5 Strategies to Improve Classroom Management as a First Year Teacher

Here are 5 Strategies to Improve Classroom Management as a First Year Teacher


You finally step into your classroom for the first time only to realize you have no idea how to have effective classroom management as a first year teacher. Sure, you may have taken some courses, read a couple books, even saved a million strategies you saw on Tik Tok or Pinterest. But you may quickly realize that college didn’t really prepare you for the classroom. So you have started looking for different ways to improve classroom management as a first year teacher.

If this is how you are feeling right now, don’t worry! We’ve all been there. In fact I would say 98% of the teachers I’ve ever worked with or coached has said the same thing. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be this way! You can have a well oiled machine of a classroom that is ran so smoothly that your students can run it without you… seriously! I have done it and I’ve helped hundreds of other teachers do it too! 

So if you want to have a self-ran classroom in your first year, grab a coffee and read or listen to these five 5 Strategies to Improve Classroom Management as a First Year Teacher. 

Listen to the podcast:

[su_spoiler title=”5 Strategies to Improve Classroom Management as a First Year Teacher” style=”fancy”]Helena (00:00):
Have you ever felt like your behaviors are just out of control and there’s nothing you can do? You’ve stalked all the free Facebook groups and you’ve even asked your teacher bestie and that mentor teacher down the hallway. You’ve tried the trends on TikTok but it’s still not working. And you might secretly be wondering if you’re cut out to teach. What if I told you that you could have a classroom that was so well ran that would blow your admin away and other teachers would be flocking to you asking how you did it? I’ve been there too and I used to struggle with classroom management after years of experience trying different things, learning from other teachers, I finally found what worked for me. And today I’m going to share the five tried and true strategies to make you tackle your classroom management like a veteran teacher. So stick around. You won’t wanna miss number five. It’s the one that everybody overlooks, guaranteed. Hey teacher Bestie. My name’s Helen and I’m the creator of the President Teacher podcast. I’m a first year teacher coach and in this podcast you are gonna learn everything from simple actual classroom management, socialist learning, and teacher wellness strategies. You know that impact you wanna make in the classroom. We’re gonna make it happen here.

The first strategy to tackling your classroom management like a pro is to have clear rules and expectations. Kids thrive when they know what’s expected of them. I remember when I was teaching, I thought I had good rules and expectations, but boy was I wrong. Students weren’t always doing what I wanted or what I thought I had taught them and I felt personally attacked like my students were out to get me or something because they never followed the rules. It wasn’t until admittedly years later that I found out it was me. Hi, I’m the problem, it’s me now. The problem was, is I was not setting my students up for success. You might be wondering, how do I get my kids to listen to me and follow expectations? If this is you, you’re not alone. Don’t worry, I got you covered. Teacher bestie. Here are a couple different things you can do.

The first one, create clear expectations on what they should do. Model it right away. Discuss it with your class. For example, if I need a clear expectation on how we get water, I’m going to introduce it to my class and say, today we’re gonna talk about how we get water and I’m gonna model it, what it looks like and what it should sound like. And then I’m, we’re gonna sit down and I’m gonna have my, my students turn and talk and talk about what did they notice about how it looked like and sound like the expectations were for water. After that, we’re going to share out loud what we thought and have a discussion about it. Then I’m gonna have a kid model it. They’re gonna model it what it looks like, sounds like then and your kids have fun with this. Especially if you’re primary.

Your kids will love this. Have someone model the wrong way and every once in a while I kind of like to model the wrong way. Not gonna lie anyways. Model the wrong way to do it. Have your students think, pair, share what they did that was the wrong way. And then have them discuss it and then model the right way. Again, praise, praise, praise. Make sure to stop your lesson and call out and praise a lot the people that are doing and following expectations the right way. Also, don’t be afraid to review. I am personally always happy to review if it is going to save me hours of heartache and headache at the end of the year, it is worth doing now. So after every break, after a weekend on one of those crazy Mondays, whenever I notice my kids are just totally forgot as a class what to do, I will make sure to take time outta my day to review that procedure.

Next thing rules. Now your rules should be made through a class discussion. So I used a chart and we came up with our rules together. Um, I had my kids, you know, think okay for each other, some rule ideas and then they shared out loud and then we kind of tallied and combined the rules that made sense in group together. And I combined them to make five main rules. And then after you have your kids vote on which rules they agree on, come up with the rules themselves. I had my students signed by the rules for a couple reasons. First off, yes, some admin make you do this, but the reason I do this is because I now have student buy-in. Now when they break a rule and they’re having a hard time agreeing with me on their consequence or what have you, I can remind them, remember as a class and your name is here, we agree that we would raise our hand for permission to speak whatever the rule is or be a bucket filler.

That way you have now student buy-in and they feel like they are part of a community instead of a dictatorship. The next thing is to have clear consequences. When you have a student who is purposefully making a bad choice, try to ignore the bad choices if possible, I like to give a nonverbal cue. After that maybe I praise another student who’s doing the right expectations and I will point out that they are following the expectations and what I like about it. So for example, I love how so and so his eyes are facing floor, their hands behind their back, their their voice has a bubble. And I will keep doing that until that student naturally fixes. And then I’ll praise, make sure to praise a student who fixed their behavior. I might pull them aside and give them a reminder. Remember we use walking feet when we are in the hallway.

I might have that one-on-one talk with them and then we might practice and model what it looks like. Sounds like I might give an isolated warning where we talk like an isolating. By that I mean with going on the sideline, I might give them a think sheet and then a parent contact. Remember, natural consequences are always the best. So always try to look for that natural consequence and try to give it as neutral as possible without emotion. Because you don’t want your kids to feel like you’re, they can get you upset. Just give it as neutral as you can and move on. So, and I also talked about this before, but I remind my students that there are no such thing as bad kids just mistakes. I love them for who they are. I love them for when they make good choices and I love them for when they make bad choices.

They are not defined by the mistakes they make. So that is my quick spiel on all that. So strategy two is positive reinforcement as a teacher and as teachers, you really wanna think about how am I going to let my kids know that I see them in my classroom? I try really hard to make sure my kids feel seen, heard and validated. So at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of every day even, how am I going to let my kids know that I see them today? Am I gonna view them through a good positive lens or a bad lens? I personally try to have a positive classroom. There is way too much negative out there in the world. I want a little piece of positivity. Harry Potter happiness. And so have you ever had a morning where students just made it worse?

You were having a really hard morning, you woke up late and then you came in and your kids were just feeding off of you. It’s the same thing when it’s positive. Have you ever had a positive morning? You got your morning workout in, you got your five minutes of silence, you, you journaled, you finally got to actually drink your coffee instead of microwaving it five times beside the point and you came in and your kids had an amazing day. Same thing. We wanna create a positive environment for our kids. So you might be wondering, how do I create a positive environment? Everyone is telling me to do this, but how do you actually do it? So if this is you, here’s some ways you can do that. I got you covered. First thing, love calls. Ugh, I love these love calls. Love calls are positive calls home.

Now I had shared this on my TikTok and some people said that they don’t like doing calls because it’s triggering to some families. So they do positive notes either way, positive calls, love calls, love notes, home are amazing. So what I do is in the middle of my day, maybe we’re doing small group or the kids are working independently. If I see a student who has just been on top of it all day, they are on top of their game, I will pause everything. And the first time I do it, I make it a big deal guys, huge, a huge deal. And I say, oh my goodness, look and so and so would you like to do a love call? And they’ll be like, what’s a love call? They’ll be like, oh a love call is where we call home and we talk about what an amazing day you have.

You guys, my families are raving about this. Do love calls. Trust me. First off, it’s a great way to communicate with your families. It shows them that you are a positive teacher and it makes your kids’ day. I wish my principal would, you know, call my family and give me a love call. I wish I got positive notes from my principal. I wanna do the same for my students. So love calls and positive notes in my class we do bucket filling notes and I even do love notes where I leave them. Um, and Thanksgiving and we did the gratitude notes where I did it. One reason why I was grateful for each student every day you can get Y expo marker and write on their desks. Either way, think about how you would wished admin would treat you and do the same for your kids.

It just makes their day. The next thing is the super improver wall. Okay, did you guys ever use those clip charts? I know I’m cringing just saying it. And if you use a clip chart, don’t come at me. It’s okay If you like your clip chart, you keep your clip chart. But I despised my clip chart and it seemed like all the veteran teachers even, you know, all the veteran teachers used them. I didn’t like them because I felt like those kids that had a hard time regulating their emotions and their choices, once they finally came back they would see what color they would at and I would look for any reason to bring ’em back up, clip their pen up and they just couldn’t cuz they would just shut down And I just don’t, I don’t like that at all. So I use a super improver wall.

What this does is it uses gamification or using behavior kind of like a game. And students have like a little game card or a level up card and they get stickers and once it’s full I like to send mine home and they level up to the next color. And so essentially students are, are leveling up for their good behavior. What I love about this is kids then do not need materialistic things to be happy. I don’t do treasure test. Now granted, I do give my kids, you know, sporadic prizes here and there, but I don’t do Friday treasure chest. I want my kids to be proud of themselves because once they leave my classroom and they go to other teachers, I want them to be proud of them once they’re adults, I want them to learn to be proud of themselves. And so I want them to learn to look at their behavior and be proud of themselves.

So that’s what the super improver wall is hard. I’m gonna be honest, positive reinforcement is hard. But you know what I ran into most if not most of these ideas from an amazing, amazing educator named Ms. May from one fab teacher. I found her on YouTube, had to be a couple years ago now. And you guys, if I can meet Ms. May, Ms. May, if you’re listening, I’m a huge fan. Sorry I had to put that in there. Go follow her because you just talk to her and she is one big bucket of sunshine. Like she just makes your date better. So go follower on YouTube, she is a beautiful person inside and out. She makes education beautiful. Okay, I’m done. Go follow her for some positivity because she’s the queen of it. And then there’s another book she had mentioned and some other teacher authors too out in the teacher space recommended it too.

And you guys, this book changed my life and I think most of what Ms. May learned, or at least I can say partial, is from this book it’s called Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle. It changed my life you guys, please, please, please go grab it. Seriously, it is so good. I can’t, I can’t even, I have it right here on my desk. I haven’t. I put it in my backpack, you guys, I read it two years ago, three years ago. I still keep it around because it is so good. I have read a lot of classroom management books. They don’t beat this one. This one actually works. I’ve tried all the different, you know things. This one works. So okay, I’m done. Just go, go get it. Trust me, you’re gonna want it. Strategy number three is to encourage good behavior with open discussion.

Imagine a world where we intentionally took time out of our day to encourage good behavior where your students would just flourish and they would just, you know, bask in this praise and proud and self-fulfillment when you do this. Now imagine how having a safe space to ask and answer questions while receiving the praise and talking about good behavior, imagine how that could impact students that would completely change their lives. So I wanted to have this discussion. You might be like me and you’re like, you know what? I wanna have these discussions. I wanna create a safe space where my students can talk about good behavior and how to make a choices. But I don’t know how or how to get started. Don’t worry, I got you covered. Here are some ways. First one being morning meaning and end of the day meeting I have taught Kenner and second and I even with my second graders, they love morning meaning I soon taught fourth graders and fifth graders and they loved morning meeting.

This isn’t just for K babies, I love my K babies, my kinder babies, but this is for every grade level. It’s important, trust me. So in my morning meeting I love to have students grade each other cuz it’s building that community and it’s showing them how to build those relationships and those skills. And during the morning meeting, you might take some time to model what making friends looks like. If you go on TikTok, you can see middle school teachers doing this talking about how do you create a friend in middle school? What do you say? What do good friends do? Do they ask about this? What do good friends not do? What do they not? Kids need to be explicitly taught how to interact with each other and they are so thankful when you do. I can’t tell you how proud I get when I see my ba, my little second grade babies that have moved on to third or fourth and they are using the win-win skills.

I taught them in second grade still in fifth grade. Like it is amazing. So also maybe talk about conflict resolution. If you are seeing your kids are, you know, arguing about a specific LI specific thing, how can they make that a win-win? Talk about skills and different strategies they can use a model, what it looks like, sounds like. And my final thing, see weapon, my kids love this and they get mad when I don’t do it. Okay, for your listening kids anyways, they love superstar shoutouts. So what superstar shoutouts are totally still is it is I ask for three superstar shoutouts and it’s the end of the day meeting and my kids raise their hand and I pick three kids to call out three of their friends and they say thank you so and so for blank. And then we do a class cheer again.

I’ve gone from kinder all the way to fifth with this. The next thing is three superstar aha moments. So three things they learned today and that’s a great way to kind of review and keep kids accountable of their learning cuz they know that I might call on them for a superstar aha moment. The third thing is superstar apologies. Oh you guys remember when we talked about how to intentionally take time outta your day to ask and answer questions? A safe space? That’s what this is. You’re creating a safe space where if kids did not have that opportunity to apologize, they can and they will use that time. And how cool is that? Now they don’t have to, but I can tell you almost every single day when I do this, I should do it every day. I try to do it every day. I’m almost every day.

But when I do this I always have three apologies and it could be demean to each other, to the class I’ve even apologized. It is game changer. Strategy number four is to be flexible with the needs of your kids. Now remember when you were a kid and you went to school, how did you feel when you went? Now if I’m gonna be completely transparent with you, I felt like I had no control. I felt like I was always a boss around. I was never allowed to talk. I always had to do what other people wanted and I never got to choose for me. Now here’s a secret. The more organized choices and freedom I have given my students, the better they performed. I’m gonna say that again, the more organ organized, it’s not chaotic, but organized choices and freedom I gave my students, the better they performed, the better they performed as a class, the better they performed at building community, the better they performed on assessments.

Now I’m not saying chaos, I personally like structure, chaos and me just do not drive. And but, and remember students do thrive when they have structure. But start asking yourself, how can I give them more choices in the classroom? How can I give them more organized choices in the classroom? This could look like how they work. Are they sitting? Are they standing? Are they laying on the ground? What kind of work do they need to do to show me mastering? Does it have to be doing a worksheet or could they write a poem about it, write a song about it. Um, make a fort or some kind of model. I mean, having your kids and how we rethink education is so important because our kids are brilliant and they have their own unique, amazingly beautiful ways to thrive. And giving kids a safe space to do that is so extremely important.

So I would encourage you to start thinking about how can I give my kids more choices? And again, model, model, model, have clear expectations. And I’m not saying, you know, go tomorrow, tell your kids, sit however you want. I like to bring it up slowly. This is how we set the carpet. If we choose to lay on the ground, like make sure you model, make sure you have expectations, but start thinking about these and how you kind of make education your own. It doesn’t have to be the strict thing, it’s always has been and it it’s not. It’s on its way out. When you start thinking about how we can revolutionize or evolutionize education strategy number five, clear communication. Alright guys, this is the part that I said a lot of adults miss a lot of adults, including me, my first couple of years, a lot of adults miss communication.

Now how I want you to ask yourself, how do I want my kids to communicate with me? Could it be raising their hands? Do you want ’em coming up to your face? I personally get extremely dysregulated when I have a bunch of students putting their hands, fingers, mouths, everything in between in my face. And I’ve taught my kids that I have come out and said, when at the beginning of the year, and if you haven’t done this yet, that’s okay. But I was realizing that I would lose my cool and feel like I had to do the teacher yell whenever I had a crowd of students looking at me and putting their extremities in my face. And I don’t do that. So I talked to them at the beginning of the year and I talked about when they do that, what it might look like when I regulate myself.

What techniques am I using? Am I using heart to home? Am I using, you know, counting four breathing, square breathing, rainbow breaths? Either way, having those boundaries and clearly communicating them with your kids is important because one, well it keeps you sane during the school day. I don’t know about you. Second, it shows kids how they can articulate their discomfort to adults. Remember our kids learn so much from watching us. So if you are there talking about regulating and keeping your boundaries and then they see you regulate yourself when you are upset or dysregulated, that is huge. And what I noticed as other students were coming in and my class and they were pretty triggered or dysregulated by things. And so as a class model what that looks like, what does it look like when I feel upset or these extreme or these feelings? And how do we overcome that?

How can I articulate when I’m thinking and feeling to an adult or to my friends so that way we can still be respectful. Let students feel like they have a control or they have a say on how they wanna be communicated with. And you are creating a space for your kids to be free and feel validated. Seeing heard, like no trusted. And it’s huge guys. It’s huge. All right, I know this one went pretty deep. I hope you found this helpful. I would love if you can share this podcast with another teacher bestie so we can share the love. If you found any of these tips helpful, send it over to them. Tell ’em which one you found the most helpful. If you incorporate every single step I mentioned, you are going to be blown away by these results guys. So you’re gonna have a self-run classroom and the classroom is going to be that one that everyone raves about. If you found this helpful, like I said, share it with your teacher bestie. Remember, we are stronger together. Take care. You know I love you. I’ll talk to you soon. Love Helen.

Thank you so much for joining me on today’s episode. I hope that you were able to take away some value that will help you thrive inside and out of the classroom. It would mean the world to me. If you could take five seconds right now and leave a review on this podcast. And if you found this podcast especially helpful, make sure to take a screenshot of this episode right now and tag me on your socials to let me know you’re listening. As always, remember that we are stronger together with all the love in the world. Sona, aka, the present teacher. See you next time. Teacher bestie.[/su_spoiler]

Hey New Teachers!

Make this your best year yet with the Ultimate First Year Teacher Checklist!

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    Establish Clear Rules and Expectations

    One of the first strategies to improve classroom management as a first year teacher is to establish clear rules and expectations. Establishing clear classroom rules and expectations from the beginning is one way to keep your classroom organized and reduce distractions.

    Communicate expectations clearly with your students, using positive language rather than focusing on the negative. Outline acceptable behavior for all learning activities, including how students should speak to one another and how work should be completed. Explain the consequences of breaking rules, such as spending time in time-out or the natural consequence, so that students know what to expect if they do not follow instructions.

    You want to ensure you are being consistent and fare. One way I like to introduce procedures is by introducing the procedure to my class. Next we talk about what it looks like and sounds like when you do it the right way. Then I have someone model the wrong way to do it. Afterwards I have my students practice the procedure until they model it nearly perfectly.

    A common consequence to students not following procedures is to have them practice it until they get it right. This is a great way to be fare with high expectations without being the grumpy stressed out teacher. Overall, this is a great way to improve Classroom Management as a First Year Teacher.

    Hey New Teachers!

    Make this your best year yet with the Ultimate First Year Teacher Checklist!

    Download the guide that walks you through everything you get done this year a success. (Oh and it’s completely free!)

      We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time!

      Set Up Positive Reinforcement Systems

      Another way to improve Classroom Management as a First Year Teacher is to set up a positive reinforcement system. As I Jen Sincero (Author) says:

      “What you focus on you create more of.”

      Jen Sincero

      That couldn’t be any more true in the classroom. Encouraging positive behavior in your classroom through reinforcements is a great way to keep students engaged and motivated. When students see that you focus on the positive more than the negative, the less likely they are to draw negative attention.

      Rewards can be both physical, such as stickers or other small items, or verbal, such as praising the student for good work. I like to use scratch and sniff stickers on my super improver wall. Or another positive reward system are love calls (a positive call home) and love notes (positive notes). 

      Keep these rewards simple and attainable to encourage students to continue their good behavior. Flexible seating is another way of reinforcing positive behavioral choices, as it enables students to make independent decisions while learning.

      Encourage Good Behavior with Open Discussion

      Another way to improve classroom management as a first year teacher is to create an open dialogue between students and teachers. 

      This can be done in many ways. For example, utilizing your morning meeting as a time to review expected procedures is a great way to encourage good behavior. Stopping the class to point out when a student is doing an outstanding job, or even doing a love call are great ways to encourage good behavior in the classroom.

       I personally like to have my students model our expectations with me and even ask questions and make them better. All of these examples are a great way to improve classroom management as a first year teacher.

      Be Flexible with Student’s Learning Styles and Needs

      It’s important to remember that not every student learns the same way, just like no two teachers are the same. That’s why another way to improve classroom management as a first year teacher is to incorporate different learning styles in the classroom.

       When possible, be flexible with your students and be willing to try out different styles of learning. Incorporating a choice board on how your students show proficiency or master in a skill is a great way to attain this. Including choices that allow your students to draw, write, speak, act, or even create mastery are all great ways to incorporate different learning styles. Click here to read more about incorporating choices into the classroom. 

      Taking into account each student’s needs and preferences can greatly help manage disruptive behavior and power struggles while also helping to create a more productive learning environment.

      Provide Clear and Effective Communication Methods

      The final way to improve classroom management as a first year teacher is to have clear expectations when it comes to communication.

      • How do you want your students to communicate with you?
      • What does that look like?
      • What does that NOT look like?
      • What do students do if they feel stuck or need help?
      • How should students communicate with each other and other staff members?

      All of these are great questions to consider when it comes to effective communication in the classroom. 


      Overall there are several ways to improve classroom management as a first year teacher. You can:

      • Establish clear rules and expectations
      • Celebrate positive behavior
      • Have open discussion on what good behavior looks like
      • And being flexible with learning by providing choices

      All of these are great ways you can start improving classroom management as a first year teacher.