Classroom management is the intentional means through which a teacher manages a classroom. This includes student behavior and the overall classroom culture and structure.
Classroom management is not easy, but it’s incredibly important. Poor classroom management impedes the learning process.
While effective classroom management strategies may look different depending on grade level, the class, and the teacher, no classroom management is a recipe for disaster (final product including disruptive behavior, a number of other behavior problems, and bad days – for both students and the teacher).
While there is no such thing as perfect classroom management, an effective classroom management plan for your middle school science classroom is a step in the right direction.
Creating a classroom management plan can relieve the stress that comes along with implementing classroom management strategies.
While plans can’t account for every possible scenario, they can help you feel more prepared to manage your classroom in a way that enhances student learning and creates a positive environment for both the student and the teacher.
What is a Classroom Management Plan?
What exactly is a classroom management plan? Why is it so important for middle school science teachers?
A classroom management plan is your unique plan for maintaining order and creating a conducive learning environment in your science class.
For middle school science teachers, this plan can serve as a roadmap (as opposed to an answer key) for challenges that will inevitably arise when teaching complex science concepts and skills to middle school-aged students.
The purpose of a classroom management plan is to proactively think about the type of classroom you envision for you and your students and how you’ll maintain said classroom environment.
Crafting a good classroom management plan is not an option; it’s a necessity.
New teachers and veteran teachers alike often find themselves grappling with the challenge of maintaining discipline while simultaneously engaging students and fostering a love for science.
The best way to tackle this challenge is by developing your own classroom management plan tailored to the unique needs of your science classroom.
While there is no perfect classroom management plan for middle school science teachers, there are core components that can help you craft a solid classroom management plan.
These components are establishing your classroom culture, determining your routines and structures, creating classroom agreements, lesson planning, and staying consistent and following through. (Look out for a bonus at the end of the post).
In this post, we’ll explore these components with the goal of helping you to create your own classroom management plan that will position you to run a well-management classroom.
1. Establish Your Classroom Culture
Considering how you’d like to create a positive classroom culture is at the heart of an effective classroom management plan.
As educators, we strive to cultivate an environment that promotes student learning and achievement in science. Our classroom culture can dictate whether or not this comes to fruition.
Classroom culture is the shared values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that shape the learning environment and social interactions within a classroom.
Keeping this definition in mind, as a teacher, you might ask yourself, what does a positive learning environment look, sound, and feel like to me?
Does my teaching style reflect learning as an active process through which students construct their learning by investigating phenomena and generating questions?
Will students problem-solve with a small group of their peers while I act more as a coach than a lecturer?
What does positive behavior look like to me? Is it kids engaging in content, no matter how noisy or messy that might look?
Does a positive classroom environment include behavior management in the form of positive feedback, raffle tickets for great participation, and thought-provoking questions?
How do you develop strong relationships with your students? How do they get to know and learn to respect you and each other?
What about the physical classroom environment? Is displaying student work important? How much of it? Where?
Building a strong classroom culture is not something that happens on the first day of school. It takes time. It may not be a neat and linear process.
The important thing is to acknowledge that classroom culture is an important piece of classroom management and that it shouldn’t be neglected when developing your classroom management plan.
For more about building a positive classroom culture in science, read this post.
2. Determine Your Routines and Structures
Routines and structures are imperative in middle school science classrooms. Even in student-centered classrooms, routines are important as they provide students with predictability that facilitates learning.
In life, in general, our daily routines can benefit mental health outcomes. According to Northwestern Medicine, routines can help us manage stress more effectively, sleep better, eat healthier, and get more physical activity.
For adolescents, strong routines at home have positive outcomes.
This study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that caregivers of adolescents who reported more common household routines (such as regularly eating together as a family and consistent bedtime) reported less alcohol use, greater emotional self-regulation, and higher rates of college/university enrollment.
Routines and structures benefit students and teachers in the classroom.
Routines and structures in the classroom are beneficial in that they provide organization and predictability. Both of these can “free up brain power” and allow students to focus on what they are learning.
Students don’t automatically know what to do in their classes. They must be taught and given the chance to practice classroom procedures.
I typically spend those first few weeks of school teaching students things like how to enter the classroom, what to do as soon as they sit down, rules for things like sharpening pencils, getting and returning lab materials, leaving to use the restroom, etc.
We continue to revisit and practice these routines throughout the school year.
While teaching these routines does take a lot of time (not only in the first week of school but revisiting whenever a refresher is needed), taking the time to do so can prevent some behavior issues and, therefore, be a part of your classroom management plan.
If you’re unsure of what routines you need to consider for your classroom, start with these:
- Establish a routine for how students will enter the classroom.
- Create a seating chart.
- Use bins for incoming and outgoing work (or assign this job to students)
- Teach students how to get and put away lab supplies.
- Decide on your “calls to attention.”
- Use timers.
- Have your warm-up/bell ringer in the same place every day.
- Have a structure for taking attendance.
- Solidify your bathroom policy.
- Have a place for “early finishers” to go to get additional work.
Looking for more? Check out this list of 31 classroom procedures and routines from We Are Teachers.
3. Create Classroom Agreements
In my first year of teaching, I spent the first day lecturing on rules and consequences. It was boring, painful, and ineffective.
Close to 15 years later, I still believe students need to understand what is acceptable (and unacceptable) in the classroom. However, my approach to how to create a list has changed.
Instead of coming up with all the rules myself and telling them to students, I have students create classroom agreements. Essentially, classroom agreements are a simple set of rules that students create with their peers and the teacher.
I found that this approach provides students with a sense of agency in building a positive classroom culture.
Because I believe that solid lesson plans are part of a strong classroom management plan (more on that later), I created a lesson through which students first reflect individually and then partner with their peers in a small group to discuss what they think everyone needs to do to contribute to a positive classroom community.
Then, the entire class comes together to create a set of classroom agreements that include what the smaller groups came up with.
The agreements are framed as positive statements (i.e. One mic vs. no talking while someone else is talking) are written on a piece of chart paper.
Students sign their names on the chart paper, which is then hung up as a classroom agreements anchor chart.
Establishing “classroom rules” in this way not only empowered student to be responsible for their actions but also caused me to check my own behavior.
Because I also signed the paper, I needed to remember to be respectful to students, come to class prepared, and follow the other agreements.
If you’re interested in teaching this lesson, check out Lit Science’s Classroom Agreements lesson.
4. Plan Engaging and Accessible Lessons
If students aren’t engaged or the lesson isn’t accessible, inappropriate behavior can ensue. That’s why I’ve included effective lesson planning as a part of a successful classroom management plan for middle school science teachers.
Developing lesson plans that are standards-based, engaging, and accessible to students serves as a proactive classroom management strategy.
When students are engaged and able to access the content, there is less of a chance they’ll become frustrated, check out, and act out. Understanding the objectives and expectations for each lesson can reduce student anxiety and negative feelings.
Efficient lesson planning is also a key component of effective time management in the classroom. Teachers can allocate specific time slots for various activities to help facilitate a balanced distribution of instructional time.
This not only prevents lessons from dragging on but also allows for smooth transitions between activities, maintaining a focused and productive classroom environment.
A well-crafted lesson plan incorporates engaging activities, real-world applications, and opportunities for student participation.
When students understand what to expect from each lesson, they feel more secure and are better equipped to actively participate in the learning process.
There are two main pieces of a lesson plan that I’ve found directly impact my students’ behavior. They are engagement and accessibility.
An engaging lesson DOES NOT equate to a horse and pony show.
While pop culture references, hands-on activities and games are all considered engaging and can be incorporated throughout the school year, it is not realistic to incorporate these types of activities into your lessons all the time.
Instead, I prefer to think of engaging lessons as those that connect to students’ backgrounds, prior knowledge, and interests.
A lesson can easily become more engaging if a small amount of time is spent intentionally connecting the content to students’ prior knowledge, backgrounds, and interests.
By doing so, students feel empowered because they come into the lesson already feeling like they know something (which they do)!
Also, when time is taken to activate students’ prior knowledge, they have something to “attach” their new learning to.
Another way to engage students is by tapping into and making connections to their interests, lived experiences, languages and cultures. So much of middle school science topics connect to all of these.
A little creativity in planning your lessons to include these can go a long way and have a lasting impact.
Another lesson-planning-related strategy that directly impacts classroom management is accessibility.
If students cannot access the content, they may check out or act out.
Therefore, providing multiple access points for your instruction can help to lower the affective filter and help students feel more confident about their school work.
Check out this blog post for ways to scaffold your lessons for accessibility.
5. Stay Consistent and Follow Through
A strong classroom management plan is worthless if the execution lacks consistency and follow-through. This is especially true at the middle school level.
Middle schoolers pick up on inconsistencies and lack of follow-through almost instantly. If they know the rules are bendable, that you won’t actually follow through on the consequences, or a combination of the two, your classroom management can and most likely will truly suffer.
Therefore, it’s important to plan for how you’ll be consistent and follow through with your plan. This can include the consistent use of positive reinforcement, consistency in how you will address different behaviors, and how promptly you manage misbehavior.
This approach helps students understand the outcomes of their actions and that those outcomes are consistent. This consistency directly impacts overall classroom management.
Bonus: Give Yourself Grace
Classroom management is extremely difficult, unique to different situations, and nuanced depending on a number of factors.
I have had terrible days and amazing “textbook days,” all in the matter of the same week.
It’s important to remember that while your plan is important, things happen, and life gets in the way (for both you and your students).
We are all human beings. We are not robots. Therefore, give yourself some grace.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel your classroom management isn’t the best. Keep at it. Do what feels right and works best for you and your students. Take care of yourself in the process.
There is no longevity in teaching if you are constantly burnt out and on the brink of a mental breakdown. Take a deep breath, practice self-care, celebrate the wins, and take the school year one day at a time (or one period, minute, or second at a time).
The five components of an effective classroom management plan include, but are not limited to:
- Establishing your classroom culture
- Determining routines and structures
- Creating classroom agreements
- Planning engaging and accessible lessons
- Staying consistent and following through
Giving yourself grace.
While there is no perfect classroom management or classroom management plan, being intentional, learning through experience, making changes when necessary and giving yourself grace is a great place to start.
Here at Lit Science, we look forward to supporting you as you continue to do the difficult and important work.
Thanks for all you do!