8 Proactive Classroom Management Tips (2023)

In the 1950s, psychologists Jacob Kounin and Paul Gump discovered a curious side effect of discipline: If a student was being disruptive and the teacher responded with strict disciplinary measures, the student might stop—but other students would start exhibiting the same misbehavior. Kounin and Gump called this the “ripple effect,” and it demonstrated that efforts to control a classroom can backfire.

“The teacher who is interested in controlling ripple effects can generally do so best by giving clear instructions to the child rather than by exerting pressure on him,” Kounin and Gump wrote.

Decades later, classroom management is still a thorny issue for teachers. Nearly half of new teachers report that they feel “not at all prepared” or “only somewhat prepared” to handle disruptive students, in part because the average teacher training program devotes just eight hours to the topic, according to a 2014 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. This lack of training comes with a cost, as teachers report losing 144 minutes of instructional time on average to behavioral disruptions every week, which comes out to roughly three weeks over the course of a year.

Recent research confirms what Kounin and Gump discovered decades ago. A 2016 study found that while negative attention—reprimands like “Stop chitchatting!”—may temporarily stop misbehavior, students eventually became more likely to engage in disruptive behavior. Students in the study felt disengaged, had difficulty concentrating, and weren’t able to effectively regulate their thoughts and emotions—a vicious cycle that “actually amplifies students’ inappropriate behavior,” the study authors explain.

8 Proactive Classroom Management Strategies

Instead of handling disruptions after they’ve happened, it can be more effective to set up conditions in which they are less likely to occur. Here are eight classroom strategies that teachers have shared with Edutopia, all backed by research.

(Video) 8 Proactive Classroom Management Strategies

1. Greet students at the door: At Van Ness Elementary School in Washington, DC, Falon Turner starts the day by giving each of her students a high-five, handshake, or hug. “During that time, I’m just trying to connect with them…. It’s kind of like a pulse check to see where they are,” she says.

In a study published last year, greeting students at the door helped teachers set a positive tone for the rest of the day, boosting academic engagement by 20 percentage points while reducing disruptive behavior by 9 percentage points—adding roughly an hour of engagement over the course of the school day.


2. Establish, maintain, and restore relationships: Building relationships with students through strategies like greeting them at the dooris a good start. It’s also necessary to maintain them over the course of the school year, and to repair them when conflicts arise. “The stronger the relationship and the better we understand our students, the more knowledge and goodwill we have to draw on when the going gets tough,” writes Marieke van Woerkom, a restorative practices coach at the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility in New York.

Strategies forestablishing, maintaining, and restoring relationships—such as regular check-ins, and focusing on solutions instead of problems—can reduce disruptions by up to 75 percent.

(Video) Top 10 CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT Tips in 10 Minutes


3. Use reminders and cues: “Novelty—such as the sound of a wind chime or rain stick—captures young students’attention” writes Todd Finley, a former English teacher and current professor of English education, who suggests usingthese techniques to quiet a noisy class.

For older students, give plenty of warning if you need them to follow instructions. Reminders and cues are helpful ways to encourage students to follow instructions without being overtly controlling or forceful. For example, if you can anticipate a disruption—such as students getting out of their seats if they finish an assignment early—give a short reminder of what they should do instead.

Reminders are commonly verbal, but can also be visual (flicking the lights to signal that it’s time to be quiet), auditory (ringing a small bell to let students know they should pay attention to the teacher), or physical (using a hand signal to let students know to get back in their seats).

4. Optimize classroom seating: When students choose their own seats, they’re three times more likely to be disruptive than when seats are assigned. After all, they’ll probably pick seats next to their friends and spend more time chatting.

8 Proactive Classroom Management Tips (1)

Courtesy of Emily Polak

For ninth-grade teacher Emily Polak, flexible seating is part of effective classroom management.

(Video) 5 Proactive Classroom Management Tips #VenkatSoorya #classroom #ClassroomManagement #UnikLife

But that doesn’t mean choice is alwaysbad. Giving students a sense of ownership in the room, paired with clear expectations for behavior, can have surprisingly positive effects. A welcoming space can reduce anxiety and boost academic performance. Emily Polak, a ninth-grade teacher in Madison, Alabama, gave her room a cozier feel by adding a couch, a loveseat, rugs, a coffee table, and posters. Her students decide where to sit—but if they can’t get their work done, they get moved back to a desk. “Discipline issues have significantly decreased. My students seem to feel more relaxed and more motivated in a setting that honors their choices,” Polak says.

(Video) Proactive Classroom Management - Ask an Educator

5. Give behavior-specific praise: It may seem counterintuitive, but acknowledging positive behavior and ignoring low-level disruptions can be more effective than punishing or disciplining students. Instead of focusing on specific students, offer praise for the behavior you want to reinforce. For example, tell students, “Excellent work getting to your seats quickly.”

It’s also helpful to avoid using the word don’t, suggests Alyssa Nucaro, a sixth-grade English teacher in Memphis. Students are more likely to listen to instructions that include clear reasons.

6. Set clear expectations: Instead of just displaying rules for behavior, have a discussion with your students about why those rules matter. Bobby Shaddox, a seventh-grade social studies teacher in Portland, Maine, works with his students to create a list of norms—words such as inclusive, focused, and considerate—to build a sense of community. “It helps us own the behavior in the classroom,” Shaddox says. “Instead of a top-down list of rules that a teacher gives a class, these are words that we generated together. These are words that we believe in.”


7. Actively supervise: “Presence is crucial to maintaining classroom management and to effective delivery of instruction, and it’s a skill we can develop with effort,” explains Sol Henik, a high school teacher in Pleasant Hill, California. Although it’s tempting to sit at your desk and grade papers, that’s also an invitation to your students to get distracted. Be active: Move around the room, check in on student progress, and ask questions. It’s not about policing your students, but about interacting with them.

A 2017 study found that a teacher’s nonverbal cues—such as smiling and making eye contact—can “reduce physical and/or psychological distance” with their students, boosting students’ positive feelings toward the teacher and the course material while improving behavior.

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8. Be consistent in applying rules: Early in Kelly Wickham Hurst’s career as an administrator in a public high school, she was asked to discipline a black student for violating the school dress code by wearing sagging jeans. As they walked down the hallway, he pointed out other boys—all white—who were also wearing sagging pants. “Are you gonna get him, too, or is it just me?” he asked. School and classroom expectations, rules, and routines should be followed and applied fairly to all students. Don’t single out certain students—it’s the behavior you should be focused on, not the student. Correct errors when you see them and provide additional instruction or reteaching when misbehavior occurs.


8 Proactive Classroom Management Tips? ›

This diversity in learning styles calls for a variety of approaches to classroom management. This study is anchored with the seven primary classroom management approaches: Assertive, Business-Academic, Behavioral-Modification, Group Managerial, Group Guidance, Acceptance, and Success.

What are the 7 approaches to classroom management? ›

This diversity in learning styles calls for a variety of approaches to classroom management. This study is anchored with the seven primary classroom management approaches: Assertive, Business-Academic, Behavioral-Modification, Group Managerial, Group Guidance, Acceptance, and Success.

What are the 5 P's of classroom management? ›

They are called "The 5 Ps," and are: Prompt, Prepared, Productive, Polite, and Position.

What are 5 proactive strategies? ›

Examples of proactive strategies include modifying task characteristics, reorganizing the physical setting, clarifying routines and expectations, revising the activity schedule, changing social interactions, providing more opportunities for choices, enhancing the predictability of the setting, and addressing ...

What are proactive strategies? ›

Proactive (antecedent) strategies are tools used to prevent or avoid problem behaviour or dysregulation from occurring. They are introduced before any challenging behaviours and help to reduce the chances of them occurring.

What are the 3 C's of classroom management? ›

As you consider some of your most challenging students or classes, think about your approach to classroom management through the lens of these three areas: connection, consistency, and compassion.

What are the 8 principles of teaching? ›

Eight principles of effective teaching
  • Develop mastery learning. ...
  • Don't dismiss knowledge as 'lower order' ...
  • Expect excellence from all. ...
  • Guide learning. ...
  • Ensure that students have to think hard. ...
  • Put deliberate practice into lessons. ...
  • Test to improve learning. ...
  • Use questioning frequently and rigorously.
Apr 21, 2016

What are the 4 keys for successful classroom management? ›

Building Community, Motivation, Responsibility, and School Safety. Explore the four key skill areas (community, motivation, responsibility, and school safety) essential to establishing an atmosphere that supports learning for all students.

What is the best classroom management technique? ›

The best individual classroom management strategy is having one-on-one interaction with your students. Teachers can sit with each student and ask them some basic questions to understand how they are learning in the class, such as: How do they feel about the particular lesson?

What are the 10 aspects of classroom management? ›

The top ten tips for classroom management are: (1) Build community; (2) Design a safe, friendly, and well-managed classroom environment; (3) Include students in creating rules, norms, routines, and consequences; (4) Create a variety of communication channels; (5) Always be calm, fair, and consistent; (6) Know the ...

What is the golden rule in the classroom? ›

Follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. (That also applies to me as your teacher.) 2. Be prepared for class.

What are 7 proactive habits? ›

Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don't blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior.

What are the three types of proactive? ›

Predictive maintenance, preventive maintenance and condition-based are all forms of proactive maintenance.

What is proactive management examples? ›

A proactive manager minimizes risk by assessing the possible outcomes of a situation instead of reacting to an event. For example, a proactive manager might notice a safety concern in the workplace and alert employees before an accident happens.

What are the 6 principles of classroom management? ›

Your ability to connect with the students and demonstrating qualities like kindness, warmth, support, clarity, proactive approach, and consistency can go a long way in making the classroom heaven for learning where students exhibit ideal behavior full of politeness and obedience.

What are the four 4 components of classroom management? ›

According to researchers, classroom management is a core strategy for effective teaching, four components of classroom management were identified and analyzed, which included: rules and regulations, disciplinary interventions, teacher-student interactions, and mental sets.

What does an effective teacher do that makes him her a proactive classroom manager? ›

School and classroom expectations, rules, and routines should be followed and applied fairly to all students. Don't single out certain students—it's the behavior you should be focused on, not the student. Correct errors when you see them and provide additional instruction or reteaching when misbehavior occurs.

What are the 7 basic principles? ›

The Constitution rests on seven basic principles. They are popular sovereignty, limited government, separation of powers, federalism, checks and balances, republicanism, and individual rights. Popular Sovereignty The framers of the Constitution lived at a time when monarchs claimed that their power came from God.

What are the main 7 principles of teaching? ›

Large Classes: Seven Principles of Good Teaching
  • Good Practice Encourages Student-Faculty Contact. ...
  • Good Practice Encourages Cooperation Among Students. ...
  • Good Practice Encourages Active Learning. ...
  • Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback. ...
  • Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task. ...
  • Good Practice Communicates High Expectations.

Why is 8 Ways pedagogy important? ›

8ways is a point of entry into this way of knowing. It is a way to develop relationally responsive practice in the way you work with your Aboriginal community. This is a pedagogy framework that allows teachers to include Aboriginal perspectives by using Aboriginal learning techniques.

What are proactive and reactive classroom management strategies? ›

Two Approaches

A proactive approach is when the teacher tries to eliminate a problem behavior before it becomes a problem. A reactive approach is when the teacher deals with behavior when it becomes a problem in the classroom. Both approaches are used by teachers in addressing misbehavior in their classrooms.

What are the 4 classroom management strategies? ›

Classroom management can be done in four different ways: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and indulgent.

What is being proactive in a classroom? ›

Being proactive entails a conscientious effort on the part of teachers to pro- vide a classroom environment that allows students to be themselves, take risks, learn from mistakes, and understand how to take responsibility for their actions and feelings.

What are 2 objectives of a proactive classroom management style? ›

To minimize disruptions and distractions, we need to focus on two goals: maximizing academic learning time and increasing students' engagement in learning.

What are the 3 reactive strategies? ›

Reactive strategies
  • Distraction.
  • Reducing expectations.
  • The use of agreed physical interventions.
  • Reassurance.


1. Utilizing Proximity to Manage Classroom Discipline and Behavior
2. Proactive Classroom Management: Launch Your Classroom! Episode 45
(Educational Partners International)
3. CPI Delivers Proactive Classroom Management Strategies
4. Positive and Proactive Classroom Management Practices: Application
(SERC - State Education Resource Center of CT)
5. The Best Classroom Management Strategies for Middle School
(Classroom Confidential)
6. @5th Webinar- Proactive Classroom Management
(ELTA Virtual University)


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