Classroom Management 101

Date: September 18, 2014

Location: American Red Cross – Rauner Center

Facilitators: Steve Leaver and team, Imagination Theater


classroom management scene
Actors and participants re-creating a school scene

Here at CIS of Chicago, we get questions all the time from partners about strategies for classroom management. Our community partners are in a unique position – they are not the classroom teacher, and yet they have important information to share with students. A lot of classroom management strategies are based on relationship development, but that’s not always a realistic strategy for a partner that only visits a classroom a handful of times. So, what’s a partner to do?

Steve Leaver, a long time community partner, and his team of talented actors shared some strategies at this training – all of them great for facilitators providing long or short-term programming.

Be Prepared

The team acted out a day-in-the-life of a facilitator – a very unorganized and unprepared facilitator. After the skit, the actors restarted the scene and participants suggested ways to change the main character’s approach to the day. It’s pretty clear that preparation is key to school-based programming success. Out of the conversations came some great ways to prevent potential issues:

  • Do some prep work
    • Talk to school contact about school info: parking, main entrance, classroom numbers, teacher names
    • If possible, connect with the classroom teacher ahead of time (email is great): confirm timing of the program, ask about possible connections to classroom curriculum, ask about behavior management strategies (i.e. is there a standard way that the teacher gets the students’ attention?)
  • Show up early
    • Make a map of where you’re going, print it out
    • Plan for delays
  • Make a strong and confident entrance
    • Take care of personal items outside the classroom (take off coat, get materials out, etc)
    • Introduce yourself to the teacher and give them a role (I would love if you could help with…)
    • Friendly and clear intro to students: Explain who you are and why you’re there

The Beginning and the End

Brain science tells us that we all remember the beginning and the ending of presentations – the rest gets a little mushy. A strong beginning introduces the topic, prepares the students to engage, and sets clear expectations. A strong ending reviews the topics covered and (if applicable) prepares students for the following session.

Participants gathered in small groups to practice and critique each other’s beginnings and endings. It was a great opportunity to “steal” ideas from others. One participant said she institutes a strategy for getting students’ attention by yelling out, “Can I get a what-what?” And the students respond, “What-what?” It’s a great, quick and fun strategy for getting all students on the same page for the next activity.

Ultimately, We Are Storytellers

Participants practiced telling stories about a time when they were inspired. Not only did this help them identify what makes an inspiring teacher so amazing, but it also helped prove the point that when you’re talking about something you care about, you are more animated, and people automatically want to listen to you. This concept carries over into teaching in a big, big way. Participants started thinking about how they could use their voice, body and language in the classroom to communicate the excitement and enthusiasm they have for their topics.

Have a Plan and Then Have Another Plan

When things go wrong in a classroom, it’s important to have a whole toolbox full of strategies to deal with them. Basically, those strategies follow these tiered levels of intervention:

  1. Non-verbal interventions:
    • make eye contact with students
    • move your body close to students who may need help focusing
    • pause speech to wait for the attention of the students
  2. Anonymous intervention:
    • “We are just waiting for 2 more people to join us”
    • “I like how this group of students have their pencils ready to take notes.”
    • “I’m waiting for a couple more people to put their eyes on me.”
  3. Private correction:
    • Quietly to the student: “Hey, I’ve noticed you’re having trouble staying focused on this. Can I help you?”
  4. Direct confrontation:
    • This is the last resort when the above strategies don’t work. If the student behavior is so challenging that it’s affecting other students, grab the classroom teacher to help you. Remember that many of the students we work with have traumatic backgrounds – you should not touch, threaten, or otherwise discipline the student. Bring in the school staff for help.

What’s next? Share your favorite classroom management tools with us!

group discussion


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s