You identified today’s learning goals. You lined up a collection of thought-provoking and engaging activities for your students. You gathered all the materials you need to deliver the lesson. You even timed it out to make sure you keep class on pace.

But even with all that planning, when you step into the classroom, chaos ensues. The Wi-Fi goes down, your tablets don’t work or your computer is running slow. Students bottleneck at the front of the room to pick up supplies or hand in their work. Throughout the lesson, they’re getting distracted (maybe even a little disruptive). Everything took a little longer to bring to order, and suddenly, the class is over… but your lesson isn’t.

Lesson plans are a fundamental part of classroom structure and learning success, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. They also contribute to – and are influenced by – the way teachers manage their classrooms.

What is classroom management?

If lesson plans are the roadmap of classroom activity, then classroom management is how teachers drive their students to their destination.

At its core, classroom management is a combination of skills and techniques teachers use to make sure classes run smoothly and that students reach their daily learning goals. It involves organizing the physical environment of the classroom itself, setting the rules and routines students follow from bell to bell, building a strong teacher-student dynamic and responding to obstacles that pop up unexpectedly during a lesson.

Much like lesson planning, there’s no definitive “right way” to manage a classroom. The most appropriate style and techniques will depend on individual teachers, classes, schools, and districts. But no matter the approach, successful classroom management should take these five things into consideration:

  1. The classroom environment

Can everyone in the class see the lesson? Can students hear the teacher? Can the teacher monitor and interact with all students equally? Along with each lesson plan, teachers should consider how they organize the space around them – digital or physical – to facilitate the day’s activities.

To map out physical space in your lesson planning:

– Plan the configuration of student desks, tables and other classroom furniture

– Consider the flow of traffic to commonly-used areas of the room

– Make sure there’s space available to the teacher to deliver instruction, aid or observe students

– Keep classroom supplies well organized and store them somewhere accessible

To map out the digital environment in your lesson planning:

Create separate spaces for interaction, learning, reading and more in your virtual classroom

Plan lessons around accessibility – do students have the tools they need to participate?

Set regular time aside for one-on-one conversations with students if they have additional questions outside of your lesson

  1. A classroom routine

What’s the first thing students should do when they walk into a classroom? How will class flow from one activity to the next? By setting a daily routine around classroom activities and transitions – and sharing why that routine is in place – teachers can make sure students know what to expect as soon as they walk in the room and sit at their desks.

To include classroom routine in your lesson planning:

Take note of regular activities that could be included in a classroom routine, like taking attendance and handing in work

Include those activities alongside your learning activities

Build in opportunities to reinforce routines, especially at the beginning of the year

Introduce new routines slowly, once students have mastered the previous one

  1. Classroom relationships

While teachers can’t control how students act or respond in class, they can influence behavior by creating a positive atmosphere that makes students feel welcome. The more positive a student feels toward a teacher and their class, the more likely they are to also feel positively toward the learning they do within it.

To build classroom relationships into your lesson planning:

Include relevant learning activities that allow you and the class to get to know each other

Inject additional appeal by “gamifying” activities with competitions or challenges

Lighten the mood by pairing recreation with education using a helpful song, film or game

  1. Instructional delivery

Teachers don’t just teach; they connect and communicate. They make students feel included by making eye contact across the classroom and including everyone equally in question-and-answer sessions. They speak loudly and clearly enough for students to understand important lessons and instructions. They engage learners by moving around the room, rather than standing still. 

To include effective delivery in your lesson planning:

Make note of where you need to be in the classroom for each activity, so you aren’t running back and forth

Build in checks for student understanding of classroom instructions

Make note of which students you’ve called on to answer questions so you don’t repeatedly call on the same ones

  1. The unexpected

Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Technology will fail. Discussions will run so long that class time runs out – or so short that teachers are left scrambling to fill in the void. That’s why teachers need to build contingencies into their plans, so they’re ready to navigate obstacles that put learning goals at risk and keep things running smoothly.

To include unexpected interruptions in your lesson planning:

Include a “just-in-case” activity you can implement if you have extra time at the end of the lesson

Prioritize learning activities so you can make thoughtful cuts if you run out of time

Plan mini-activities during times when you’re setting up equipment

Share your daily agenda with students to help them recover from a disruption

As one teacher says, “The more work the teacher puts in behind the curtain, the easier and smoother the classroom runs.”

Classroom management dos and don’ts

How can teachers put best practices for classroom management into action? Here are our top tips for running a class smoothly – and staying in control when things go wrong:


Do… Don’t…
– Set expectations on the first day of class and reinforce them every day

– Enforce classroom rules – but do so calmly and gently, without interrupting class if possible

– Make students feel welcome and build rapport by showing interest in them and their extracurricular activities

– Plan full lessons to keep students engaged and distraction-free from the moment they walk in

– Be a leader first – establish a boundary between being a kind, caring but confident mentor and being a buddy or friend

– Set an example by being honest and owning up to your mistakes

– Connect your classroom expectations and routines to your learning goals so students understand why they’re there

– Hold students accountable for their behavior and learning goals

– Use a daily agenda to share the day’s learning goals and how you’ll spend class time with your students

– Give regular, helpful feedback to students and parents alike on completed work and in-class behavior

– Create too many rules or introduce a lot of new routines at once

– Be afraid to ask for help or feedback from other teachers or administrators if you need it

– Punish the whole class for the actions of one student or a handful of students

– Take misbehavior or disrespect personally – try to figure out the underlying issues instead

– Call on the same few students repeatedly – you’ll lose valuable opinions from others in the class

– Try to have all the answers. It’s okay to not know things, and your students can help find a better solution.

– Get confrontational with a student in front of the whole class. It’s better to take these conversations one-on-one.

– Rely on just a few learning activities for your class. Variety will keep them engaged and interested.

– Start the day without a contingency plan in place to prevent wasting time if technology (or anything else) fails

– Forget what it was like to be a child or a teenager yourself

Chapter FourGiving Feedback on Lesson Plans

In this Chapter

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