Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Social-Emotional Learning Is Essential to Classroom Management

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Social-Emotional Learning Is Essential to Classroom Management

Article excerpt

"By incorporating ... strategies into daily routines, my students now have a means to express their feelings and act appropriately when faced with a situation that involves others. My students now are able to use those strategies to remind each other and me to 'cool down,' 'he patient,' 'count to five,' 'take turns,' etc."

"I just realized the more you use it, the more they [kids] use it as well."

--Teachers using a new, self-regulation strategy

Classroom management is central to teacher practice. Successful student learning depends on a teacher's ability to manage the group as a whole--keeping the attention of 30 or more students, redirecting negative or distracting behavior, and continually assessing the pulse of the room to optimize student motivation and engagement. Despite the size and importance of the task, classroom management is perhaps the most underdeveloped area of teacher education. Rarely do new teachers feel that their classroom management skills are a match for their students.

But what is effective classroom management? In our view, two items are essential: Teachers need knowledge about children's behavior and development, and they need familiarity and practice with strategies that have been proven to work.

Strategies embedded in most high-quality, social-emotional learning programs can provide teachers with both of these things.

Four principles

Classroom management is not about controlling students or demanding perfect behavior. Instead, effective management is about supporting students to manage themselves throughout daily learning and activities. Part of the teacher's role is to give students the tools they need to interact with and meet the demands of the social and instructional environment of school. Different activities and different children will require different types of support, so teachers need a diverse set of strategies. Effective classroom management will look different in different grade levels. But across all classrooms and grade levels, four principles of effective management are constant.

1. Effective classroom management is based in planning and preparation.

Effective classroom managers map the day's learning activities as well as transitions between activities and think deliberately about what is likely to be difficult for specific individuals, groups, or the class as a whole. Teachers who make time for such management-oriented planning are less likely to be caught off guard when things go awry, and they're more likely to have a strategy prepared in advance and to implement it quickly, enabling them to steer students back on track when disruptions occur.

Disruptions are inevitable in every classroom. This type of planning acknowledges that and enables teachers to handle problems in responsive, not reactive, ways. Responsive classroom management is more likely to be thoughtful, concrete, consistent, and implemented in a calm and supportive way. In contrast, reactive management can be angry, punitive, inconsistent or unclear, and tends to escalate the problem behavior (Lesaux, Jones, Russ, & Kane, 2014).

2. Effective classroom management is an extension of the quality of relationships in the room (Marzano, 2003).

Teachers who establish and maintain high-quality, trusting relationships with students can draw on their history of positive interactions in order to address classroom management challenges as they arise. In contrast, teachers regularly engaged in conflict with students are less able to respond effectively to classroom disruptions. This is especially true for unanticipated problems that demand "on the fly" action from teachers. High-quality relationships are characterized by warmth and responsiveness to student needs on one hand and by clear boundaries and consistent consequences on the other hand. Striking the right balance between warmth and discipline is a common challenge. …

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