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Effective Classroom Management

As we started our praise time, Trevor and Jason began wrestling! They were having fun but their misbehavior disrupted the rest of the class and defied authority. Should I correct them in front of the entire group? Should I lecture everyone about paying attention? Should I ignore the misbehavior, hoping it will stop?

Important Skills to Master

Important skills related to the lesson, environment and atmosphere of the group contribute to effective classroom management.

Skill #1—Change Something

Draw children’s attention back to the lesson or activity by doing something different. Change the pace of the lesson—speed up or slow down. Change the volume or pitch of your voice—loud, soft, high, low. Take a new position— stand, sit or kneel. Often a child’s lack of attention is due to our misunderstanding his needs, characteristics or age-level limitations.

Skill #2—Add Something New

Capturing a child’s interest may be as simple as asking a question or calling him by name. It may be as complex as beginning a whole new activity. Give a child who is over stimulated a job to do. When storytelling use a visual aid, motions and sound effects. Children enjoy an element of surprise.

Skill #3—Reinforce Positive Behavior

Rather than draw attention to a child who is misbehaving, point out those who are following directions. This shows the child a better way to get attention.

Skill #4—Use Nonverbal Signals

This approach is usually noticed only by the disruptive child. Keep the lesson going but catch his eye, tap his shoulder or move closer to him to indicate the behavior must stop. The signal can be spontaneous or prearranged for a child who has difficulty following rules.

Skill #5—Remove Distractions

Take steps to remove distracting objects and sounds. Rearrange the room to make sure favorite games are not highly visible while you teach the Bible story.

Skill #6—Time Out

If you have a child who is out of control, time out can help. This can include moving him away from the group or taking away a privilege for a time. He may join the group when he is ready to participate.

Skill #7—Dialog

Interact with the child about his behavior problem (see box below). Work toward a goal for improvement. This technique may be used by itself or with any of the other skills.

Back to Trevor and Jason

Realizing that the children had been sitting for 15 minutes I began the praise time with a few motion songs. I reinforced the positive behavior of four other children who were cooperating. When we sat down again I asked my assistant to sit close to Trevor and Jason so he could tap an arm if needed. At the end of class I thanked these boys for getting involved and doing a good job. There were better days ahead!


ROBERT CHOUN: “Effective Classroom Management” is a condensation of M/A 1990 “Effective Discipline for Primaries.”