Maintaining a Positive Environment in Your Classroom

Ideas to reinforce positive behaviors & work habits

Incentive charts give positive reinforcement to students and provide classroom management.
Incentives charts are a great way to build positive reinforcement into your class!

If you love hands-on science projects, experiments, and group activities than you have probably experienced some chaos in your classroom! Although I currently teach middle school and high school science, I began my teaching career in an elementary classroom filled with rambunctious first and second graders. I quickly discovered that good classroom management was the only way I was going to be able to teach my students anything and not lose my mind! I was lucky to observe some spectacular teachers before I began teaching and I used some of their most helpful classroom management tips.

1. Reward consistently

One of my favorite techniques to use in class is positive reinforcement. When I taught elementary I would use anything from verbal praise and stickers to small candies or class points (towards prizes). In addition to individual rewards I would offer whole class parties for students to work towards after meeting certain goals. A word of discretion here....I discovered that I had to be careful about what kinds of class goals I set because in reality some goals are unattainable! For example, when I first began teaching high school science I promised the students a popcorn and M&M party when the whole class brought in their homework three times in the quarter. Well, as you can imagine, we never had that popcorn and M&M party because someone would always forget their homework. What happened instead of positive reinforcement was that the students were frustrated with each other (and me) because they felt that they could never win the party. #teacherfail I realized that the classroom goals had to be realistic (like working collaboratively during a lab, respecting the substitute teacher, modeling exceptional behavior on a field trip etc.). The students will be much more likely to work together towards a class party if they believe they can actually earn it! If you reward your students consistently they will look forward to your class. CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE DETAILS ABOUT MY INCENTIVE CHARTS.

Classroom management strategies could include incentive charts and rewards.
This incentive chart provides a little science humor that teachers can appreciate!

2. Never, ever, use sarcasm

We might think it is funny at first to be sarcastic with our students but it will never build a positive and safe classroom environment. Some students can really push our buttons and may even cause us to feel like they deserve public humiliation in front of their friends. However, I would caution you that attitudes and even facial expressions are totally contagious! If my students know that I am in a bad mood or that someone has gotten under my skin they WILL use it to their advantage. After all, if the teacher is doing it than they can do it too. Instead, if a child is being disruptive try this:

1. Continue lecturing the class.

2. Calmly walk over to the student who is being disruptive while continuing your lecture.

3. Stand RIGHT NEXT TO the student. Continue lecturing.

4. If the student continues to misbehave (yes some do), lean down to their level and whisper to them that they will receive whatever consequence (ie. detention, head down, loss of peer time etc.) if they do not stop their behavior.

Honestly, most of the time this works like a charm. The rest of the class will observe what is going on and will usually get really quiet because they don't want to be next! It also takes the power away from the disruptive student and hands it back to the teacher. But most importantly, you are not allowing yourself to get frustrated and you are not correcting the student from the front of the class. When you correct a student in front of everyone you turn the attention of the students to the one person (the disruptive student) you don't want them paying attention to in the first place! Remember, if you use sarcasm and public humiliation rather than remaining calm and consistent, your students will lose respect for you!

It might sound simple but consistent positive reinforcement paired with respectful and consistent discipline is the best way to keep a healthy and happy classroom!