My Interactive Classroom Management Plan

**NOTE: I am not a real teacher yet, so please remember that when I refer to what “I am currently doing,” I am in fact basing all this on my imaginary classroom. At first I hated that I was required to do this, but it ended up being kind of fun in a way–planning out a whole classroom that doesn’t even exist yet. It was also very good for me; it required me to come up with definite plans instead of being vague (“I might do this or possibly that…”). I hope you enjoy reading my plan and looking over all my attachments. If anyone (especially current or former teachers) has any suggestions about areas where I can improve my plan, please leave me a comment below! I’d like my management plan to be the best that it can be!**

Classroom Motto

Weakness is the opportunity to grow strong, limitation is the door to ingenuity, temptation is the entrance exam to victory, and failure is the chance to try again.

The Apostle Paul stated, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10, New King James Version). When we are weak, we can be strong in Christ. When we are unable, He will give us creative ways to work around it. When we are tempted, He will give us the victory, and when we have failed, we have a second chance in Him.

Philosophy

My role as a teacher is to guide my students to the Great Teacher, recognizing their God-given abilities to think for themselves, but also their natural depravity as sinful human beings. Thus, I maintain a middle-road, “interactive” degree of control in my classroom, valuing my students’ input and engaging their sense of personal academic responsibility, but always maintaining the final authority in my room (Burden, 2013). My management plan addresses both the heart and the outward actions of the child. While it is important for the outward actions to be in compliance with the rules, the heart of the child is what God sees and cares about most (1 Sam. 16:7). The goal of my management plan is to shape my students from the inside out: starting with the characters and hearts of my students, which will in turn affect their actions and thus the atmosphere of the room. I combine high standards for outward behavior with love and encouragement and rewards that will address the deeper matters of the heart such as motivation, self-respect, and acceptance. As Haddock (as cited in Braley, Layman, & White, 2003) said, “Correcting the negative is not enough. One must follow up with affirmation” (p. 246). I do not take outward actions of students at face value, but recognize that there could be deeper heart needs that are producing those behaviors. I prevent off-task behavior in my classroom by teaching lessons that are interesting, relevant, and meaningful to my students (Burden, 2013), as well as differentiated to meet their various styles of learning. I prepare, in conjunction with parental and student input, my own Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for each of my students, not just the struggling learners, which charts their best learning style, their interests, their struggles, and their gifts. The student and I then work together to make goals, meet them, and brainstorm ways to complete assignments and learn important content in each student’s own unique style. I give my students choice and a voice in their decision-making (while still maintaining the final say) and gradually entrust to them (with appropriate age and maturity) the management of their own educations, thus increasing their intrinsic motivation and engagement.

Classroom Diversity

My classroom is comprised of students with all different family dynamics and from all different cultural, religious, and economic backgrounds. Mine is a fifth grade classroom in an alternative education school, with twenty students ranging from eleven to twelve years of age—nine girls and eleven boys. I have three African-American students, one Native American student, and two Romanian students. One girl comes from a conservative Mennonite home, one boy from a home with an atheist father and a Buddhist mother, and the rest from varying Christian backgrounds. Several of my students come from homes where parents struggle to make ends meet and have little time to assist with their children’s education. One of my students has parents who believe education is the sole job of government-funded schools and teachers. Several children’s parents do not have full custody due to drug addiction. However, diversity is far broader than just these external differences. Among my students there is much internal diversity of motivation, achievement, weaknesses and strengths, learning styles, personalities, and personal interests. Four of my students have speech impediments and learning difficulties and receive Response to Intervention special education. Three are extremely gifted and advanced beyond their grade level. One boy loves animals, one girl loves to read and devours books. A couple of my students—boys—have trouble sitting still and benefit from having activity throughout their day. I have about an equal balance of students who enjoy and do well in school to those who dislike school and struggle. I take all these different factors into account when planning my instruction and managing the classroom.

Learning Styles

A child’s learning style is their learning comfort zone—“when, where, and how” they learn best (Burden, 2013, p. 145). Burden (2013) listed the different categories of learning styles as including visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners; field-dependent versus field-independent students (the field being the classroom, peers, and teacher), and children who are predominantly left-brained (technical) or right-brained (artistic). In my classroom, diversity in learning styles is celebrated and supported through differentiation of lessons, assignments, and assessments. Not every student in my room completes the same lesson the same way, since some learn better within their learning comfort zone than outside of it. To meet the needs of all my students, I first make a point of getting to know each of them as well as possible, both through personal, one-on-one interaction and through counseling with their families. I then keep a running “bio” on each student which highlights the different observations I have made or come to understand about their learning comfort zones. Next, I make sure to incorporate a variety of strategies and teaching styles into my instruction, ensuring that each student gets to experience their unique style occasionally, while learning to “stretch and use all learning styles” at other times (Chapman, as cited in Burden, 2013, p. 146). This includes the technique of combining “art, music, and physical education into social science, science, and language arts disciplines” (Burden, 2013, p. 147). Lastly, bringing my interactive philosophy of classroom management into play, I collaborate with each student to come up with acceptable ways that they can complete assignments which creatively incorporate their unique learning styles and still adequately meet the requirements for demonstrating that they have successfully mastered the material. These practices keep my students engaged, minimize boredom and off-task behavior, and greatly enhance my students’ intrinsic desires to learn.

Room Arrangement

Joy McCullough (2012) said that classroom arrangement must give students’ silent messages about the classroom philosophy of learning (McCullough, 2012). I believe that children should be able to learn in a home environment. If the school cannot be located in an actual home (which is my dream school), the room should be laid out as much like a home as possible. This gives an authenticity and practicality to the learning, and gives opportunities for real life application, making the school seem less institutionalized and more comfortable, inviting, and homey to children. Thus, my school is laid out (clockwise from the door) with a kitchen, dining room, library, living room, and office. The “kitchen” has student cubbies off to the side, and a stove and fridge, sink, cupboards, and a table or island. We use this area for cooking lessons incorporating math, cleaning lessons, and science experiments. The “dining room” has storage shelves and three to four circular tables where students sit for cooperative activities and discussions. The library is a three-sided nook of bookshelves and has a couple bean bags to make reading inviting. The “living room” is centered around the SMART board/whiteboard and bordered by several upholstered chairs. Scattered around these are a number of floor cushions for individual student seating. We use this area for morning meetings and videos and whole class instruction utilizing the white board, as well as a place for students to sit for doing independent class work if they choose. Lastly, the office has my personal desk (off-limits to students), filing cabinets, and student desks. We use this space for computer work and class-cooperative business ventures to learn math and entrepreneurial skills, as well as for individual writing projects and updating the class blog. I have individual desks placed in quiet, open corners left in the room, for those students who need a quiet place for individual work where they will not be distracted by the other interactive seating arrangements.

Classroom Layout
Classroom Layout

Student Motivation

I utilize motivational strategies on a continuum of extrinsic to intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the child; intrinsic motivation is when they engage in behavior solely for satisfaction those behaviors provide—even if they are not outwardly recognized (McCullough, 2012). Sometimes extrinsic rewards can be used as a catalyst to build value towards intrinsic motivation (Burden, 2013). Extrinsic rewards include earning a prize from the classroom treasure chest (gotten immediately or perhaps saved for with tokens) or a privilege, such as extra recess time, the right to do a coveted classroom task, getting to be teacher’s helper, and so on. These, coupled with praise and linked to the effort and intrinsic feelings of satisfaction that the child feels after he or she has made the right choice or exerted good effort, help to get an unmotivated student excited about engaging in an activity or assignment he or she has no natural intrinsic desire to do. However, I always remember that extrinsic motivation is only a catalyst; once the value is built in the child, I used these motivators less and less frequently until the child is engaging in the behavior solely for its own reward.

Classroom Procedures

Having pre-planned procedures for different daily and weekly activities in my classroom gives my students structure and routine and thus a sense of predictability. I use interactive methods to plan these procedures. Each school day in my class begins and ends with a class meeting which all students attend. This is a time for us to talk about what is going to (or did) happen in the day. It is also a time when procedures can be planned with my students. For example, on the first day of the school year, I work with my students to come up with a method for gaining whole-class attention that they feel will effectively get their attention. I will give them some ideas (such as a secret classroom clap, where I do a certain clap—e.g. clap, pause, clap, and the whole class must immediately answer with a response clap—e.g. clap-clap-clap), but allow them to be creative. The only stipulation is that the method they come up with must get their bodies and eyes turned towards me, their hands empty and still, and their voices off. I also give some student choice in certain other procedures: While I set the rule that only one student at a time can be at the pencil sharpener with no line (you must keep working on what you can at your desk until the student at the sharpener sits down again), students can choose if the person sharpening pencils can sharpen more than one pencil at a time. Likewise, I set the stipulation that when leaving the classroom and walking in the halls, students will be ordered in a first-come-first-served, single-file line. However, I will allow student input on what the punishment will be if a student steps out of line, budges, runs, is talking, or shoves another student.

However, as the authority in my room, I do not believe I must get student input for all procedures. For some, I am the sole decision-maker: When a student needs to get a drink or use the restroom, they must quietly give the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for this need. Only when they receive my affirmation (the ASL sign for “yes”) may they leave the classroom. When passing out papers or items, I use the “take one and pass it on” method mostly, but sometimes have one or two students pass out heavier items (like books or objects for an assignment) as the situation determines. When students have completed a test, quiz, or other assignment during a silent work time, they can quietly get up and place the completed assignment their folder in the file drawer. If they do not finish it during the allotted time, they must put it in their backpack to take home for homework and bring back in the morning. No permission is needed for students to get out of their seats to put away completed work, so long as they go directly back to their seats without stopping to talk with and disrupt other students.

I teach my students the most prominent classroom procedures at the beginning of the year during our morning or end-of-day meeting time. I first describe the steps for the procedure and give some examples. Then, as a class, we role play and practice the steps a few times until the students have them memorized. If students start to get lax throughout the year, I bring this to their attention at our daily meetings. At this time, we do more role playing and practice, or perhaps change or modify the procedure slightly if the class deliberates and are able to come up with something they feel will work better for them (if perhaps the current procedure is just too complicated). My classroom runs so much more smoothly because I give my students some input in their classroom procedures, give them opportunities for planned practice right from the start of the year, and always nip any laxness in the bud during the year.

Classroom Rules

At the beginning of each school year, I present my students with the following framework rules stated in terms of appropriate behavior, and then allow them to come up with specific examples of inappropriate behavior for each category.

  1. I will use my voice to encourage (not embarrass), respect, and tell the truth.
  2. I will use my hands to heal (not hurt) and build (not destroy).
  3. I will use my mind and time to learn and do good to others.

While it is best that rules be stated positively, as the above framework rules are, Burden (2013) pointed out that some students need the negatively stated rules (no hitting, no talking when someone is addressing the class, no name-calling, etcetera) for more concrete examples of what behaviors are not accepted. By involving my students in the process of coming up with these specific examples, they have a greater sense of ownership of the rules and responsibility for them (Burden, 2013), while I have still maintained control over the categories of the main rules in keeping with my interactive methods.

Rewards and Consequences

Consequences in my room address not only the outward actions, but also the child’s heart. Upon the first infraction of an offense, either breakage of the rules or simply off-task behavior, I use non-verbal cues such as eye contact with raised eyebrow, proximity control, and a light touch on the student’s arm or shoulder to alert students that they are making poor choices and should correct their behavior. If this does not work, or upon the second infraction, I give the student a verbal warning, quietly telling them that they must choose to right their behavior, or experience a more restrictive consequence. If this does not work, or upon the third infraction, the student is sent into a time out, giving him or her time to reflect on his or her behavior and right his or her attitudes. At the end of the time out, which will not exceed ten minutes (Burden, 2013), I take a moment to discuss what happened with the student, asking probing questions to reveal to myself and the student what was on their heart that prompted them to act as they did and brainstorming ways they can avoid the misbehavior in the future. At this point, they also lose a privilege that they value for the day. If the infraction occurs again, the student will be removed from the classroom, either to the hallway or the refocus room, to complete a behavior reflection worksheet which will be sent home for parental signature (Burden, 2013). With this comes the loss of a valued privilege for up to a week. If the same misbehavior continues, both parents and school administrators will be notified, and a conference will be set up to discuss how to collaboratively address the situation.

I make sure that my rewards also address both the heart and the outward actions by always linking praise, privileges, and prizes to the deeper character qualities that the outward actions reveal (Brueher, 2014). For example, I might first say, “I am so proud of you—you kept working on your journal until it was all finished, even though you don’t like writing,” but I follow with, “This shows me that you are very diligent!” I mostly give liberal public and private praise, linked to effort and other intrinsic qualities, for incidents of habitual good behavior. I give students privileges they value, such as helping with a classroom task, getting some extra free time, playing an educational game, and so on, or allow them to earn privileges over periods of time (through tokens or sticker tallies) for behaviors that are nearly habitual, but need some extra encouragement. Lastly, I give students material prizes from the class prize box, such as bookmarks, matchbox cars, small hand mirrors, bouncy balls, and other trinkets and toys, to jump start them on behaviors that are new to them. I gradually wean students off the latter rewards to the former as the good behavior becomes more habitual. I find that lots of praise, some privileges, and a few prizes keep students eager about learning and doing their best.

Behavior Contract - Sample
Sample Behavior Contract

Record Keeping

When it comes to record keeping, I do believe my personal motto is “Save everything!” In my classroom, my file cabinets are my best friends! I have my drawers separated between students, parents, curriculum, classroom, and personal records. Each student has an individual file in one of my “Students” drawers that contains folders for academic documents, personal information, and behavior analyses (such as ABC Analysis charts). Each set of parents or guardians has a file in one of my “Parents” drawers, with documentation of all phone conversations, notes from parent-teacher conferences, and so on. In my “Curriculum” drawer(s), I keep lesson plans organized by subject (math, history, English, and so on). My “Classroom” drawer(s) has copies of posters that I may use in the future, old classroom schedules, room decoration ideas, bulletin board cutouts, and so on. Lastly, in my “Personal” drawer, I keep personal reflections of my own teaching, assessments I received from supervising teachers, and other personal school paperwork. I do my best to keep physical documentation of almost everything that goes on in relation to my classroom.

ABC Analysis - Sample
Sample ABA Analysis

While I believe in keeping physical copies of most everything, I do maintain an electronic gradebook. Here I keep track of attendance and my grades and personal comments on students’ assignments. My assignments consist of projects, quizzes, tests, and occasional homework. Projects and tests make up thirty-five percent each (seventy percent together) of a student’s whole grade, quizzes make up twenty percent of the whole grade, and what little homework is given makes up the remaining ten percent. For every major topic covered (basically for each state achievement standard), I have my students complete either a project or a test, or both, usually bimonthly. Quizzes are given on more of a memory triggering basis, about once or twice a week for students to show that they still remember content they previously learned. In keeping with advice I read in McCullough (2012), I do not believe in giving homework except on the rare occasion, mainly when students have not utilized their classtime wisely, or when the nature of the knowledge being learned calls for completion in a different environment to ensure complete transfer (Schunk, 2012). Within each assignment, there are different aspects that affect the grade, the majority of weight being given to the fact that the student showed an understanding of the academic content under assessment, lesser weight being given to options such as penmanship, effort, attitude, and/or creativity.

Besides the electronic gradebook and physical records, I also keep a portfolio for each student which showcases his or her best work, progression, and improvement throughout the school year. Following my interactive methodology, the students and I will work collaboratively on maintaining these portfolios. They can decorate a creative construction-paper cover. I provide plastic sheet covers to protect the work inside and give the whole portfolio an air of professionalism. Together the student and I decide which assignments best show his or her progress and achievement and slip them into the protective sheets in their portfolio. In this way, students come to cherish and feel a great sense of ownership for their portfolios, as well as a having a great sense of accomplishment and pride in the work that is so attractively showcased within. They quickly start doing their best to complete work that is worthy of being displayed in their portfolios.

I believe that students, by the time they have reached the fifth grade, should be of enough age and maturity to keep track of their own assignments, papers, and due dates. Therefore, I prepare a weekly checklist spanning the days of the week across the top and the different subjects down the side, with each assignment gridded out beyond. Students keep a copy of this in their personal binder for their own reference. Students do not have access to my personal file cabinets, so, I use a small-scale filing system in a crate placed on the counter where all students can access it. Each student has a folder here with another copy of the list of the weekly assignments they can check off for my reference. When a student finishes an assignment, he or she checks it off and places it in the folder for grading. After I finish grading it, I put it back in the file folder for the student to view my comments. It is similar to student-teacher mailbox communication, where both of us have access to the same file and can communicate to each other through personal notes, finished assignments (from student to teacher), and graded assignments (from teacher to students). Students’ binders are also their personal responsibility, and are a private place where they can keep all their own personal paperwork—homework, unfinished assignments, papers to take home for parental signatures, reminders and checklists, and so on. While I do not necessarily dock a students’ grade if their assignment is late, in keeping with advice from Heaton and Coon (as cited in Braley, Layman, & White, 2003), there is always a consequence, usually the loss of a privilege. By giving students their own personal file and binder, and removing myself from being the manager of their assignments, I instill in them a sense of ownership over the organization and management of their papers and due dates.

Parent Communication

I promote open communication by listening more than talking, and asking more than telling. I listen to parents’ insights about their children and what their goals are for the school year, and I ask them for advice and what works for them in managing their children, as well as inviting them to volunteer and assist at the school and most importantly with their children’s education. I begin the school year by sending out a letter of introduction, not only introducing myself, but seeking to set up a time before the school year starts to visit each family of my new students, in their homes or at the school, whichever they are most comfortable with. During this meeting, I ask parents to list out what their goals are for their children’s school year. I also plan lots of fun activities for parents during Back-to-School night, including having parents and students play fun educational games that I will be using with their students throughout the year as a way to get everyone acquainted and feeling comfortable. I also walk parents and students through a condensed version of a normal school day (Burden, 2013). I make sure to explain to parents my discipline and motivation policies and procedures, sending home a packet of such information for future reference, but also keep the event informal and relaxed.

Introductory Letter
Sample Introductory Letter to Parents

Throughout the school year, I encourage parents that even though I am their children’s classroom teacher, they are still the primary educators—that their children will learn their most important life lessons from them, not from me. This reflects my deeply held belief that parents have been given the responsibility by God of rearing and passing on their knowledge and family traditions to their children (Psalms 78:5-6). I run an ongoing class blog which highlights current classroom events and projects, showcases students’ exceptional essay, poems, projects for parents to read, and shows pictures from recent field trips and school events for parents who could not participate. Most importantly, along with talking about current unit studies and lesson coverages, I post tips for how parents can extend what the children are learning in the classroom in their homes. For example, if the children’s math unit is covering fractions, I highlight this on the blog and include the tip for parents to do some baking with their children and talk about how the different measurements (¼ cup, ½ cup, ¾ cup, etc.) compare and how to convert or transpose a recipe. Updates on this blog can be emailed to parents, and printed off and mailed as newsletters to those who do not have email access.

I do my best to keep all interactions with parents positive. I make a point to phone parents when their child has done well, not just when they have behaved poorly (Burden, 2013). When I do have to deliver bad news, I sandwich it between good reports about the child, and make sure to reiterate that even weaknesses and behavior issues can potentially become good things when shaped correctly (Burden, 2013). For example, instead of just saying, “Mrs. N., Kaitlyn is very strong-willed and dominating,” I make sure to point out that Kaitlyn has the makings of a good leader. If interactions with parents are always confrontational or negative in nature, it will make them want to avoid such interactions. Parents know that I am not only their friend, but also their ally and support.

Suspension

Prior to suspending a student, my school administration first holds an informal conference with the both the parents and the student, where documented evidence is given that the student is hindering the safety of himself, herself, or others, or seriously disrupting the learning of the class. The student is then given an opportunity to present his or her side of the story, and parents are encouraged to have their child tested to assess the need for special education. Students are given a written dismissal in compliance with the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act. Then, either before or during the suspension period, the administration, in conjunction with parents and student, devise a plan for re-admitting the student that may include behavior contracts, special education plans, and more parental involvement (506 – Student Discipline, n.d.).

There are four stipulations made by the state of Minnesota in regard to suspensions. First, students cannot be suspended for more than fifteen days. Secondly, students must be given a copy of the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act either at the time of suspension, or when suspension is proposed. Third, students must be provided with special education services by the school district during the time of their suspension. Lastly, parents have a right to appeal the suspension to the state of Minnesota for up to twenty-one days (Expulsions and Exclusions, n.d.). My school is clearly in compliance with these four policies.

Conclusion

Having a behavior management plan has been lifesaving for me. My students, as fallen human beings, need guidance, structure, and direction in their everyday lives and decisions. Left to themselves, they will not make the right choices (Prov. 29:15). However, right in the midst of a conflict is not the time for a teacher to come up with a plan for dealing with conflicts. This must be done long before the first difficulty ever arises, with much reflection on the philosophical foundations behind the methods chosen. I have found that by planning my management philosophy and subsequent strategies in advance, I am much better equipped to not only prevent, but also handle any conflicts that come my way in my classroom.

References

506 – Student discipline. (n.d.). Retrieved from New Discoveries Montessori Academy: Hutchinson, MN. (how do I cite this? They emailed me a Word document).

Braley, J.; Layman, J.; & White, R. (Eds.) (2003). Foundations of Christian school education. Colorado Springs, CO: Purposeful Design Publications.

Brueher, E. (2014). Faith, freedom, and public schools.

Burden, P. (2013). Classroom management: Creating a successful K-12 learning community [5th ed.]. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Expulsions and exclusions. (n.d.). Retrieved from MN Department of Education: http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/StuRight/StuDisc/Expul/index.html

McCullough, J. D. (2012). Kingdom living in your classroom. Colorado Springs, CO: Purposeful Design Publications.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: An educational perspective. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Incorporated.

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