph or six but you and me are too smart for that. So read, read some more, enjoy, and again make new Twitter friends!

When I started out teaching, I didn't know what I was doing. Oh sure I knew how an idea of how to teach kids music, but when I walked into my own classroom, things were way different than they were when I was teaching private lessons and student teaching.

I was all alone.

Perhaps you can relate.

My students and I suffered through more than a year and a half of me being a clueless punk kid fresh out of college who didn't know how to misbehave, and surely didn't know how to handle the punk kids who did! While the term classroom management may have come up somewhere in my teacher training, I was sure it didn't apply to me, and so I just glossed over it. Big mistake.

Perhaps you can relate.

So what did I do? It took a metaphorical slap in the face to really serve as my wakeup call. A trusted friend took me aside, told me that my class was out of control, and recommended to my principal that my contract not be renewed.

I was devastated.

I made it my personal mission from there on to try to figure out where I had lost control, and come up with some plan to get it back! Three years, I realized that other teachers might be in the same boat, so I started my own blog on Blogger. The blog started out small. In fact, I didn't even have a single comment until it had been up for nearly 5 months. That's just a background for where things are now.

Over the weekend, I asked my (almost 300) Twitter followers and my (almost 900) blog subscribers the following question:

What is your classroom management secret weapon?
I thought it would be interesting to find out what other people do. The responses began coming in via Twitter almost immediately. I also got a handful of blog comments and even an email from Germany! So here we have for your reading pleasure 27 Classroom Management Secret Weapons [Now normally, I would not allow a list of 27 items. I detest odd numbers. Luckily, 27 is divisible by 3 and 9 so I am being extra permissible. There's nothing worse than a prime odd number! Plus, one person posted twice, so really this is a list of 26]. The first 17 are Twitter accounts that you should be following (plus @sywtt and @misscalcul8, of course) :
  1. @k8nowak The Hairy Eyeball. [See Monday's post! Great stuff]

  2. @calvamom classroom secret weapon=silence and a great mom glare/evil eye. Kids always get quiet very quickly in fear of doom.

  3. @atlteacher On Clsroom Mgt: some kids are bullies and sometimes you just have to chump 'em out, make it very clear that disrespect is intolerable

  4. @jenbead capital punishment. Only choice is gallows or guilotine :-)

  5. @jenbead really is motivation equals participation leading to access and achievement.

  6. @abaaataylor popsicle sticks. i keep them at the front of the class, one per student. when they come out, it's time to quiz and encourage all

  7. @nataliewickham Classroom Management Secret Weapon: Trace behaviors to root character issues and praise or correct accordingly.

  8. @JasonFlom My Classroom Management Secret Weapon? Two: Humor and Engaging Variation (I want kids thinking, "What's he gonna do next?")

  9. @hrmason Class management secret weapon? Humor.

  10. @siobhancurious Confrontation. I used to just stop and wait or pretend stuff wasn't happening. Now I label. "Johnny, stop doing X. It's not cool."

  11. @anotherschwab I've found no secret to classroom mgmt. Clear rules and procedures, consistent and fair enforcement and mutual respect work so far.

  12. @atlteacher I posted my 2nd secret b/c I thought 1st was too obvious, but no one's said it yet. Clsrm Mgt Secret is "Like them."

  13. @Mrs_Fuller Positive "weapon" is starting the year by having students create "community agreements" then sticking to them. Negative: cell phone

  14. @yuglook Building positive relationships is my primary strategy. But my secret weapon when things go wrong: Being a broken record and smiling.

  15. @MissTeacha secret weapon be firm, consistent and organized.

  16. @librarylyon Classroom Management Secret Weapon? KNOW them...know what motivates and engages them, know who they are and what they need...

  17. @graemehenderson Shouting louder than them. Doesn't work and hurts your vocal cords.

  18. Scribbler says: This is going to sound goofy but my stopwatch is my secret weapon. If a class is a bit noisy and I have asked for quiet and been ignored, I start my stopwatch. I put on my best bored look while I wait for quiet and I stop the stopwatch when I get quiet. At the end of the lesson EVERYONE stays in the accrued time. They only have to stay in after class once for it to work and it only takes one kid to notice I have started the stopwatch for word to spread. An oldie for me, but a goodie.

  19. Mister Teacher says: My secret weapons are little blue tickets. Like the kind you get at the fair or a raffle. I give them out for good behavior (or lack of bad behavior), and I have a drawing for goofy little prizes each week. The pronouncement of, “I’m looking for someone to earn a blue ticket” can change a disorganized group of misfits into a military-precision line of silence!

  20. W84ME2 says: I just say, “I am looking for a secret student.” anytime we go into the hall. Wow! Silence signals go up and they make a straight line tout de suit. The prize if you are the secret student and make it all the way to our destination? You can pick a new scissors, cool pencil, pencil top eraser, or bookmark I got free from a book club. As a bonus I no longer need to provide so many school supplies ;)

  21. Tom Anselm says: Depending on the social development of the group, sometimes I can just stand next to the offenders, close enough to make them know I am there, and keep a silence. Sometimes they look up and say “Oh, my bad,’ or “what?” or “Dang, Mr. A, you scared me.” any reaction stops the disquieting behavior and then I can redirect. Doesn’t always work, tho, especially if the gang is very out of hand or the kids in question really don’t see their actions as inappropriate or just don’t give a good rip. Call it Proximity Control, but in effect it is mild embarrassment. Not foolproof, but sometimes very easily effective.

  22. Mrs D. says: Congratulating/thanking students who are doing the right thing- my students love to hear their own names . . .

  23. Jason-O says: I am a student, but think these will work. All 4 at the same time. Mainly for regular classes.
    1. PBS Tickets as Mr. Teacher said, but for schoolwide events like a walk to the park and cutting class.

    2. Draw a desk on the board. Draw 4 circles around it. Make the one closest a different color as the rest. Once that line is crossed, ut oh. THIS IS FOR IF THE WHOLE CLASS IS DISRUPTIVE.

    3. Use your whistle as a warning and to get attention and when talking is too loud.

    4. For individual student problems, 1. Give warning. 2. Write name on board as warning. 3. Give 100 lines and send out until the lines are finished. 4 or more: Detention, more lines, etc. The line to write is: “I must follow all rules and must not disrupt class.”

  24. Tina says: I give out warm fuzzies (pom poms) for them to buy stuff with during end of the day tutorial time or before class starts (sit with friend, pillow, eat with teacher, sit with stuffed animal, etc). I also have from Hallmark some buttons when you push them they say or sing different things. I use the Darth Vader/Star Wars march for when the class is too loud. Others for good behavior. I sometimes think a sound rather than a voice is better to get attention.

  25. Jonathan says: Deep, calming breath. Like Antonio Banderas in Shrek. I get about a head an a half taller, voice drops a few octaves - and I’m only half kidding. I stand like a teacher, pause like a teacher, and take control. Breathing, honestly, is big. And no, it didn’t come naturally. Not close.

  26. Pat says: Calling parents often to brag about their child’s good behavior. This stops the cycle of acting bad to get attention. The more I call, the better behaved my students are.

  27. Monika emailed:

    1. Be consistent! Say what you will do and then do what you said!

    2. Be reliable! Say what will expect for a test and then stick to what you said.

    3. Don't engage in futile discussions! However, make sure you leave time for talking things over AFTER the lesson.

    4. Whatever you do, make sure your students know that you like them, even if you make clear that don't like their behaviour at times.
So tell us about your Classroom Management Secret Weapons! What do you do when all else fails?

If you're interested in learning more about classroom management, I highly recommend you start reading my current series:

The Total Teacher Transformation [where the lists are]

Or go back and start off with Questions That Will Save Your Career


  1. My best strategy: engage the students. The more exciting my class was the less classroom management issues there were. Engage them musically through their musical interests and translate to the music standards/ content they need to learn.
    Be involved with your students, and as another poster stated, "like them." Bring their interests and needs/ purpose for learning into your classroom. You are not alone, your students are right there with you, it is a cooperative learning experience. Projects and activities that you design together will engage them. They are part of the learning experience not the "product" you create.
    Share your musical learning with them. Be passionate about learning music, and share this with your students.

  2. Thanks for commenting. The previous post was all about student engagement. I like that you mentioned it was a cooperative learning experience between teacher and student. I haven't really thought of creating/designing project together. Something to think about....

    Hm. =)

  3. Miss Cal. this was great. thanks for including me. I am sure I will steal these for my very own personal use, and hope no one comes after me for royalties. this was fun. Tom

  4. I like bonus bucks for good behavior, which can be redeemed for special perks.

    Teacher Janis Gioia has written a book about her own classroom management plan, based on the social habits of wolves, believe it or not, called "The Wolf Pack Classroom Management Plan. It's an easy-to-imprlement program that meets unmet social and emotional needs (the ones that affect teaching and the ability of your students to succeed) -- and it helps all children reach their full potential.

  5. Liz,
    Thanks for the tips. I'm thinking of free homework passes, bonus points on a test, etc instead of bonus bucks per se.

    As for the The Wolf Pack system, have you tried it? I've heard it but don't know much about it.

  6. I'm looking at it very closely! I've heard good things about it from others.

    And I wanted to add that free homework passes are viewed by kids as pure gold. That's a great idea as well.

  7. Liz,
    I keep hearing about the Wolf Pack system so it must be worth checking out.

    I love how hard kids will work for a couple extra bonus points or free homework passes when in the long run, it makes very little difference in the overall grade when they could just work hard on the assignment in the first place.