I wish more people would write about specifics. All the advice that I get, online, in the faculty room, is too general for that moment when the student has just Done Something and I don’t know what to do.
This may not help her much, but she has already answered her own question – The secret to good classroom management is not what you do in the moment, it’s how you prepare.
After my first year, I spent all summer developing a management plan. Now that it’s going well, I only need to do a couple days at the end of each summer to review, to figure out whether anything needs to change, as well as to reset myself for the new year.
The process goes something like this:
1) Write down everything that bothered you about the kids’ behavior in the classroom.
2) Organize the list – group similar problems together.
3) For each group (and sometimes each item in the group) figure out what led to that behavior, and what you would have rather had them doing. At the same time, write down anything about their environment that might have contributed to that behavior.
4) Make a new list – this time of the behaviors you want to see, or the environmental factors you want.
5) Develop a lesson for each of those behaviors. It doesn’t need to be long, but it needs to be something you actively teach.
6) Spend the first couple of weeks of school teaching these lessons.
1) Kids are throwing paper at each other.
2) (group with airplanes and getting out of their seats to throw away trash)
3) I don’t want them to have ammunition – no folded or crumpled paper, or anything to throw away.
4) When they have paper they’d like to recycle, I want them to put it under their binder until the end of class, and then put it in the recycling bin on their way out of class.
5) Lesson involves going over the expectation, using whatever handout they have that day as their “recycling practice paper”, and actually putting it under their notebook. Explain that crumpling or tearing paper makes distracting noise, and that it takes up extra room in the recycling bin. Finally, explain that it’s normal to forget about this, and if someone does accidentally crumple up paper that they’re not in trouble, but that I’ll ask them to flatten it out and put it under their binders.
This attention to developing classroom behaviors at the beginning of the year preempts 95% of the issues you might have later on. The exercise also lets you note precursors of the behavioral issues, and lets you address things early on before the problem behaviors actually happen, meaning that it doesn’t turn into a showdown between you & the kids in front of the whole class.
If you are in the middle of the year, and an issue comes up, repeat the process again, for just that one item. It’s okay to change the rules in the middle of the year, as long as you (a) explain the rational for the rule, (b) allow for a lot more time for the change to happen, and© only do one thing at a time.