Regardless of where you teach, all of us come back from summer break with a goal of having an effective classroom where students can be successful. We spend hours putting up bulletin boards, moving furniture, and digging into lesson plans.
Between professional development and campus meetings, we sneak back to our rooms to get everything set for those first moments our students and their parents will arrive in their new classroom for the first time.
Many of us sacrifice hours away from our families and hours we could (and should) be sleeping to get everything just right so that the new year can start out on the right foot, but what really matters when it comes to creating an effective classroom?
What is an effective classroom?
The reality is that our Pinterest-ready room is only one piece of what will (or won’t) help make this a successful year, and those hours we spend putting up the perfect border and hunting down color-coordinated bins will not be enough to make this your best year yet.
Instead, we need to consider the bigger picture. Classroom design needs to take into account creating a functional layout that makes getting around easy for both students and adults.
Creating organizational systems that reduce clutter and help students navigate the learning environment successfully is crucial.
Classroom management needs to maximize instructional time and learning opportunities for students.
And we need to consider how we will build relationships, even with those students are disconnected or struggling.
Together, these things create an effective classroom, but they all require purposeful attention and ongoing adjustments to get just right.
What makes an effective classroom environment, and how can I create one in my room?
When it comes to classroom setup, there is no one-size fits all answer, and what works one year might not work at all for a different group of students.
Think about seating.
You’ll need to carefully consider how you’ll utilize the furniture you have to create a manageable traffic flow. Deciding on desk arrangements, including whether you’ll use flexible seating, can make a huge difference in how students move around the room.
Poorly laid out classrooms lose hours each week due to ineffective transitions and traffic jams that result when students all need to be in one area of the room at the same time.
Test out your layout.
While it can be hard to predict all possible issues, taking time to draw your room layout and work through the daily schedule can be a good way to identify any major traffic flow issues before they start.
Carefully considering your room arrangement before students arrive can save you hours of instructional time later.
For more on classroom design and layout, check out these articles:
Having an effective classroom means developing systems to get and stay organized.
Any teacher will tell you there is never enough time. Much like life with a baby, the days are long but the years are short.
There is so much to teach, and it can be hard to find time to fit it all in. Getting organized and having systems in place to minimize clutter is crucial to getting more done and helping maximize learning.
Organize your teaching resources
Save hours of planning time by getting organized and clearing the clutter before the new school year begins.
Recycle lesson materials that are outdated or didn’t fit your teaching style. Toss papers that students found boring or ended up causing chaos.
You can do the same thing with your digital files. These days digital clutter has taken the place of paper clutter on many campuses, and we often forget to clean out these files so we can more easily find the materials we really want to use.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the junk, you can organize what’s left into files to help you find them more easily when the unit arises.
Create systems to organize student clutter
Students – supplies, turn-in, papers
Find out more about how to get (and stay) organized this year:
- Simple Ways to Declutter Your Classroom
- Getting Organized for Home-School Communication
- Free Printable Organization Tools for Teachers
What are the characteristics of effective classroom management?
Most new teachers are taught the value of classroom management. However, many of us were never taught HOW to have effective classroom management beyond reading a few articles and writing a paper or two.
Despite the research that proclaims classroom management is a key indicator of an effective classroom, there is still little “on the ground” support for those of us who struggle.
This lack of direction and support can lead to frustration and stress for both teachers and students. So what does effective classroom management REALLY mean?
Classroom management really encompasses all the routines and structures you put in place to keep your classroom running smoothly.
It includes the rules and consequences you carefully review throughout the year, but it also includes how you structure the routines of the day to keep things flowing.
Consistency is a key factor in classroom management, from keeping consistent routines and expectations to having clear, logical consequences.
While there is no one size fits all way to manage a classroom, but the goal is the same no matter what your management style is – focused, successful learners.
Create a plan
Taking time to create a classroom management plan is just as important as planning out your room design, but following through on your plan and truly teaching students what you expect is where success lies.
Get students on board
Finding ways to get students excited and engaged with your management plan is also critical because it helps build community and encourage student buy-in so that it becomes part of the classroom norms.
Similarly, giving students clear success criteria can help alleviate issues. When students know what they need to do to be successful, whether it is behavior or output on assignments, they are better equipped to rise to the challenge.
For more on classroom management and creating your classroom management plan, read:
- Easy ways to grow your classroom management skills
- What to consider when your classroom management plan isn't working
- 6 must-teach procedures for the first days of school
Build Relationships with Students and Families from Day One
Spending time building relationships is one of the most important things you can do to create an effective classroom.
Getting to know your students as learners is a piece of this puzzle, but it isn't enough. You need to get to know your students as people, as well. This means knowing what they like to do in their free time, their favorite things, and what motivates them.
Research has consistently shown relationships are one of the most important parts of keeping students engaged in school, and good teacher-student relationships can improve academic outcomes (Hattie, 2009).
Finding ways to connect with your learners and keeping those connections strong and positive is critical to creating a positive learning environment.
Morning meeting or free writing journals can be a great way to start building these relationships, but you don't have to do anything fancy. Simply asking questions and stopping to truly listen to your students can make a huge difference.
Get more information on building positive relationships with your students: