If we can agree on anything it is that COVID-19 made its mark on education. Good, bad, and indifferent, our classrooms were thrown for a loop and are still in the process of settling and figuring out what the “new normal” is. One thing teachers have been fervently asking me is how to accomplish classroom management after COVID. This is a slippery slope, incorporating grace, on-the-fly action, and a sense of decorum in the classroom. Hopefully, this list will help you find a way to incorporate successful classroom management after COVID.
Let us start with a list of WHY we have classroom management.
- To create a safe and productive learning environment
- To provide each student an opportunity to learn
- To maximize instructional time
- To demonstrate respect for self, others, and the community
- To motivate the students to “do their best”
So, how can we make these ideas work when student behavior has changed? How do we manage when students don’t take responsibility for their own behavior? What do you do when a student chooses another path, one that takes them out of class vs. one that keeps them in class? There are so many variables right now and to top it off, we have a bunch of students who seemly have forgotten how to be students.
Resetting Classroom Management after COVID
Let us start with a few basics. No matter what, make sure you have a basic idea of how your day is going to run. What routines will you do? How will this plan affect the learning of your students? If you can design a basic routine that helps your class stick to their goals and allows them the opportunity to operate as a class, you are ahead of the game.
Here is an example:
1. Arrive in the classroom promptly
2. Unpack and set up
3. Morning Meeting/Do Now
4. Collaborative Activity (if you have one planned for this period, otherwise get to work on seatwork or individual activities that meet certain learning targets)
5. Exit Slips/Assessments
If this looks familiar, it is because you have used variations of it before COVID-19 arrived. The difference now is that your students are not engaged the way they once were. Don’t fret though! You can still teach them these routines and get them to participate. There are just some things you need to adjust.
1. How to set up the classroom
Make sure you get large group activities, such as wall work done first thing in the morning. This way, you can use it for a learning target and they will be more likely to participate and follow through with finishing these tasks because of your desired outcomes. If you have the option to use technology for this (especially if it is self-grading and will give you data immediately), it is even better. Have students complete and submit their beginning work and then move on with collaborative work or individual assessment/work time.
2. How to handle transitions
After thoroughly explaining what they will be doing next, ask them if they need anything before moving on (a pencil, a piece of paper, etc.). If they say no, ask them to “get ready.” You can have students walk in a circle around the room while you are packing up at the end of class. This way, everything stays safe and everyone is prepared for what will happen next. Another idea is to have students roll in their chairs to the next workstation when you say “transition” or “moving on.”
3. How to manage behavior
Remain calm, even if they are not doing what you want them to do. Explain the consequences again and ask students who can complete the correct task to help out (i.e., asking a student nearby to help with the pencil). If you can, complete the task with them and let them know that if they do the same task correctly the next time it will be easier.
4. How to exit at the end of class
Make sure students understand that they CAN and WILL leave when the bell rings (even if it is on an activity). Remind them of your classroom expectations and tell them that you will not tolerate anything else. If they do not listen, ask them to line up outside the door (if possible) or take a seat by their name tags (if this is how you call out students).
5. How to manage morning work/Do Now time
If students choose not to participate in the routine or simply disregard what they are supposed to be doing, you can have them drop their papers on the floor and sit down at their desks. Make sure you communicate to them why/how this happened and how it will change your class for the day. If you’re finding a trend of students who seem to be trying to have this be the end result, there is probably a deeper issue there that needs to be addressed.
Fortunately, in a student-led classroom, you have the opportunity to chat with your students on a daily basis. I would make a point to try to talk with these students about what is going on. Never press them, but lead the conversation as if you were talking about yourself, perhaps a hard time you had (whatever your inkling might be is the issue here), and see what comes from it.
Keep in mind, that revelation might not come right away, and that’s okay! Instead, the student might randomly open up later or their attitude may just change. Keep an eye (and possibly some notes) on what is happening and if anything is progressing and amend your plan from there.
6. How to manage transitions in and out of small groups
Be sure students understand the procedures for working independently/in a small group and remind them of how independence is a goal in your classroom! track of whose turn is next. You can have them raise their hand or remind them of the procedure each time. Another idea is to have a student walk over and take the next group members’ place. Whatever your transition plan is, keep it consistent (which is key to classroom management after COVID, to begin with).
7. How to manage behavior during collaborative activities
The same rules still apply, even if you are within a group environment. Remind students of their actions and the consequences if necessary. This is an important piece of classroom management after COVID. If students choose not to follow through with behavior expectations, you can ask them to take five (or any other number) to cool off, walk around the room (if possible), or take a seat. After checking in with them again, make sure they are following through with what you asked of them before moving on.
8. How to manage technology
It is important that you are supported by the administration in your efforts to use technology in the classroom. Sometimes, this means having an assistant or paraprofessional on hand while students are working independently or in small groups with the help of technology. If students need support, show them which button they should press first, then let them know that they will be able to do it next time. Also, keep in mind, our students were learning solely through technology for a while; classroom management after COVID will need to try to bridge the gap between virtual and in-person learning.
Helping Students Learn to be Students Again
This is the biggest struggle with classroom management after COVID. Think of it this way: if the last time a student was in an actual classroom was 7th grade and now they are a freshman in high school, they never evolved their behavioral norms and expectations throughout those years. They are still behaving as a 9th grader as they did as a 7th grader because they didn’t learn any different through their daily social interactions in the classroom.
This is why coming up with a plan for classroom management after COVID is so utterly vital. We need to reteach our students how they should be learning and behaving in the classroom. And the only way that is going to happen is through modeling, monitoring, and guiding students.
One way of doing this consistently is by using an anchor chart.
In this anchor chart, students are reminded of what cooperative learning looks like and sounds like through verbal reminders from you or written on the board. You can also have students address each other by their last names (teacher’s discretion) during collaborative activities to help them remember that they’re in a new environment with different rules.
Also, I’ve noticed from some teachers that there is a lot of movement in the classroom now, which was not the case before COVID. This isn’t a bad thing as long as it is organized chaos. Read this article about movement in the classroom to understand why.
This may take some time for your class to get used to following these steps again because not having a plan for school will have taken its toll on them this year. But don’t give up! You are helping provide an educational experience for them which they need and deserve.
Implementing Effective Classroom Management after COVID
The next step is to begin implementing classroom management after COVID by following this plan.
What are your students doing now that they weren’t allowed to do before? What struggles or successes have you had reinforcing expected behaviors in the classroom? How will you deal with classroom management after COVID?
These are all questions we are not only asking, but need to find the answers to (with the full knowledge that those answers may change over time, and that’s okay!).
We hope that this gave you a little more insight into classroom management after COVID and how to help your students learn their new behavioral norms.
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