Teacher Interview Question: How do you Curb Student Misbehavior?

Excerpt from Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching and Finding a Job:

Classroom management is a system of practices that increases learning and lowers behavioral problems.  Effective classroom management communicates your expectations to the students. 

The hiring team will want to know what you do to curb student misbehavior.  Here are some practices to improve learning and lower behavior issues.

Bell/Anticipatory Notes

One classroom management technique, applicable to K-12 grades, includes an exercise called “bell notes,” also known as anticipatory notes or entry tasks. Bell notes are straightforward and effective.  Every day, students are required to write into their journals the answers to a question or statement written on the classroom whiteboard. This simple technique has many benefits: it provides a consistent routine, so the students know what is expected of them from the minute they walk into the classroom; it reduces student misbehavior; and, it shortens the time it takes to start a class.  The bell note gets the students thinking from the onset of class.  Bell notes can spur students’ interest in the day’s lesson or incite them to review information from previous lessons. They also build on the students’ background by connecting to the their lives and their existing body of knowledge.  Last, but not least, the teacher can do come administrative tasks, such as taking attendance, while the students complete their bell notes.  

This eliminates class downtime, which increases learning time for the students.  Assume that a teacher working in a 180-day school uses bellnotes and reduces downtime by four minutes a day.  This translates to an additional 12 hours of learning time for the students in a year.  Using meaningful bell notes in a consistent manner will lead to improved student learning and will reflect positively in your student teaching evaluations.

Maximize Class Time

Nothing invites chaos like completing your next lesson plan 5-10 minutes before the dismissal bell rings—thus creating downtime for the students.  Devoting insufficient time to lesson planning is one of the biggest mistakes teachers make, and this lack of planning may quickly lead to student misbehavior.  While you are distracted, mischievous children begin to move towards the door, others may begin play fighting, and others will put their heads down.  With some planning, you can turn this downtime into rich instructional and evaluative time.  Sometimes a lesson will proceed more quickly than you had anticipated, so always over plan your lessons for the day.  A good rule of thumb is to plan for 10-15 minutes more than the class period allows.  Or, plan a backup activity that connects to your lesson’s objectives, and have this it readily available for such emergencies.

You can also use the remaining minutes of a class to reflect on and evaluate the lesson. One good technique is the use of exit slips.  Review the lesson’s objectives and ask the students to complete a brief self-evaluation on whether they feel they have met the stated objectives.  Alternatively, the students can summarize their learning or pose clarifying questions that you can address the following day.  As the students leave the classroom, the students hand you their feedback, allowing you to assess the students’ learning.

Outcome sentences are another useful strategy for evaluating lessons and eliminating downtime at the end of a lesson. For this strategy, the teacher prepares various outcome sentences that are posted on the wall with a poster or an overhead projector. The teacher asks the students to write down and then state an outcome sentence (in partners, small groups, or the whole class):

“I learned…”, “I was surprised…”, “I wonder…”, I think…”. This quick and engaging activity allows students to think about their learning and share it with others.  From the teacher’s perspective, outcome sentences serve as an insightful evaluation tool to check students’ understanding of the lesson.