How A Classroom Management Plan Helps You Get To The End Before You Start

A good classroom management plan can help you create your vision of success as an outstanding classroom professional.
A good plan that is well thought out lets you start your journey, having already seen what it will be like to arrive at your destination. In other words, it helps you see where you will end up before you even take the first action steps.
The problem often is that the classroom management plans we create are more concerned with being a kind of roadmap, full of busy steps along the way to what we believe will be successful classroom management, whereas what might be more useful is a compass and a clear idea of what lies at the end of our journey. As teachers we need vision more than specific directions. We all find our own way to being the kind of classroom practitioners we become, and we sometimes deceive ourselves that moving forward in planned steps is the same as moving in the right direction.

Reality check. Nobody should pretend it’s easy to draft a classroom management plan that works, and I know there’s a lot to be gained from the mistakes we all make. I’ve lost count of the number of classroom management plans I’ve started and abandoned, and I’m sure that I learnt something from each one. But there is a better way to plan for classroom management success.

I have seen many teachers, especially young teachers at the start of their careers, enthusiastically set about planning every detail as they prepare to establish themselves as classroom professionals. It is understandable, and very laudable, that they want to succeed and take their role seriously. Yet their plans often are not successful because they focus on the wrong details. Some soon abandon their plans and allow themselves to be pulled in different directions. Others create new plans but make the same mistakes in each new plan and therefore experience disappointment again as each new plan doesn’t quite work out.

What a classroom management plan should focus on is how to establish rock solid certainty of the kind of classroom practitioner you want to be, a certainty that will guide you through whatever terrain you have to cross on your way to success. The specific steps and actions you need to take will depend on your judgement along the way, a judgement that is consistent with your values, principles and experiences. In other words, know which direction you want to go, and why you want to go in that direction, rather than in another. When you know that you’ll be able to find a way, probably more than one way, to reach your destination and become an excellent teacher.

What could a classroom management plan look like?

If we’re looking for a compass rather than a roadmap, what are the points of the compass we need to pay attention to?

At the centre of the compass is a clear set of core principles and values that become our personal goals we commit to and that guide us in every decision we make as professionals.These principles also include our commitment to be proactive in our approach and take individual responsibility for our actions.

One compass point would lead us in the direction of setting out, as clearly and concisely as we can, what our philosophy of classroom management is. In other words, a kind of ‘mission statement’ about the kind of teacher we want to become.In this section we need to decide:

what our beliefs are about how students learn
what we believe motivates learners
what we understand about differences among learners and how we respond to those differences
what we identify as the different needs learners have and how we might meet those needs
to what extent our personality style fits with learner needs and preferences, ie how autocratic or democratic we are
where we might have to make compromises about our intentions and practical realities
which specific elements from different classroom management theories we feel most appropriate for us to adopt
A second compass point is behaviour management.

This is a huge deal for most teachers, and for some seems to be the only issue in classroom management. I have devoted a complete section of this website to the issue of classrom discipline and behaviour management, and because of its central role in teacher – student interaction it needs and deserves separate and special attention.So the information in the classroom management plan on this issue could take the form of a bullet list of key factors we decide to commit to, after very comprehensive and careful study of the whole issue of behaviour management.

I think two things are important here:

if we wrote in our classroom management plans every important ingredient of what we believe effective behaviour management is, it would be a very wordy plan indeed and,as such, we probably would not refer to it as effectively as we would to a much shorter targeted list of behaviour principles we want to commit to in every lesson.
if we keep our list of desirable behaviour management strategies short we are able to trial different strategies over time and test which strategies work best, for whom and why.

Our third compass point could be what we might call classroom ground rules.
These are not specific classroom discipline rules, which we need to specify as part of our behaviour management plan, but the basic rules about the ordinary everyday classroom routines we use to establish good habits with our students, and that we practise until they become second nature in our classroom. The secret is to have enough of these routines to create a system that works well so that students can see the purpose behind them, but not so many that our classroom seems driven by so many rules and regulations that they crowd out real learning.

It’s very easy to get caught up in ‘busy work’ here – trying to anticipate every possible eventuality to the point where all spontaneity is lost. Try to create a safe and secure place for students to learn and enough of a framework to allow good order, but be guided by common sense. It’s more important to have a small number of routines that you and your students can commit to, and that you can reinforce positively with your students. You can always add other routines if the need arises, and you should trust your judgement and be guided by your values and principles.

In this section of our classroom management plan we might include things such as:

entry and exit routines
signals for getting attention
routines for moving around the classroom
instructions for using resources
seating plans
These are of course only examples and each of us will want to include the ground rules that we view as priorities.
The fourth compass point in a classroom management plan could be what I call classroom management ideas.

Although this sounds a bit vague I think it’s a good term for some procedures we want to trial in the short term in order to judge whether they are suitable to be adopted permanently into our plan. As with other parts of our plan, we can keep the list fairly short, so that we can stay focused on a few ideas at any one time, and therefore stand a better chance of actually using the ideas with our students. The list of activities can be changed if we judge they don’t work or we want to replace some activities we have decided to adopt permanently and which then become part of our rubrics or routines.

Some ideas I have seen successfully used in this section of classroom management plans include:

using alternatives to hand raising for question and answer sessions
introducing different levels of structure for classroom management depending on the nature of the class – eg with some classes trying to ‘cut a bit more slack’ than is the case for other classes
creating different learning groups within a class for specific learning activities, such as setting up each group so that it contains at least one very strong learner to influence other students who may not be so secure in their learning
encouraging students to assess each others’ performance in specific learning activities and getting them to explain how they arrived at their judgements
So now we have our four compass points to represent the main directions we want to take our classroom management plan.

If we want to add more directions to our compass we can simply add more aspects of classroom management later to explore and develop.
In practice, however, it may may be better to leave those compass points ’empty’ to start with. This allows us to focus on those compass points for our classroom management plan that we have identified as essential, and we can concentrate on moving forward in those directions.

It also gives us the chance to choose which other directions we may later want to follow, as our experience grows, or as we come to know a particular class better, relying as ever on our judgement, based on our experience, values and principles.This kind of flexibility for personal choice and the ability to respond to what become priority areas adds real power to our classroom management plan.
Click this link to see a sample classroom management plan.

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