Basic Strategies for Providing Structure in the Classroom

structured classroom
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A key component of being an effective teacher begins with providing structure in the classroom. Providing a structured learning environment provides many advantages for the teacher and the students. Most students will respond positively to structure especially those who do not have any structure or stability in their home life. A structured classroom often translates to a safe classroom. Students enjoy being in a safe learning environment.

Students typically thrive in a structured learning environment and showing a lot of personal and academic growth over the course of the year.

Too often teachers provide students with freedoms that they often abuse. A lack of structure can destroy a learning environment, undermine a teacher’s authority, and generally leads to failure for the teacher and the students. An unstructured environment can be described as chaotic, non-productive, and generally as a waste of time.

Providing and keeping your classroom structured does take a strong commitment from the teacher. The rewards are well worth any time, effort, and planning it takes to remain structured. Teachers will find that they enjoy their jobs more, see more growth in their students, and that everyone, in general, is more positive. The following tips will enhance the structure and the overall atmosphere in the classroom.

Start on Day One

It is essential to realize that the first few days of the school year often dictate the tone for the remainder of the school year.

Once you lose a class, you rarely get them back. Structure starts on day one. Rules and expectations should be laid out immediately. Possible consequences should be discussed in depth. Provide students with specific scenarios and walk them through your expectations as well as your plan for dealing with issues.

Be extremely demanding and difficult the first month or so and then you can ease up after students understand that you mean business. It is vital that you do not worry about whether or not your students like you. It is more powerful that they respect you than it is for them to like you. The latter will evolve naturally as they see that you are looking out for their best interests.

Set Expectations High

As a teacher, you should naturally come in with high expectations for your students. Convey your expectations to them. Set goals that are realistic and reachable. These goals must stretch them individually and as a whole class. Explain the importance of the goals that you have set. Make sure there is meaning behind them and make sure they understand what that meaning is. Have a purpose for everything that you do and share that purpose with them. Have a set of expectations for everything including preparation, academic success, and student behavior inside and outside your classroom.

Hold Students Accountable

Hold every student accountable for their actions in all areas of life. Do not allow them to be mediocre. Encourage them to be great and do not let them settle for less than that. Deal with issues immediately.

Do not allow students to get away with something because it is small. These smaller issues will morph into serious issues if they are not dealt with appropriately as quick as possible. Be fair and judicial, but tough. Always listen thoroughly to your students and take what they have to say to heart and then take the course of action that you believe will correct the issue.

Keep it Simple

Providing structure does not have to be difficult. You do not want to overwhelm your students. Pick a handful of the most fundamental rules and expectations as well as the most effective consequences. Spend a couple of minutes discussing or practicing them each day.

Keep goal setting simple. Do not try to give them fifteen goals to meet at one time. Provide them with a couple reachable goals at a time and then add new ones when those are reached.

Start the year off by providing goals that are easily attainable. This will build confidence through success. As the year moves along, provide them with goals that are increasingly more difficult to obtain.

Be Prepared to Adjust

Expectations should always be set high. However, it is essential to understand that every class and every student is different. Always set the bar high, but be prepared to adjust if a student or group of students is not academically capable of meeting your expectations. It is important that you are always realistic. It is okay to adjust your expectations and goals to a more realistic level as long as you are still stretching each student individually. You never want a student to be so frustrated that they just give up. This will happen if you are not willing to temper your expectations to meet individual learning needs. Likewise, there will be students who easily exceed your expectations. You should reevaluate your approach in differentiating their instruction as well.

Do Not Be Hypocritical

Kids will identify a phony rather quickly. It is critical that you live by the same set of rules and expectations that you expect your students to follow. If you do not allow your students to have their cell phones in your classroom, then you should not either. You should be the primary role model for your students when it comes to structure. A key component with structure is preparation and organization. How can you expect your students to be prepared for class each day if you are rarely prepared yourself? Is your classroom clean and organized? Be real with your students and practice what you preach. Hold yourself to a higher level of accountability and students will follow your lead.

Build a Reputation

First-year teachers in particular often struggle with providing an adequate level of structure in their classroom. This becomes easier with experience. After a few years, your reputation will either become a tremendous asset or a significant burden. Students will always talk about what they can or cannot get away with in a particular teacher’s class.

Veteran teachers who are structured find it increasingly easier over the year to continue to be structured because they have a reputation of such. Students come into those teacher’s classrooms with the idea that they are going to have a no-nonsense approach making the leg work by the teacher must easier.