How to Create a Classroom Management Plan [Guide + Resources]

When you’re standing in front of a classroom full of students ready to deliver a lesson, your pupils are probably always sitting up straight, giving you their undivided attention and never engaging in any behavior that would be disruptive to your teaching — right?

What? No? Well then, congratulations! You’ are among the vast majority of teachers who must consciously put in place a classroom management plan to keep your students on track and focused on the lessons of the day.

The reality is that classroom disruptions and misbehavior can hinder learning and achievement, which is why it is essential for teachers to have a working knowledge of proven classroom management strategies.

What is a Classroom Management Plan?

“The goal of a successful management plan is to maintain a safe and fun classroom that can focus on learning,” according to Kickboard, an educational company focused on facilitating positive culture in schools. “Classroom management is the combination of tools and practices that provide structure and promote positive learning spaces for students. The teacher, or classroom lead, provides instructions and sets expectations for student behavior in order to regulate classroom activities. Organized students, active participation in learning and minimal behavior distractions are evidence of effective classroom management.”

However, putting in place effective structure, expectations and enforcement practices is something that many teachers struggle with. 

“When I was a teacher, classroom management was not my strongest suit,” says Jennifer Gonzalez, editor of the education blog Cult of Pedagogy. “I relied heavily on forming good relationships with my students, thereby preventing misbehavior. This worked about 90 percent of the time; I really didn’t have a whole lot of behavior problems. Unfortunately, the way I dealt with that other 10 percent was rather haphazard: Far too often, I defaulted to the ‘Wait till there’s a problem, then react’ mode.”

Today, this education blogger points readers interested in putting in place a real classroom management plan to longtime teacher Michael Linsin, now an author and consultant who runs the website Smart Classroom Management.

While emphasizing the need to establish rules and enforce them, Linsin believes it is also essential to do so in a way that does not take the joy out of learning. “My number one goal is not that at the end of the day that they know the rules and consequences. It’s that they’re happy and excited to be part of the class. That they run home to their parents and say, ‘Oh my gosh. I have the best teacher. I have this awesome class. We’re going to do this and that this year. It’s going to be great,’” he told Gonzalez in an interview. “The classroom management secret is to create a classroom that students love being a part of.”

Elements of a Classroom Management Plan

“Classroom management is considered one of the foundations of the educational system,” asserts an article in Research.com. “It refers to the actions that educators take that create a supportive environment for students and teachers alike. The right classroom management plan provides opportunities for academic, social and emotional learning.”

The elements of a classroom management plan can be looked at in several different ways. According to the Research.com article (“Classroom Management Plan Guide With Examples”), a well-managed classroom has three important elements:

  • Efficient use of time and space

  • Strategies that empower the students to make good choices instead of controlling their behavior

  • Effective implementation of instructional strategies

Kickboard breaks classroom management down into four key elements:

  • Accountability – the expectations, rules, behavior choices and enforcement/reinforcement

  • Environment – the creation of a physical space (including the placement of desks, decorations, etc.) that is welcoming and reinforces the desired culture

  • People – the teachers and students; teachers modeling positive behaviors, students following suit and providing peer-to-peer accountability

  • Time – successful classroom management plans require time and patience, reminders and reinforcement to work their magic

Classroom Management Plan – Rules & Consequences

Yes, the rules are obviously a key element of any classroom management plan. And Linsin, the classroom management consultant, recommends keeping them very short and simple.

Handled well, your rules eliminate any need for yelling, scolding, etc. Putting in place clear rules and consequences “allows you to demand impeccable behavior without causing friction and resentment, which then frees you to build meaningful and influential relationships with your students.”

Linsin recommends the following four rules:

  • Listen and follow directions.

  • Raise your hand before speaking or leaving your seat.

  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

  • Respect your classmates and your teacher.

And he recommends enforcing them through the following three consequences:

  • 1st consequence: warning

  • 2nd consequence: timeout

  • 3rd consequence: letter home

Linsin counsels teachers to: “Print both your rules and consequences on a large poster board and display them prominently in your classroom. You will refer to your classroom management plan often, and thus your students need to be able to see them wherever they’re seated.”

8 Steps for Setting Up a Classroom Management Plan

When it comes to a more formal approach to setting up a classroom management plan, education consulting firm Positive Action offers the following 8-step approach:

1. Set classroom expectations

2. Consider school policies when drafting a classroom management plan

3. Establish clear and consistent boundaries in your class

4. Use verbal and non-verbal reinforcement

5. Hand out a planned syllabus to your class

6. Know the students in the whole class

7. Teach engaging content to encourage positive behavior

8. Decide on consequences

Set classroom expectations – They recommend involving your students in classroom management “because it helps build a community as well as the classroom culture.”

Consider school policies when drafting your plan – Be sure you are adhering to schoolwide discipline procedures while building a classroom management plan that also reflects your own principles, rules and philosophy.

Establish clear and consistent boundaries in your class – A vitally important one here is to insist that students stop talking before you begin and while you are teaching, something that may require patience.

Use verbal and non-verbal reinforcement – Tips here include offering praise with non-verbal communication (such as smiling, nodding or a thumbs up), or shaking your head or frowning to silently signal to a student to keep quiet.

Hand out a planned syllabus to your class – Doing so “will save you and your students a lot of headaches because a syllabus plan establishes expectations from day one and prepares your students on what to learn. At the same time, it allows students to plan informed schedules.”

Know the students in the whole class – Getting to know your students can bring perspective that helps you manage their behavior, while also conveying that you are easy to talk to.

Teach engaging content to encourage positive behavior – As Linsin has also asserted, one of the most effective classroom management strategies is to present curriculum, topics and activities that get your students engaged with your lessons. 

Decide on consequences – Positive Action recommends looking for ways to “use positive strategies to increase students’ competence” and, when negative consequences are needed, be sure to implement “measures that are safe for students and respect their dignity and basic rights.”

Classroom Management Tips 

Here is a list of classroom management tips, compiled from multiple sources:

  • Build solid teacher-student relationships

  • Show that you care

  • Celebrate achievements and hard work

  • Communicate with parents

  • Post your classroom rules and norms

  • Keep your rules simple and easy to remember

  • Share the meaning of each rule

  • Be very specific when modeling desired behavior

  • Be consistent

  • Encourage students to be respectful

  • Teach students to take responsibility

  • Be sure your students know emergency procedures

  • Set a positive tone for the classroom

  • With your structure in place, start fresh each day

Considerations for Elementary School Classroom Management

“Before learning can take place, young students must be helped to settle down and be ready to listen. Disruptions are a constant challenge in any room that’s full of children, and over the years certain elementary classroom management ideas have evolved,” according to Resilient Educator (“5 Innovative Elementary Classroom Management Ideas”). The article quotes Kate Ortiz, the National Education Association’s classroom management expert, on these five tips for creating a productive elementary school classroom environment:

  • Keep parents engaged

  • Avoid favoritism

  • Promote students’ respect for each other

  • Keep your attention on the disruptive students

  • Stay in control of your class

Considerations for Middle School Classroom Management

Middle schoolers can also be a very challenging age when it comes to holding their attention in the classroom.

“Squirrels. That is what they remind me of. We were all that age once and we were all just like squirrels!” says Edutopia blogger Ben Johnson. “Have you ever watched a squirrel? Zoom, freeze for two seconds, flick tail, and repeat. The trick for being a successful middle school teacher is holding their attention for more than just those few seconds.”

A career educator, Johnson said experienced teachers know that it is “impossible to speak over middle schoolers.” Instead, in “The Art of Managing Middle School Students,” he talks about how to use abstract “tools” such as:

“I have always believed that the best discipline plan was to have a good lesson plan, but for squirrelly middle school students, you have to have plan A, B and distraction lesson Z,” he concludes. “It's important to remember: Middle school students sometimes get flustered and frightened easily, but they also can be easily drawn into the learning with solid expectations, behavior boundaries, and crazy, fun, active learning experiences.

Considerations for High School Classroom Management

 It probably would not shock you to learn that an article offering advice or managing high school students by the education advocacy organization Edmentum would be called “Taming the Chaos (Eight High School Classroom Management Strategies That Work).”

In the piece, former teacher LaToya Hozian shares some lighthearted examples of real-life high school classroom management scenarios. “After teaching high school English for 10 years, I’ve uttered some phrases I never could have imagined would be necessary. For example, ‘Riley, get your sandwich out of your pants!’ Yes, I had to tell a 14-year-old boy to get his sandwich out of his pants.”

Hozian says that when she talks classroom management with teacher friends, “we often laugh because it’s usually thought of as something that only applies to younger students. So, what about high school students? How do you handle a classroom full of students who are dealing with real challenges of growing up … when hormones are raging, everything is over-dramatized, and classroom curriculum is becoming demanding?”

The following tips for high school classroom management are “eight strategies that I had success with in my classroom”:

  • Incorporate some comedy

  • Be a real person

  • Learn names right away

  • It's all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T

  • Keep an open-door policy

  • Be a good listener

  • Be mindful of the broader school environment

  • Build relationships 

Classroom Management Plan Resources

Many education advocacy organizations have compiled helpful online pages connecting teachers to a wide spectrum of classroom management planning research and resources. For example, Jennifer Gonzalez of the Cult of Pedagogy blog shares classroom management articles on:

 Here are several more classroom management planning resource pages:

 EDUTOPIA

 CLASSCRAFT

 TEACHERVISION

 Classroom Management Courses

Another high-value option for teachers looking to master classroom management is to enroll in an academic course or program focused on this vitally important topic. 

For example, the University of San Diego’s Division of Professional & Continuing Education offers individual classroom management-related courses, as well as a multi-course Classroom Management Certificate program.

Designed for busy working teachers, the 100% online USD certificate program covers a broad range of essential topics and is an excellent choice for educators interested in professional development opportunities connected to classroom management.

Classroom Management FAQs

Q: What is a Classroom Management Plan?

A: “Classroom management is the combination of tools and practices that provide structure and promote positive learning spaces for students,” to Kickboard, an educational company focused on facilitating positive culture in schools. “The teacher, or classroom lead, provides instructions and sets expectations for student behavior in order to regulate classroom activities.”

Q: Why Is it Important to Have a Classroom Management Plan?

A: Classroom management — aka order in the classroom — is necessary because disruptions and misbehavior can hinder learning and achievement.

Q: What Are the Key Elements of a Classroom Management Plan?

A: The answer to this question varies depending upon the educator. According to a Research.com article (“Classroom Management Plan Guide With Examples”), a well-managed classroom has three important elements:

  • Efficient use of time and space

  • Strategies that empower the students to make good choices instead of controlling their behavior

  • Effective implementation of instructional strategies

Q: What Are Some Common Rules Used for Classroom Management?

A: Classroom management consultant Michael Linsin recommends that classroom teachers keep things simple by putting in place the following four rules:

  • Listen and follow directions.

  • Raise your hand before speaking or leaving your seat.

  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

  • Respect your classmates and your teacher.

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