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Notes from Tools for Teaching Part 4

May 5, 2005

Classroom Management
Classroom rules are ultimately defined by whatever any student can get away with. Much of the management in a typical classroom is by default. Students fool around because the teacher has not structured anything better for them to do.

In the classroom, there are two basic types of rules: general rules, which spell out the teacher’s overall expectations for good work and good behavior; and specific procedures and routines, which spell out exactly how we will do this or that.

General rules deal in broad classes of behavior and are best stated in positive rather than negative language. Only make rules that you are willing to enforce at any time. They should be simple and clear, and they should be posted.

Specific procedures are the nuts and bolts of classroom structure. Their objective is efficiency, and they must be taught, and they must be practiced. Research has shown that teachers with the best-run classrooms spend most of the first two weeks teaching their procedures and routines.

It is easier to have high standards than low standards.

Most of the reinforcement of deviant behavior comes from the peer group. To manage disruptive behavior, get a monopoly on reinforcement. Keep doing and practicing until they get it right. Instead of letting the peer group reward the troublemaker, use them to contain him.

On the first day of school, not one word in any language has any fixed meaning in your classroom. Words will only have the meaning that you give them (e.g. “Now”).

In the home, children who are neither asked nor expected to contribute to the well-being of the group are, by definition, not needed. They are excess baggage. Children need jobs that contribute to the social unit. They need “chores.”

The Rule of Chores: Never do anything for students that they are thoroughly capable of doing for themselves. A simple way to reduce the complexity of chores would be to group them into four clusters of chores and assign a team of students to each cluster. Rotate the chores every week so that each student does every chore during a four-week rotation. The main investment in building routines is simply the practice required for mastery.

Proactive management is more than a set of procedures. It is a mindset. It is the way a person thinks when success is not negotiable, and it just happens to be easier in the long run.

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