What does successful classroom management look like? 

Maddie Kilminster - 17 June, 2021

Category : Blog

What does successful classroom management look like? 

With students at different levels, with different learning styles, behaviours and personal issues, classrooms can be hugely diverse and fast-paced environments where Teachers have a lot to juggle. Whilst keeping everyone to task, Teachers also have their own list of admin tasks to think about, technology to navigate, as well as incidents and distractions to

With students at different levels, with different learning styles, behaviours and personal issues, classrooms can be hugely diverse and fast-paced environments where Teachers have a lot to juggle. Whilst keeping everyone to task, Teachers also have their own list of admin tasks to think about, technology to navigate, as well as incidents and distractions to deal with during the lesson.

When social distancing, staggered start times and other covid restrictions are added to the mix, keeping the classroom a balanced and supportive environment has been harder than ever in recent months. 

Top classroom management tips

With over 15 former educators here at Arbor, we’ve put our heads together and boiled down our top ten tips for successful classroom management – from building relationships, to encouraging cooperation, to the theory behind the best seating plans. Let us know what you think on Twitter #BetterWorkingLife.

We also want to tell you about Arbor’s My Classroom – our all-in-one tool that combines seating plans, registers, behaviour management and now attainment data, to take the hassle out of admin in the classroom. Jump down to find out more.

1. Know who’s in front of you

The first tip (from Arbor Partnership Manager, Daniel) is to get to know your students as early as possible in the year. It might sound obvious, but knowing the names and a few personal details about the students in front of you helps you build their respect by showing them you care. It’s also helpful to be able to direct questions at individuals to keep everyone engaged. 

It’s handy if you have a system in front of you (like Arbor’s My Classroom) that shows you at a glance your students’ names, photos, SEN status, pastoral notes, their behaviour and how they’re doing against their targets – all on your seating plan. This is particularly useful for Teachers in secondary schools who have lots of faces to remember! 

2. Adapt to your space

The second tip (from Arbor’s Head of Training, Rebekah) is to adapt your teaching style to the space you’re in. Perhaps especially important if you’re teaching in non-traditional layouts like theatre or art rooms, knowing the types of activities that will work best in your space is key to keeping your class on task. Be aware of challenges that the space might pose, like curtains or beams that students might be tempted to play with, or corners where not everyone can see you.

To make the best use of your classroom space, it’s also vital to arrange your students in a way they’ll work at their best. Make sure you have as much information as possible about your students to hand when creating your seating plan – from demographic and pastoral information, to behaviour patterns, to academic ability, as well as your own knowledge of their learning styles and personalities. This will help you make sure they influence their neighbours positively – either challenging or supporting each other. Stay flexible, too. Be prepared to switch around combinations of students to try a better arrangement if it’s not working.

3. Less teacher talk – more cooperation

As all Teachers know, the best lessons involve less Teacher talk and more student-led learning. Arbor Partnership Manager, Andrew, recommends the best way to achieve student engagement is through cooperative learning. His top tips are to make sure group activities involve clear instructions and differentiated roles for students roles (e.g. spokesperson, reporter, researcher) to allow for different strengths and learning styles. It’s good to have a variety of tasks available to allow for students’ different starting points, and to make sure the learning is accessible and suitably challenging for everyone.

Cooperative learning approaches give students the chance to take ownership of what they’re learning. Students can also build skills in decision-making, communication, and gain self-confidence. Take a look at these cooperative learning strategies you could put in place in your classroom – from “Think, pair, share” to “Corners”.

4. Work in AfL techniques

AfL (Assessment for Learning) is all about making sure you have ways of knowing how well your students are grasping what they’re learning, so you can adapt and improve your teaching methods. The best Teachers build AfL into their lessons as a natural part of what they do. For example, to find out if the class is with you, ask an open question or, better yet, ask them to give an example, rather than asking them “do you understand?” which they can respond yes or no to.

Arbor’s Head of Partnerships, David, says AfL is also about allowing students to become more independent learners. When students are encouraged to take an active role in their learning, they can see clearly how they’re doing, where they’re going and what they need to do to get there. You can achieve this by giving students the chance to demonstrate how they’re doing themselves. For example, ask students to go to a certain corner of the room in response to a multiple-choice question, or to put their work in a colour-coded drawer as they leave to indicate how they think they did. 

5. Build strong relationships

A recent survey of adults showed that 89% of people remember not what they were taught but how they were treated by their Teachers. Arbor’s Product Manager, Stephen, says building relationships with students was the most important technique he implemented as a Teacher. The key is knowing what each of your students respond well to, and adapting your approach to make sure you connect to them on their level.

For example, for some students who are used to a lot of shouting at home, it’s unlikely that raising your voice in a classroom will help with behaviour management. For students who don’t get any praise at home, praise will work as a motivational tool in the classroom. However, this might not work for other students who might respond better to fair, directed feedback.

6. Always follow through 

The best piece of advice Arbor’s Key Account Manager, Maggie, has to share is to always follow through with what you say. This shows your students they can rely on you and is key to earning their respect. If you say you’ll help them with their homework, arrange a time and do it. If you say you’d love to watch them play football, go and watch them.

Being consistent is also central to managing behaviour. Be consistent with how you react and respond to certain behaviours and set clear expectations for all your lessons. If you say students have to stay during break time for one minute in silence, time one minute visibly and if there isn’t silence, start again. Students will always notice if there seems to be one rule for some and one for others. And remember, if you make a mistake, own up to it. 

7. Take time for families 

Our next tip comes from Arbor’s Software Trainer, Zuhal, who explains the importance of keeping lines of communication open with families, and remembering to emphasise the positives as much as the negatives. Sometimes it can be easy to always phone home about causes of concern. But making sure you also take the time to talk through what students are doing well (not just at Parents’ Evenings) helps build a positive relationship with parents and guardians, which will filter down to the students, too. 

You should find that creating this atmosphere makes families more confident to reach out to the school for support, especially if their child isn’t showing the same behaviour at home as they do at school. Zuhal found this particularly helpful with SEN students. 

8. Understand that all behaviour has a root cause 

When it comes to managing behaviour, Arbor’s Head of Product, Hilary, says your starting point should be that no child is simply misbehaving for the sake of it. Rather, their behaviour is as a result of a range of factors – from something that happened at home the night before, to their relationship with other students, to their emotional needs and struggles. Hilary used the iceberg model to explain this to colleagues and families – the tip of the iceberg above the water is the behaviour you can see, and  under the surface is what the child is going through.

Understanding why young people are behaving a certain way will help you to look past any stereotypes or biases you might have built, such as those you might label “the trouble maker”. Allowing for what students are dealing with will help you build a better rapport and encourage students to open up and participate in class. 

Get advice from Educational Psychologist Dr Rob Long on how to understand and better manage “difficult” behaviour in the classroom.

9. Develop a “growth mindset”

Arbor Software Trainer, Joe, shares the success he found implementing a “growth mindset” with his classes. This approach can apply both to the way you present learning material and to the language you use in the classroom, and is all about emphasising that students are on a journey of development. Instead of talking in terms of things students can or can’t do, it’s about emphasising that they’re things they can’t do yet. The main thing is to show students it’s okay to not quite get things right at first – and that actually this is the point!

Another aspect to developing a growth mindset is encouraging regular reflection on learning. Carve out time for “DIRT” (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time), where the class looks through the week’s learning and the feedback they’ve received, respond to it and set targets for the following week. Make sure these sessions are open, honest and optimistic – allowing students to learn from and support each other. 

10. Don’t let admin get in the way 

So many things can crop up when you’re trying to keep your class engaged, not to mention the long list of admin tasks to take care of at some point during the lesson. From announcements to give, to behaviour points to award, to homework to collect, to safeguarding concerns to note. With all this on your mind, it’s best to have a tool in the classroom (like Arbor’s My Classroom) that makes admin tasks quick and easy so they don’t have to disrupt the flow of the lesson.   

The seating plan tool that’s so much more – My Classroom from Arbor

The former Teachers at Arbor have also been hard at work this past year developing teacher-focused features in Arbor MIS. My Classroom is our popular, all-in-one classroom management tool designed to help you organise your lessons and manage your class seamlessly – giving you your time back to focus on teaching and learning instead. 

My Classroom brings seating plans, registers, behaviour management and attainment into one place for the first time. Create your seating plans using easy drag-and-drop blocks, take the register and record behaviour points directly onto your plan throughout the lesson – either on your tablet or desktop. 


See key information about each of your students directly on your seating plan, including student photos, demographic data, plus how your students are doing against key targets. With all this information to hand, My Classroom helps you arrange your students in a way you know they’ll learn best. 

The best part is that My Classroom is powered by Arbor MIS, which means you can follow up on absences or behaviour straight from your seating plan, without switching screens. Plus, everything you capture in My Classroom shows up on students’ profiles, helping you share information with staff across school.

Want to find out more about My Classroom? 

If you’re new to Arbor, our Partnership Managers would love to show you how Arbor’s intuitive tools could help you transform how your school or MAT works. Get in touch to book a free demo here.

If you’re already part of the Arbor community but don’t have My Classroom, get in touch with your Account Manager to learn more at account.management@arbor-education.com  

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