Classroom Management: Create a Positive Learning Climate and Culture

Sunnah in ClassroomA positive learning environment for children is vital to the success of your classroom. If the learning environment is not positive, curriculum can become monotonous and instruction teacher-focused rather than student-centred. Design a positive learning environment for your students by setting up norms, enforcing consistent consequences and reinforcing positive behaviour.

Say “please” and “thank you” to students. We should not take these words for granted anymore and keep in mind the importance of giving respect in order to earn respect. We should use these words in tests, homework, worksheets, presentations etc. When you say “thank you” for an answer given by a student, it shows you heard him and appreciated him, even if the answer is wrong.

Listen to Students. Students need our attention. We should be very careful that while listening to the students we are not physically turning away, sighing, frowning, rolling our eyes, talking to someone else or looking away. We show people how much they matter through our body language, whether we mean it or not. Body language can make a difference in the classroom.

Welcome every answer – right or wrong. Instead of students going through the process of their own mind-boggling, we want them to read our mind. Don’t set kids up for failure by just getting one wrong answer from them. In order to enhance learning, don’t damage the students’ self-esteem. When students start getting t all the wrong answers, they start to think something is wrong with them. Ask open-ended questions to promote divergent thinking. Ask “What do you think?” instead of “Why?” Say, “That’s not exactly what I’m looking for” instead of “Wrong answer.”

Allow positive feedback. Write each student’s name at the top and pass the blank papers. All students have to write honest, positive comments about each other. Read and discuss. Ask students to sign their names next to the comment to keep a check on their participation and positive attitude.

Establish expectations. You may be able to avoid many classroom management issues, if you establish your expectations regarding student behaviour early and keep them consistent. Laying down the ground rules early in your relationship with a class is quintessential to your achievement as a teacher. Your goal should be to involve your students in this task to ensure that they are aware of the rules and the consequences. There is another way to add to the ambience of your classroom – post the ground rules and always lean towards the positive, rather than negative reinforcing them throughout the session. When a student does not follow the rules, posting something on the wall will likely affect the entire class in a negative way, but posting something for each student, who did adhere to the rules, serves the opposite.

Set the tone for class. Teachers set the tone for the classroom setting. They are responsible for setting the tone of the class. If as a teacher you make an effort to be even-tempered, fair with your students and equitable in rule enforcement then you have set a high standard for your classroom. Of the many factors that have an effect on a classroom environment, your behaviour is the one factor that you can completely control.

Adjust your personality. The  characteristics of your personality affect the classroom environment. Are you humorous? Are you able to take a joke? Are you sarcastic? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? All of these and other personal characteristics will stand out in your classroom and affect the learning environment. It is therefore important that you take stock of your traits and make adjustments if necessary.

Solve difficult student behaviour. t has been found that disruptive students can really affect the classroom environment. It is vital that you place a firm discipline policy that you enforce on a daily basis. The key is that the teacher should learn to nip in the bud – stop the problems before they start by moving students or diffusing situations before they begin. However, it is difficult when you have that one student who always seems to push your buttons. Use all the resources available at your disposal including mentors, student counsellors, parent teacher meeting and if necessary seek help from the administration to keep the situation under control.

Create seating chart. Laura Stanley, a secondary school teacher in the UK, shares her thoughts about creating effective learning environment and using seating charts:

“Sticking to the seating plan is the best, simplest way to remember names. When you ask a question, use the plan to address the responding student personally. There’s no quick way to learn names, especially in a class of 30-thirty identically-dressed 11-eleven year olds. You’ll hear some staff saying things like ‘I always test myself to make sure I know all of my students’ names by the end of the first week’. Ignore them. There will be some names you still don’t know till the end of the session and this is normal. Your school should have a system with children’s contact details on and it will most likely have a photo. You can use this when you write reports.”

Assign classroom jobs for students. Primary and secondary classroom teachers can find a variety of jobs for their students. When you assign jobs to your students, you allow them to feel needed and important. Moreover, you get a helping hand in keeping your classroom running smoothly.

Here are some duties to get you started. The teacher can give the jobs fun, age-appropriate names like Hygiene Manager for tidying up the room or Foreign Ambassador to welcome visitors and new students:

  • Students can collect and distribute papers.
  • Answer the door, turn off/on lights when required.
  • Keep the classroom library in order.
  • Take the roll call.
  • Keep the classroom clean at the end of a class period or the end of the day.
  • Keep time to make sure that students (and you) stay on track.
  • Attend the class phone or run errands to the office.

Use non-verbal cues to keep students on track. Some ways to change behaviour without stopping instruction which redirects negative behaviour and reinforces positive behaviour – all without saying a word.

  • Hands Up: Raise your hand to show the students that they need to focus on you. When students see that you have raised your hand, Each one should raise their hand until the entire class has hands raised and are paying attention.
  • Lights: Switch off the lights to get students silent.
  • Proximity: If a student is being troublesome, walk over to the student’s desk and stand next to the student, until the behaviour has ceased. If this doesn’t work, put a hand on their desk or the back of their chair.
  • Recognise positive behaviour: Give a smile, a high five in the air, a sticker or “good work” sticky note.

Useful Tips for Managing the Classroom

  • For movement and interaction organize the physical space of your classroom. To do small group work, make it easy for students to pull their desks together. Set it up in such a way that it is easy for you to walk around.  You have thus created a classroom environment in which your movement around the classroom helps to make your teaching more engaging. This will also helps in classroom control.
  • One way to make the classroom safe for the students is make them participate and ask questions. No matter what a student says, make it a habit to react with respect. The best way is to model respect for your students and teach them to show respect for one another.
  • When you teach place mirrors next to the dry erase board and the chalk board so that even when you have to turn your back to write on the board, you can still keep an eye on students.
  • Ask your students to write on the board for you. It persuades students to be directly involved It helps them build up a basic skill –writing so that others can read what they write and most importantly it will save your time and energy and allow you to face your students which helps in good classroom control especially when you’re using active teaching methods that invite student participation. Students involved in the activity are not going to be quiet, hence enabling you to monitor their behaviour and  keep things orderly. Keeping the students engaged in learning in the long run will make your teaching more effective.


Putting together a classroom with the above thoughts in mind will create an environment where your students will thrive. They will feel concerned and responsible for their own learning as well as comfortable enough to actively participate in individual and group activities. Your encouraging reinforcement permits them to build self-esteem and be more successful students which will of course make you a successful teacher!

Dear Savvy Parent – Jekyll and Hyde

handprintDear Savvy Parent,

I have two questions:
1. At times, it seems my son has two personalities: a well-behaved one (in front of his father) and the typical toddler behaviour (in front of me and any female relatives). Is this normal?
2. He behaves fairly well at home, but at grandparents’ and in public (when his father is not there), he constantly pushes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. It almost seems he wants to check how far he can go before I snap… Again, is it normal for boys his age?


Dear Parent,

It is very common for young children to behave differently at home from when away from parents or away from the home. Do not worry that your child has a case of the “Jekyll and Hyde” behaviour, it is normal and I’m sure many other parents can attest to this.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the worst behaviour that is saved for parents and generally it tends to be the mothers that get the brunt of it.

How does one deal with this?

First of all find a strategy to deal with your anger. Ask yourself, what is your breaking point and how can you prevent yourself from reaching it? Figure out what works for you. For example, take a few slow breaths while reciting some tasbih quietly to yourself when you start to feel yourself getting angry.

When a child insists on something or is unwilling to comply with your wishes, it can be tempting to give in, especially if it means avoiding a tantrum, but all children need boundaries, and the best thing you can do to encourage positive behaviour when your child acts up around you is to be vigilant about setting and enforcing boundaries. Do not get into a power struggle with your child. Generally, in the case of a power struggle, parents feel that their power is being tested and challenged by the child.

The more the parent tries to exert power, the easier it is for the child to win simply by saying “no” or making some excuse and then the focus becomes more about who’s in charge rather than the misbehaviour itself. I am sure many parents out there have found themselves in this exact situation. Remember whatever is going on, whatever your child is doing, losing your temper won’t help. It may feel good or like it’s working in the short term, because you have enforced your parental authority and power, but in the long run the child has learned an ineffective lesson about managing conflict. Ask yourself, “How can I best handle that situation and how can I make this work without fighting?” You’ll have a much better chance of resolving this situation effectively.

Your child is old enough and I’m sure has a pretty good handle on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour, hence the button pushing and testing of boundaries. Again, yes, it is all very normal.

Next, lay the ground rules. Remain firm and consistent; set clear and most importantly FAIR consequences for unacceptable behaviour. For example, if your child doesn’t clean up his toys, then you take those toys away (set a reasonable time limit, such as 2 days). Another example would be, if your child has a nasty attitude around family members, you will send him away to another room (for example). If he can’t be nice to others, he must be alone. Before going out or visiting grandparents, discuss what is expected from him before hand. When deciding on a consequence, avoid situations that put your child in control of others, such as: “We can all go get ice cream after you clean up your toys.” This allows your child to control all family members and does not put any real consequences in place for their behaviour. It will only exacerbate their passive aggressive behaviour.

Lastly, remember the intent of consequences. They should not be to punish your child for the sake of punishment. Consequences should be logical and a form of discipline that parents should use to teach their child a lesson. So when you remove and reinstate privileges, in a calm manner be sure to explain to your child why/how he misbehaved and what you expect of him next time.

Make sure both you and your husband (and any other family members you may be living with) are on the same page with regards to unacceptable behaviour and it consequences. Consistency is the key!

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!!

The Savvy Parent

Discipline – Noise Control

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Discipline-Noise controlDiscipline is a common challenge for teachers both new and old. Structure and fairness combined with clear goals and lesson planning in a caring, non-threatening environment are the keys to effective and successful teaching. Teaching is not an easy profession, even if you are the most experienced teacher. Through each situation there is a lesson to be learned. Here are some suggestions and ideas for disciplining students and controlling the noise level in classrooms.

Quiet Lights

When the class gets too noisy, switch off all the classroom lights and fans. When the children realize that the room has suddenly turned dark, you have their attention. They will see you at the switch with your finger on your lips gesturing them to be quiet and understand that they need to stop making noise and focus on the task at hand. Don’t do it too often or it won’t be as effective.

Cooperative Coloured Circles

When working with cooperative groups, you can keep the noise level under control by using colored circles. If a group is on a task and use quiet voices, give them a green circle. If they need to be reminded about the noise level, give them a yellow circle. If a group is way off from the task, give them a red circle and step in to give them assistance. This is a great way to model appropriate behavior, when you are just beginning to establish group rules. It also saves time, because it does not interrupt the entire class, when one group is off track.

Appropriate ‘Talking Times’

Students love to have time to talk. In order to keep them from doing it during instruction, you can apply the ‘My Time’ strategy. During ‘My Time,’ students must pay attention. They neither can talk nor disturb others, who are paying attention. At the end of class, ‘Their Time’ is the last five minutes, when they can talk amongst themselves.

Awesome Noise Control

Write the word ‘awesome’ on the board. When there is noise in the class, erase a letter starting backwards. If the class makes it to break time with the word intact, they sit where they like. If not, they are assigned seats. If they lose the entire word by the end of the day, they are deprived of their lunch break. If the entire word was intact at the end of the day, they are rewarded with 15 extra rewards for the next day. With each next day you will notice an improvement.

Waiting Cards

You can use numbered cards to organize students, who need her individual attention. Laminate the cards made for your classroom and place them in order in a basket. When you are busy talking to someone, a student can come up, take a card, and go back to the seats instead of waiting in line. When you are finished with one student, you can call on the next number and conference with that student.

Safekeeping Box

Sometimes children bring things from home to play with, which, of course, distracts them. You can resolve this problem by creating a safekeeping box. Take a medium-sized box with a lid, decorate it, and put a label on the box that says ‘Items in safekeeping, to be returned later.’ When you see children playing with something that is distracting them, ask them to put it in the safekeeping box and let them know that they can retrieve their item at the end of the day. This validates their personal treasures and assures their return. Additionally, it cuts down on distractions in the classroom, as the students quickly learn to avoid having things put into the box.

Quote the Student

When trying to convince a student to change his or her behavior, you will benefit from framing a persuasive message that quotes the student. You can say: “Danish, you said something the other day that I can’t get out of my mind,” or “Something you said made me start thinking.” You’ll find that many students, who appear to be non-listeners, will be intrigued, when you use this personalized technique. As a result, they will not be able to resist listening and responding to what you have to say.

General Discipline Tips

(1)   Over-correction

There are two types of over-correction procedures that you may be familiar with. During restitution training, a student is required to improve. For example, if Erum writes on the wall, she is required to clean the whole wall, instead of just the space she wrote on. The other type of positive practice involves the student practicing the correct response repeatedly. If Sana turns in an assignment that is too sloppy to read, she must not only redo that task but do better.

(2)   Questioning Behavior

When a student has a discipline problem, just ask him / her to answer the four questions on the discipline questionnaire:

  1. What did I do wrong?
  2. Why wasn’t my action acceptable?
  3. What should I have been doing instead?
  4. What will I do in the future?

Then, mail the form home to the child’s parents. This system forces students to own up to their actions.

(3)   Behavior Notebook

Keep track of irresponsible student conduct by assembling a 3-ring notebook and dedicating a page per student at the beginning of the school year. On the first day of school, show the students their blank pages and challenge them to keep them blank the whole year. Here’s how it works. When a student breaks one of the rules set for the class – (of course, make these known at the onset of the school year), – that student must go to the behavior notebook and write a brief explanation. If you agree with the assessment, sign and date it. Send it home with the report card at the end of the marking period. If a student has a blank page all year, send home the original blank page with a heartwarming note of praise for good behavior all year long.