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Creating an effective classroom management plan

Amanda ClarkDecember 18, 2018

High School Teacher Taking Class

Thinking of starting a new classroom management plan? When I was a teacher, this was the element I struggled with the most. However, after years of teaching both middle and high school students, I learned how to refine my strategies.

Like me, you may enjoy teaching facts much more than setting boundaries. But I soon learned that the love of my content and classroom management went hand in hand. I also learned that many of the same techniques worked in both middle and high school, but some cater better to one or the other.

If you’re reading this article, you clearly already have your students in mind. Hopefully, these classroom management plans for middle school and high school will help you out!

Middle school classroom management plans

school teacher with kids working on a class project

Have classroom expectations

In a previous article, I spent a lot of time talking about the importance of expectations. It’s no mystery that you need rules in a learning environment. However, I’ve always been a firm believer in letting the kids have a say in the rules that govern them.

During the first week of school, consider having the students write down the rules they anticipate you’ll enforce. You’d be surprised how right on par they usually are.

You might get that little joker who says that you should have recess all day. Just disregard that one. (Although that does sound like fun.) In my experience, the kids usually take pride in proposing solid expectations.

You may also want to have the students sign a contract once you get all the classroom rules in place. From the get-go, they’ll be invested. Kids tend to listen when you involve them in the rule-making process.

Try not to talk when students are talking

One of my favorite memes is of a skeleton in front of a class with the words, “I’ll wait.” Although that’s obviously an exaggerated comparison, waiting for your students to stop talking can often take some extreme patience.

As a teacher, you learn from your mistakes. One of my common errors was continuing to talk when my students were talking. It sounds like a no-brainer thing that you shouldn’t do, but that’s easier said than done when you have 26 prepubescent kids in a class. My mentor teacher nipped this weakness in the bud early on and told me not to talk when kids talk.

“Wait. Even if you have to stand there for five minutes. Wait, and do not speak.” He repeated this to me on numerous occasions, and it stuck.

If you let students talk while you’re talking, they’ll just keep doing it. I love kids, but they’re smart little buggers, and some will test you. It’s up to you to establish clear and consistent boundaries.

After a few times of just standing there waiting for them, they should get the idea — especially if you didn’t cover the necessary material that you wanted to … so it carries over as extra homework. Yikes!

Use a crazy sound to capture their attention

Kids talk. And from my personal experience, middle schoolers talk way more than high schoolers. It’s natural for you to occasionally be frustrated and frazzled when your students can’t keep quiet. I’ve been there. Edutopia recommends using a strange or unexpected sound to capture children’s attention.

I decided to try it out when my kids were getting very loud. I played the sound of a chicken. Yes, a chicken. And I could not believe how they all immediately stopped in their tracks. It worked wonders. I always warned them that if the volume level in the classroom got too loud, they would hear a chicken sound again. From that point on, there was a noticeable improvement in their behavior.

If you try this, you may be surprised at how quickly it actually works.

Use a fun jar

I learned about using a fun jar at a mom’s group, but it works perfectly in a middle school classroom, too.

Write down a bunch of fun activities on popsicle sticks. Examples could be “bust out a dance move” or “play one round of musical chairs.” Then place them in a jar. When the classroom gets tense or the kids need a break, have a student pick an activity at random. This activity can instantly transform the mood of your classroom.

I know that middle school classroom management and high school management plan can overlap sometimes. But here’s a breakdown of the strategies that I found to be more successful for the high school ages.

High school classroom management plans

Group Of Teenage Students Collaborating On Project In Class

Hand out a planned syllabus

When I was a first-year high school teacher, there were some moments when I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I was so overwhelmed and didn’t have a concrete plan. I eventually got it together and learned that if I had a proper syllabus, kids would not only respect me more but also listen more, too.

Putting together a well-planned syllabus and handing it out to your students on the very first day of class can save you a lot of future headaches. First of all, it establishes expectations from the get-go. But it also tells students what they will learn so they can better plan their own schedules.

You may want to put a sample of the books and websites you plan to use in your syllabus so there are no significant surprises later in the semester. I also included all my contact information, which made the students AND parents happy.

Like teachers, students don’t enjoy uncertainty. By handing them a clear plan, you can decrease anxiety and gently enforce a bit of order. Score!

Get to know the kids

This one may sound strange to have in a classroom management article, but I believe it’s one of the most powerful pieces of advice a high school teacher can follow.

All kids have something going on, but high school kids seem to have lots of bigger issues. Relationships might be stronger (but also more volatile). There might be more conflict at home. Life can get complicated while venturing into adulthood.

Getting to know your kids can prevent many behavior problems. This doesn’t mean you have to invite them over for dinner or ask personal questions they don’t feel comfortable answering. However, implementing some icebreakers can certainly help you get to know them better. Aim for one at the beginning of each class. That way, you’re seen as more than just a teacher — you’re also a relatable person who has dealt with many of the same problems they’re going through, and students learn that it’s easy to just talk to you.

Need an idea? Try a name game where you say your name and one adjective that describes you. You’ll hear some funny ones and rather candid ones.

You can also lead the way. When I did this activity, my adjective was always genuine. Most school teachers are, so feel free to steal it! 🙂

Teach engaging content

In a high school classroom, you quickly find that the majority of behaviors happen when students are bored. I would catch myself going off on a tangent about the beauty of hyperboles and then look down to see one kid flinging a rubber band at another kid’s noggin.

But when I had a lesson that involved a lot of movement, project-based learning, or something just incredibly engaging, these undesirable behaviors always decreased.

You’re not Houdini — you won’t be a stellar entertainer every single day of school. Plus, reading, writing, math problems, and listening need to happen, too. But do your best to set time limits on these aspects. Try breaking them up into small increments and interweaving the intense formal learning with engaging mini-lessons along the way.

Putting it all together

Yes, it’s important to have a middle or high school management plan. However, like with most aspects of teaching, you learn what works as you go. Maybe these tips will work for you. Or perhaps you’ll find other classroom management strategies that tame your wild, but wonderful, students.

Photo credit: Monkey Business Images; SpeedKingz /

Classroom Management