This article was co-written with Dr. Amy Jackson
Effective classroom management is essential to successful learning. And while managing a classroom full of students has always presented its challenges, educators faced a whole new world this past year in hybrid and remote learning environments.
We wanted to know what was working for teachers in various settings and how that compared to an in-person classroom, so we started by revisiting Marzano’s seven core practices of classroom management. Then we read as many articles as we could find about effective classroom management in remote and hybrid settings.
What we found across the articles was no surprise: the core principles of effective classroom management apply in both remote and hybrid settings. As we prepare for the fall of 2021, it’s important to know that Marzano’s core practices apply whether we’re in remote, hybrid, or in-person settings.
Positive Classroom Management Practices for Any Environment
Classroom teachers spend the first days and weeks establishing community with their students. Part of that community building involves the establishment of rules and norms. We know that classroom rules must be intentional and clearly written, and that every member of the classroom community should be able to understand the meaning of the rules.
We also know that involving students is recognized as best practice for both development of classroom rules as well as the consequences for breaking them. Involving students ensures age appropriateness and relevance as well as helps students rationalize the concept of rules.
With remote learning, or hybrid learning, students should still be involved in establishing classroom norms. It is important to engage in open discussion and be transparent when talking to the students about the difference between classroom rules and remote rules. Compare and contrast in-classroom rules and remote rules with students, discuss, and give opportunities to model and practice.
Consequences can be both positive and negative. They not only need to be appropriate and be fitting for the age level, but they must also be fair. Consequences are most effective with immediate response then sustained reinforcement—what this means is that you would have an appropriate consequence in the moment for some type of behavior. While we know that positive consequences have resulted in a decrease in the need for behavioral interventions, it is important to remember that when the consequences are negative, they should be extended with additional reflective and restorative practices.
Student involvement in determining consequences is extremely valuable regardless of setting. With hybrid or remote learning, consequences can be tricky. But similar to rules, having an open discussion about how consequences are the same or different between in-person and remote is a great place to start.
An important thing to remember for remote and hybrid learning is that a lot can be happening in the students’ learning environments. Students need to feel safe that they will not face a negative consequence when distractions in their environment are out of their control. Create a signal for students to share with their teachers when this is happening. The signal should be discreet and should not distract the entire class.
Whether teachers are transitioning back to the classroom or not this fall, they must remember to openly discuss the similarities and differences between what works in a classroom vs. a remote environment. Establish clear expectations for the classroom environment. Create consequences, set incentives, and generate ideas for rewards together with students. And remember, redirect and ask questions before giving a consequence.
Procedures are often confused with rules because they may result in consequences when not followed. However, procedures are fundamentally different from rules because they define specific actions as opposed to expectations for behavior. That said, establishment of process and procedure is vital to the classroom management puzzle.
In a sense, procedures are helping to lift some portion of mental load for students. Consistency and predictability in procedures allow students to move smoothly through their day. For example, there will be less time spent in transitions and more time spent engaged in learning if students are fluent in the procedures for different transition scenarios. Transitions are a perfect example of where clear procedures are really necessary to mitigate behavior problems.
In regards to remote or hybrid learning, having consistent procedures allows you to manage this shift between websites, platforms, and breakout rooms more fluidly. Remember to model and practice online procedures with students. Use emojis or gifs to gauge where students are each day, and allow students a consistent amount of time to get settled at the start of class. Post the expectations clearly and practice, practice, practice so that students can flow seamlessly through the day.
Withitness can be defined as the disposition of a teacher to quickly and accurately identify problematic behavior, or even better, potential problematic behavior and intervene immediately. It’s about how aware the teacher is of what is really happening in the classroom. Withitness teachers possess the ability to have eyes everywhere which allows them to minimize misbehavior. When students feel that their teachers know what’s going on all the time, they are generally less likely to engage in poor behavior.
This looks different and is much harder in remote settings, especially when students have cameras and microphones off. Withitness has a slightly different meaning in a remote environment. In a remote setting, teachers have to be realistic that some students are going to engage in off-task behavior, so it is necessary to send clear messages that they are paying attention.
Here are a few tips on how to stay engaged with your students:
- Be aware of body language and facial expressions when in person or on camera
- Use inflection and expression when speaking
- Use questions and redirection to keep students engaged
- Say student names when speaking in general
- Participate with students in groups/breakouts
- Let student interests guide instructional topics
- Be honest, be real, and model enthusiasm
According to The Glossary of Education Reform, student engagement refers to “the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.”
We know that students need to be engaged in content to learn, and we know choice is a motivator. When students are motivated, engagement is high. And when engagement is high, classroom management tends to fall into place and rules and expectations are followed more clearly.
We know that content has to be relevant so that interest and curiosity are peaked. At the same time, teachers are responsible for making state-driven content relevant to diverse groups of students, so how educators approach delivering the content is vital to engagement. When teachers and students are in the same physical space, they have the opportunity to engage in group activities that include choice, they vary time spent sitting vs. moving, they use physical objects to support learning, and they engage in deeper reasoning and activity-based settings.
In a remote or hybrid environment, teachers can still do many of the same things; however, it takes some creativity and planning.
Create a space, like breakout rooms, where students have the opportunity to collaborate in both learning and play activities. Both are equally important in development. Teachers can also get creative and plan learning and/or play activities with other classrooms, schools, or even districts. Connecting to those outside of the classroom is, in some ways, easier in a remote classroom.
Keep students moving! Find ways for them to move around just as in the classroom. In remote and hybrid situations, students can go on word or object hunts, they can find items in their homes that support a personal or fictional story, they can engage in exercise, or they can share personal items they love like pets, toys, or gadgets.
No matter what types of creative ways are used to keep students engaged in learning, whether in-person or remote, let students know ahead of time what the criteria are. Post them. Keep them on a screen. Say them. Allow students to practice the procedures so that behavior is ideal and engagement is high.
It goes without saying that relationships are everything. Where withitness is about a teacher’s ability to identify positive and negative behaviors accurately, emotional stability speaks more to a teacher’s ability to react objectively, fairly, and appropriately. It is key that a teacher, who is a trusted adult, responds fairly and in a way that feels safe, authentic, and genuine to a student.
In regards to remote environments, forging relationships through screens presented very new and considerable challenges. Educators were not only building relationships with students in new ways, but also with caregivers. And teachers faced an additional challenge of needing to provide opportunities for students to build relationships with each other, all while creating safe remote environments.
While teachers who are going back into classrooms can rely on in-person relationship building, those who remain in remote or hybrid environments may want to remember the following:
- Have scheduled office hours, and also have consistently scheduled 1:1 time with students.
- Set conversation norms, model, and practice. Norms support equity of voice and foster a feeling of safety.
- Use tech tools. Use tools like Flipgrid that provide them with equity and voice. Use tools like Mote that allow teachers to provide feedback by recording their voices to allow students to hear emotion.
- Embrace cultural differences. Help students understand their differences and how they can all be celebrated. Consider bringing in guest speakers to help students learn about people who are the same as or different from those who live in their homes.
- Let students inside your world a bit. Don’t be afraid to show that it is not necessarily easy to be working and learning from home.
Communication with Families/Caregivers
Communication with caregivers doesn’t often get included with classroom management techniques because technically, it’s out of the classroom. However, your students who enter your classroom, whether physical or remote, live with families and have interactions with them every day that impact the teaching and learning that happens in your classroom. It is key that you are communicating your philosophy and expectations and that you are continuously sharing updates, both academic and social-emotional behavior (SEB), and both negative and positive.
Whether in-person or remote, the key takeaway is to be vigilant, be clear, and be consistent with your communication. When approaching the start of a new school year, be relentless with connecting before the school year starts. Let caregivers know the best way to communicate, and post this information prominently on the school website, a class homepage, and in an email signature.
Be consistent and involve students. Send weekly emails and set a schedule for recurring phone calls. Involve students in communication by creating a class newsletter, involving them in weekly email updates, and including them on parent calls.
This past year has been like none before, but educators are wrapping up the 2020-2021 school year with more experience and are prepared to head into a new school year, whether they will be in their classroom, in a hybrid setting, or fully remote.
To learn more about implementing these seven core practices into your remote classroom environments, check out our recent webinar.
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