Managing Young Humans: Essential Principles for Effective Classroom Management

By Phil Kitchel posted 07-12-2022 06:00 AM


By Ron Gay

I remember my first days in the classroom with my little humans, thinking, “I LOVE teaching!” They were sweet and captivated by my voice and the cool things I created for their learning. Within days, however, it was clear that the “honeymoon” was over. Behaviors escalated. All kinds of them. Every one of which interfered with my teaching—and their learning.

I wish someone would have taken me aside and said, “Ron, here are the essential things you need to know to manage your students.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. It took years to refine my classroom management plan. As you begin, I recommend the classic text Classroom Management That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Every Teacher (Marzano et al., 2003).  Next, follow these four principles to help you develop your own effective plan.

  1. Build and maintain positive relationships with your students.
    • If they know you care about them and love them, they will listen to you, respond, and try to meet your expectations.
    • Create time to get to know them and their likes and dislikes.
    • Have conversations that are unrelated to academics.
    • It’s okay to laugh with them.
    • Strong relationships will sustain them through the challenges of learning.
  1. Establish and teach your classroom norms (rules, procedures, and expectations).

Don’t make the mistake of creating long, complicated rules your students can’t remember. Instead, follow these effective norms:

    • Brief: Make them short and easy to remember.
    • Easy to understand: Use words and illustrations that clearly depict ideas and expectations.
    • Taught early and often: Repetition and practice are essential for learning.
  1. Teach consequences.
    • Students need to learn that positive outcomes result from positive behaviors while negative consequences are incurred for negative behavior. This does not mean punishment.
    • Consequences are the appropriate reaction to behavior.
    • Reward students for desired behaviors.
    • Provide interventions for undesired behaviors.
    • Positive outcomes may include positive praise, tangible or intangible rewards, and access to desired activities.
    • Negative consequences may include things like withdrawing teacher attention, allowing missed opportunities to receive rewards or desired activities, physically relocating them in the classroom, requesting parent contact, and so on. (Cooper et al., 2018).
  1. Don’t hold grudges.
    • Good relationships require allowing students to make mistakes. Remember, they aren’t grown-ups.
    • Start fresh each day. Let them know you still care, and they have positive choices to make.
    • Your forgiving attitude will help them behave better.

Building your classroom management plan based on positive and caring relationships and the explicit teaching of norms and expectations is the foundation of a good plan. These fundamentals, combined with appropriate consequences and allowance for mistakes, are essential principles to creating effective management plans. Establishing a well-managed classroom creates an efficient learning environment conducive to teaching students to mastery. This helps our young humans to experience success in school and in life.

Dr. Gay has served as a middle school teacher and elementary school administrator in Gwinnett County Public Schools. He has successfully implemented classroom and school-wide behavior management plans, and completed research related to implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support Programs.


Marzano, R. J., Marzano, J. S., & Pickering, D. (2003). Classroom management that works: Research-based strategies for every teacher. ASCD.

Online Resources

Building Positive Relationships With Students: What Brain Science Says

How to Make a Classroom Management Plan

Behavior Expectations and How to Teach Them

Getting Consistent With Consequences

1 comment



09-09-2022 11:09 AM

very helpful!