Teaching in challenging times

It begins with you!

Over the next few months, we will explore tried and tested evidence-based classroom management strategies that can improve behaviour and engagement, minimize disruptions, and create the type of ecosystem that allows students and staff to thrive.

Healthy classroom ecosystems have routines and systems that allow students and staff to flourish. These classrooms permit its members to co-construct meaningful learning experiences, develop learning outcomes, and create resources that support learning in the class community. For some teachers the prospect of a classroom that looks like this is but a dream, and for others it is a (near) reality. Wherever you are on this continuum, there are a number of classroom management strategies that can help you develop your co-constructed classroom.

Planned Transitions

The most challenging behaviours often occur during unstructured transition times, including the gap of time between lessons and recess, after lunch, and other unstructured times. This lack of structure can create a swell of anxiety for many students, and undesirable behaviours often occur as a result. By having planned, independent activities ready for students when they return to class, we can create the predictability they need to feel safe and give them something to look forward to when returning.

The 3-Rule... Rule

I’m sure we’ve all been in the classroom where lists of rules line the front of the classroom (if not, consider yourself fortunate). Effective school rules are clear, minimal, fairly applied, and have positive outcomes. Having clear, simple rules like these can create accountability within your classroom where students can support and depend on one other. The best classrooms have a small number of clearly stated rules, and every desirable student behaviour will fall under one of these three:

1. Be Safe

2. Be Responsible

3. Be Respectful

When we see a student doing something they ought not do, we can ask them “Is that respectful?” or let them know if it is or not. The same is true for positive behaviours- if a students demonstrates respect, safety, or responsibility, we can acknowledge this through SPIT praise.

SPIT Praise

Please do not spit on anyone! Many students with behaviour challenges have a negative script about themselves that plays and repeats in their psyche. It may take years, but we can help them “flip the script” and give them some SPIT praise to help them recognize their successes and give them a new script to rehearse.

SPIT stands for:

S- specific to a skill or action

P- positively stated

I- instructional in that it provides detailed information on what they have done well

T- true in that it is accurate and exact so it can be repeated

Seating arrangement

It is less common nowadays, but seating students (age 10 and older) in rows rather than in groups can actually improve their response participation. (Kem & Clements, 2007).

Next week, we will continue with this series. Please email me if you have any questions or would like to add some of your own ideas that work well in your classroom!


Kern, L., & Clemens, N. H. (2007). Antecedent strategies to promote appropriate classroom behaviour. Psychology in the Schools, 44(1), 65- 75.