by Jessica Shamout

Classroom management begins with creating a positive learning community. A little preparation makes a world of difference for keeping students engaged and following directions. Here are some quick tips for teachers:

  1. Classroom Community: Wait outside to greet your students as soon as they come in and establish routine. Consider giving them jobs: Journal Joggers, Marker Mavens, Siddurim Supervisor, etc. If your students know you value them, they will be more likely to want to be there themselves.
  2. The Space: Think about what it looks to walk in and see nothing on the walls, desks, or cabinets and no teacher. What’s hanging on the walls – is there a color scheme or theme? How is the room laid out? Do you have pictures of your students or at least their names up in the room? Prepare and lay out materials, and display the schedule so students know you have a plan. Show them how ready you are!
  3. Planning Ahead: What happens when your first activity falls flat or you are missing a supply? Prepare extra activities so you don’t ever run out of stuff to do. Vary the types of activities, i.e., reading from a book, acting out, a game or competition, art, etc. Students often tend to push each other’s buttons (and yours!)  when they can sense you haven’t prepared, don’t want to be there, or don’t care about the material yourself.
  4. Forced Choices: Are your students into book-reading? Hebrew flashcards? Games? Drawing? Maybe they are more into skits or singing? If you have some flexibility with your curriculum or lessons, allow them to have a choice in how the activities are chosen. For example, let students know you’ll be reading the passage in the textbook, but after that they can do a skit, write a song/poem, play a jeopardy style game, or simply answer questions, then decide as a class. Give them some ownership.
  5. Ask for Help: Ask Education Directors or clergy for help with a continuously problematic child. When it’s time for a conversation with a parent, never be accusatory, but rather ask for their help, too. “We’ve observed these behaviors when Zoe is in class. We’d really like to help her connect with the material and the class, can you help us brainstorm about the best way to support Zoe?” Even the most in-denial parent can respond to this when you frame it this way.

Jessica Shamout is the director of Jewish education at University Synagogue.

Cross-posted from ARJEAchshav, a publication of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators.