From Chaos to Calm: improving middle school behavior

When people find out I teach middle school I get the same reaction, “Wow, that’s a tough age!” It absolutely is. Middle schoolers tend to be highly energetic, socially awkward, and emotionally unpredictable — but that’s what I love about it. This “tough” age group is also quite malleable. By implementing the following behavior management strategies my “tough” middle schoolers have transformed into a group of students who successfully manage one another, with a little help from me.

In attempt to control the chaos, consistent routines and procedures must be in place: entering class, warm-up activity, organization of materials, handing out materials, clean-up procedure, closing activity, etc. Keep these routines consistent. When students know what they are expected to do, they begin to monitor each other. Instead of you managing the class, students will manage themselves.

We often hear educators talk about “wait time,” a powerful tool used to give students a moment to gather their thoughts after being called on. Teachers also need “wait time,” used after an attention grabber to give students a few seconds to quiet down before the teacher speaks. If your students don’t quiet down when you ask them to, don’t raise your voice, give wait time. If you are consistent students will start to “shush” each other because they want to hear what you have to say.

Middle schoolers crave compliments and are extremely competitive. Give them what they want! When students are on task, being respectful, helping each other, etc., students receive a positive ClassDojo point. However, when students are late to class, disrespectful, bullying, etc., they receive a negative ClassDojo point. The first 5 students in that particular class to receive 20 ClassDojo points are rewarded. This gives students the pat on the back they are looking for.

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To reinforce the importance of teamwork I have a large “ClassDojo Points Board”. If you click on “reports” in the ClassDojo app you will see the percentage of positive points the class received that day. I teach four periods, each class receiving 0-100 points each day. At the end of two weeks, the class with the highest cumulative amount of points will receive a reward. Having periods compete with each other keeps them behaved as a group, craving bragging rights for being the winners of the “ClassDojo Points Board.”

Go ahead, let your middle schoolers manage themselves. You can then start to enjoy what makes teaching highly energetic, socially awkward, and emotionally unpredictable middle schoolers so much fun!