Friday, March 1, 2013

Your Map to Classroom Management

Created by: David Alexander, Graduate Teaching Associate at CTL, & Phillip Becker, TechFellow at CTL

The semester is about to begin, and all the students are eager to get back into the classroom.  Their minds may be wondering about what they will learn. However, inevitably, many students are thinking if this particular class is going to be worthwhile.  Faculty members have to design their class so that it is like a map. Map? What I mean by “map” is that the course is laid out so it guides the students from the various “resting spots,” learning objectives, to their “final destinations,” the terminal learning objectives.

Maps can sometimes be a little overwhelming and confusing.  That is where a legend comes into play.  A legend lets a person know what all the symbols mean, colors, lays out information, etc.  Legends provide a lot of clarification.  In a way, the legends can be thought of as rules, which also provide clarification for the person using the map.

In the classroom, the syllabus and the first day of class serve as the legends.  This is where the faculty members set the tone and let their students know what is expected of them and what everything would mean in the course.  The faculty members can inform their students of important classroom rules, such as when it is appropriate to contact them outside of office hours, expectations, and student and teacher responsibilities. Being proactive and setting the guidelines will help set that tone for the education journey that they all are about to embark on.

Now you and your class have embarked on your journey and en route to your first stop (learning objective).  When people go on a trip and make a stop, they generally want to have fun or engage in some sort of activity.  It is great to read historic road-side signs (lecturing) about something, but it is something else entirely to experience an activity at the stop.  It is like visiting a really good museum!  Interaction can be important to classroom management because it can help students to focus and interact with one another.  Additionally, depending on the type of activity that is done, students are not only accountable to the faculty member, but to one another.  This can assist in decreasing disruptive behaviors. Disruptive behaviors are more likely to occur when students feel bored or tired.

One example of interacting with students was when I taught a military science course and that particular day's lesson was about effective writing.  I broke the students up into three groups and had them come up to the white board. Each team had one marker.  The task was to, as a group, come up with a story in the amount of time that I gave them.  But each person could only write one word before giving the marker to another person to write the next word.  The group members could not talk to one another.  The students wrote their stories, and when the exercise was completed, they went back to their desks.  At times students turn in their first draft of a paper as their final draft.  The first draft was not the best product to turn in, and the writing on the board was like a first draft of a paper.  I then tied that activity into my effective writing class and the need to do revisions.  I believe that little activity not only got the students energized for the rest of the lecture, but it opened them up to receive the information.

There are many ways in which to engage the students in the classroom such as using technology, videos, guest lecturer, etc.  This helps ensure that students stay engaged throughout the class, and the opportunities to connect with students are endless.  If students are motivated, they are not only focused, which is good for the faculty member in the classroom, but the students can also potentially ascend beyond the memorization stages of learning and can learn to comprehend, assimilate, apply, and synthesize information.

Have you been on a road trip and your children and/or other travelers become disruptive and compliant?  I'm sure you have your way of dealing with rude and disruptive behaviors.  Sometimes, students become disruptive in the classroom either by playing on their mobile devices, chatting at inappropriate times, etc.  What do you do then?  You pull over the car and deal with them in a way that is appropriate for your teaching style and classroom dynamics.

There are many ways in which to deal with students who become disruptive.  One way to deal with a chatty student, which is one of my favorites, is for the faculty member to stop what they are doing, such as stop lecturing, and just look at the talkative student(s).  Do this until they stop talking.  I must admit that for the faculty member to remain silent may take practice, but it can be an effective tool when properly used.  Many students are not comfortable with silence, and once attention is drawn to them, it deters problematic behavior.

Another technique that can be used is to call on a disruptive student to answer a question while they are being disruptive.  Additionally, a faculty member can talk to the disruptive student after class about their behavior.  I used to keep a little journal of disruptive behavior, so in the event I had to talk to a student about their behavior I can reference it with specific dates and facts.  That way I did not forget instances, and it gave my talking points more credence.  There are many ways to help preclude negative behaviors.  Just make sure your standards are known upfront, are consistent with every student, and do what is best for your class and classroom dynamics.

Have fun as you map out your journey for your students.  It can be a fun process watching students grow at each stop (learning objective), and hopefully they will be a much better person once they reach the end of the journey (terminal learning objective) at the conclusion of the semester.  Of course, the overall education journey never ends...and the educational journey is an trip!  Have fun!

  1. Kirk, K. (n.d.). Motivating students. Retrieved from
  2. Malone, F.L. (n.d.). Classroom disruption management: A casual-preventive-corrective model. Retrieved from
  3. Perry, M.A., (2010). Three simple keys to classroom management. Retrieved from

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