Building an Effective Classroom

Is your classroom as well-managed as it could be? There are a handful of characteristics found in effective classrooms that every teacher should work toward cultivating. These features set managerial, behavioral, and instructional guidelines—for teachers and students alike—that help to preemptively solve problems.

If you and your students are in need of more order and productivity, build these characteristics into your daily flow as soon as possible. You will find that prioritizing these features will make your classroom more effective in every way.

Clear Rules and Expectations

Classroom expectations should be clear to all students.

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Classroom rules should be clear and concise, leaving no room for students to wonder what they should be doing at any given time. Involving them in developing these rules and expectations is all the better for increasing their ownership and understanding.

When designing your procedures and routines, remember that they must be:

  • Reasonable and necessary
  • Clear and understandable
  • Consistent with instructional goals
  • Built using specific positive action words (e.g. about what students should do rather than what they should not do)

Consistently and fairly enforce rules. Put behavioral management plans in place to handle behavior that is not consistent with expectations. Be sure to communicate the consequences of not following rules to students before these are enacted.

Frequent and Successful Assessment

Students need to understand what is expected of them not only as it pertains to behavior, but also in terms of academics. Teachers in effective classrooms communicate with students about what they should be learning and track progress often. Make assessment a norm in your classroom and use it to inform your teaching.

Systems for assessing student growth include daily charts, weekly updates, monthly progress reports, and quizzes. Effective classrooms include regular formative and summative assessment. Not everything needs to be formally graded, but any grading you choose to do should be done quickly and include some form of feedback, however brief, to let students know how they did.

Students should know before you grade them exactly how you will be grading. If you are going to be using a rubric, explain its parts to your students. If you are going to be looking for anything in particular, tell them what that is. Whatever criteria you are using to define success, share it with your students so that everyone is on the same page.

High Student Engagement and Involvement

Students do their best learning when they are engaged and involved. To design effective instruction that is likely to motivate your students, consider your delivery of material, the level of choice you offer, and the degree to which students have a say in their own learning.

Delivery

There are many ways to make content more exciting for your students. Technology is a common one, but it is easy to misuse (check out the Triple E Framework for guidance on effective technology use). Experiment with different formats of delivery to achieve high student engagement. Students might be more engaged when working in groups,

Choice

Students should be able to self-direct their learning as much as possible. This makes content more accessible and meaningful to them and increases their excitement. Provide students with multiple options whenever you can.

For example, if you are teaching about the Vietnam War, let students choose how to explore it. They might prefer to study the timeline, the influence of politics on the war, or even music, art, and literature on the topic. Let them present their findings with a research paper, multimedia presentation, or series of data tables.

Student-Centered

Students should be active participants. In effective classrooms, students take part in discussions, investigations, and experiments that broaden their knowledge and skills. Whether through whole group discussion, small group work, or independent practice, the majority of learning is student-led.

Through a blend of engaging individual and collaborative practice, your students will learn to teach themselves and take on more and more of the responsibility in designing their educational experiences. Over time, they may help you create rubrics or develop inquiry projects using limited criteria. Student-centered and designed learning yields more success all around.

Authentic and Purposeful Learning

Students should be able to make connections between what they are learning in school and real life. These authentic connections are essential for effective teaching. You will not be able to communicate the importance of any subject if you do not help students see how it relates to them—they should never wonder why a particular subject is being taught.

Work to make learning personal for your students by giving them a purpose and an audience. Introduce topics in terms of how they relate to students. Gradually place the responsibility of finding this out on your students until they are able to do this for themselves.

When it comes time for them to demonstrate what they've learned about a subject, give them an authentic audience outside of the classroom to share their learning with. You should let them know who their audience will be as far ahead of time as possible.

Efficient Housekeeping

There are a number of daily housekeeping tasks to be completed in every classroom. Develop systems for working together with students to complete these as efficiently as possible to maximize instructional time. Classroom organization is not just the teacher's responsibility.

Students must do their part. Maintain high standards for organization and set expectations for students to follow every day. Create methods for managing attendance and tardiness, restroom use, materials, and other aspects of daily life in the classroom. When these are streamlined, every task is made a whole lot easier.

An organized classroom promotes more effective instruction and management. Students that know their role in keeping things orderly are able to operate more independently and this means that you can focus your time and effort on designing instruction and conferencing with students.