Middle school is a time of transition. Students are moving away from elementary school and are becoming adolescents, preparing for high school.
It’s a time when things can change rapidly, and emotions often run high, so being a middle school teacher is challenging. Effective classroom management strategies are important to help create a positive learning environment that supports students’ academic achievement and personal development and gives you, as a teacher, the right framework to support effective teaching and reduce stress. Read more about why it’s important here.
Each teacher will have their own classroom management style, but it may need to be adapted over time to work for a particular group of students.
Five top tips for middle school classroom management
Have clear expectations
Clear expectations around student behavior and classroom routines are the foundation of any successful classroom management system from elementary school to high school. However, the way you implement these expectations vary with age.
Middle schoolers should be able to cope with more complex classroom rules and manage their own behavior better, but they might still need support in some areas. You might also need to introduce new rules that would have applied in elementary school, such as no cell phones in class.
At the start of the school year, get the entire class involved in setting your classroom rules. Studies show that students are more likely to stick to rules they have been involved in creating and are invested in. Be sure to guide this activity, as children of this age group can still become overwhelmed if they have too many choices.
Alongside your class rules, setting expectations for middle schoolers around how to manage their time and where to find instructions can help them adjust to new routines. For example, you might write each day’s activities or important notes on the whiteboard and teach students to check there straight after the bell rings. Having classroom jobs such as tidying the classroom or distributing supplies can also help middle school students develop responsibilities and take pride in their classroom environment.
Model positive behavior
Middle schoolers are still maturing, so modeling positive behavior can still be a good idea at this level. The types of classroom behavior you might want to see include:
- being kind to classmates
- using an appropriate tone in class
- working well during group work and not interrupting
- staying on task during individual or group work
- remembering students’ names and taking time to use their preferred name or correct pronunciation
- clearing up a workspace after an activity
Highlight good behavior
Positive reinforcement is an excellent classroom management technique that focuses on good behavior rather than highlighting negative behavior.
In middle school, students may still respond well to incentives for good behavior. You could run a weekly prize giving where each student who has demonstrated positive behavior can win a prize. Including class-wide rewards where the whole class has to contribute can also promote teamwork.
Develop strategies for dealing with disruptions
Disruptions are a common part of a middle school classroom, where children adjust to moving through grade levels and more complex work. But how you deal with disruptions can change how much of an impact they have on the class.
When you prepare your lesson plans, it can help to highlight places where disruptions might occur, for example, during a changeover in activities or while students are working on a particular assessment.
Think about ways you can reduce the risk of misbehavior at those times so that you spend less time reacting to disruptive behavior. For example, you could have a “do now” activity ready for students who finish assignments early and might mess around. This can be academic or centered on social-emotional learning.
If you have any challenging students, you may want to develop a behavior management plan like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework in conjunction with the student and their parents.
Build good relationships
Relationship building is one of the keys to great classroom management. The better you know your students, the more you will be able to adapt well to them and manage any needed interventions.
Good teacher-student relationships also help to promote academic engagement, which can improve student outcomes.
You can start building positive relationships from the first day of term. If you are a new teacher, then tell students a bit about yourself. Kami’s Meet the Teacher templates can give you some ideas. Students can also begin building relationships with each other by playing getting to know you games.
Research also showed that greeting students at the door increased academic engagement by 20% and decreased disruptive classroom behavior by 9%, so think about incorporating a daily greeting into your routine.
We hope these classroom management tips have given you some great ideas to use in your middle school classroom. Don’t forget to check out the Kami library for printables that you can use to help organize your classroom and provide engaging activities for your students.