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Best Classroom Management Strategies for Middle School

We’ve all been there.  No matter how hard we are trying to rein in an unruly classroom, nothing seems to work.  And then, the principal, another teacher, or someone just as important, walks by your classroom.  And hears everything.   You feel like a total failure.  And you just want to fall into a hole in the earth.

While this scenario is a nightmare in every teacher’s life, there are strategies to prevent this.  But those strategies happen long before the nightmare scenario happens.

classroom management strategies

So, what are the best classroom management strategies for middle school?  I thought about the things that worked well in my own classes and did some research to back up what other teachers found effective in their classrooms.  With that research, I came up with these 8 classroom management strategies for middle school that will help you make your classroom a place to look forward to spending time in rather than a difficult job that nobody wants to do.

Let’s take a look at each one of the best classroom management strategies more closely.

classroom management strategies

Make Your Lessons Engaging for Your Students

I know this one sounds really obvious on the surface, but I’m thinking that we go a little deeper.  Rather than we think about what we THINK are engaging activities, we think about what we know our students love.  And then we try to figure out how to fit those things practically into our lessons.

This will take some extra time in brainstorming when we first try to do it.  And it will also take a bit more time at the beginning of the school year when you are still trying to get to know your students.  But as you get further along, you will be surprised at how quickly you are able to implement this into your lesson planning.

And your students will recognize what you are doing–and appreciate it–almost every time.  As middle schoolers, many of them will be quick to let them know that “they see what you did there.”  And not only will you feel good about what you did, but also that you made their day a little bit brighter too.

Keep Things Moving But Not Crazy

From the time kids are in preschool, teachers are told to keep things moving.  If you stop for a second, you will lose control of your classroom.  And the understanding is that with each year that the students age, they will need just a little bit less of “keeping things moving.”

While this is true to a degree, it isn’t completely true.  In the same vein of work smarter, not harder, we can keep things moving without keeping them at a breakneck pace.

This is sort of an extension of the last point, because what it really comes down to is engaging your students with activities that they love to do.  If you are doing something they love and including it in your academics, not only will they be learning more, they will also be enjoying the projects they are doing.  And instead of being eager to move to the next activity, they will instead be eager to keep working on what they are doing.

One of the best parts of this point is that as a teacher, you won’t have to plan as much activity if you are planning activities that your students are enjoying.

On the flip side, keeping all of your students deeply engaged with one particular activity isn’t going to happen.  Girls may love to spend hours coloring an elaborate page, but boys would rather be doing more hands on activities.

This is easily solved with differentiation.  The key is to plan a couple or few activities that reach the vast majority if not all of your class.  And then personally engage with the students that my not have the same level of attention span as the rest of the class.

Be Personally Engaged with Your Students

It always pays off to plan engaging lessons for your students.  But even more importantly, your students need to see you personally engaging with them.  Make sure to spend at least a couple of minutes daily with each student.  Ask them pointed questions that show them you care about their day to day life, dreams, aspirations, thoughts.  Ask them questions like:

  • What was your most and least favorite part of (some activity you just did)?
  • What would you have done with this if you were the teacher?
  • If you did this activity at home, how would it have been different?
  • If you were the main character in this book, what  would you be like/do/think?

Even bigger than being able to start a conversation with your students, be available to hear them when they speak to you.  I get that this can be difficult sometimes when you have ten middle schoolers trying to talk to you at the same time.  But take note of who is trying to speak.  Then do your best to go back to them sooner than later.  This takes a huge amount of attention for you.  And it is very hard.  But it is also very rewarding.

Be THAT Person

Finally, make yourself approachable.  Use language that is encouraging and invites them to engage freely with you.  And when you are having a rough day, be honest with your students about it.  We are all human.  And we all have rough days.

But you don’t want your students to think that they are the reason for your bad day (even if they are).  The more transparent you are with them about your humanity, the more they will feel comfortable being human around you.

This will ultimately allow your students to see you as someone that they can share things in confidence with.  Your students need more of that in their lives.  You don’t know how many or how few of them have someone that they can speak to freely, even at home.  So being that person for them is a huge deal.

Make Your Classroom Atmosphere Pleasant for You and Your Students

School classrooms tend to be so busy, both in activity and decor.  While we have generally thought that kids like that busy and brightly colored atmosphere, I am not sure they prefer it to a more pleasing to-the-eye atmosphere.

A study  released in 2013 says that 76% of students perceived that classroom physical environment needs to be improved.

So what if we decorated classrooms more along the line of home or even sophisticated office decor?  So many studies have been done as to the best ways to decorate our home to exude peace and comfort.  If we could do that with our classrooms, what do you think the emotional benefit of the teachers AND students would be?

There are already a lot of classrooms doing this.  You can see tons of them on Pinterest.  Here are a few inspiring ones:

My classroom is officially decorated. #farmhouseclassroom #schoolgirlstyle #hobbylobby #targetstyle #amazonprime #iteachfourth

Here it is!!!! Before the fire marshal comes, here is a quick look at our room. It’s cozy and full of low sensory goodness. I will go into more detail on the different areas of the space soon. #kindergarten #kindergartenteacher #vintage #iteachk #fleamarketfinds #teachersfollowteachers #teachersofinstagram #teacher #teachersofig #farmhouseclassroom

35+ Excellent DIY Classroom Decoration Ideas & Themes to Inspire You

Farmhouse Style Classroom Decor | Erica's Ed-Ventures

Classroom Transformation-farmhouse style

Also, you want to have at least one or two quiet places that your students can go to in your classroom so they can unwind if necessary.  Or a place they can go to as a reward.  Reading or activity corners are amazing.

One of the hardest things for teachers to do is declutter.  There are papers and teaching tools everywhere.  So huge kudos to the teachers that have done such an amazing job making their classroom look and feel like a haven!

Let Your Students’ Voices be Heard

One of the best classroom management strategies to let your students know that you are listening to them and eager to hear what they have to say is through surveys with follow up discussion.

There is an awesome series of surveys that was put together by a group of students.  The name of the website is What Kids Can Do and the group that put together a large number of surveys was called Students as Allies.

You can take a look at the surveys here and use them as they are or tweak them to fit your specific needs.

What I love about these surveys is that the very specific questions lead students as well as teachers to reflect on the culture of their classroom and how well students and teachers are coexisting with each other as a whole.  There are questions regarding students getting along with each other as well as with faculty, with satisfaction and perceived needs of students, and satisfaction and perceived needs of teachers.

One thing that always comes out in these types of surveys is how far apart the perceptions of students and faculty is.  And these are great things to spend some time on so that those perceptions can become more accurate on both sides.

The Benefits

The students will enjoy doing these surveys because they realize that someone is interested in what they think.  But what makes this exercise infinitely more valuable is the dialog that happens afterward.

Spending time with your students discussing these results proves that you actually do care about what they have to say.  And you being able to focus on specific questions from the surveys allows students to focus on techniques that will help them to grow as responsible citizens.  You will see immediate improvement in the classroom as they test out these new waters.  And what a great way to help them with life skills that will forever help them to function well in society!

Focus on Emotional Intelligence Techniques

Of all of the classroom management strategies I have listed so far, this is the one that has the most importance and biggest place in life as a whole.  What students learn about emotional intelligence in and out of the classroom will easily follow them throughout their life.  And since we don’t always know what is being taught in the home, it is even more important that we model and teach it to our students whenever we can.

We may be just about the only emotionally healthy role model some of those students see.  So what if we could inspire them to come out into the world in a powerful and healthy way?

There are countless opportunities to do this with your class on a daily basis.  Here are some examples:

  • When your students are explaining a difficult situation to you, you can help them work it out using emotionally healthy methods.
  • When you are teaching them a history or literature lesson that has a story relating a healthy/unhealthy situation, you can have a class discussion on how that could have been handled or was handled well.
  • You can introduce vocabulary words defining emotionally healthy principles.
  • You can have a unit on emotionally healthy lifestyle in your health classes.

Infinite Possibilities

There are almost infinite possibilities here.  And these conversations don’t have to only happen in the classroom with you teaching.  They can be in the lunch line, in the dismissal line, on the playground,  literally anywhere that you are interacting with students.

I wrote an article a while ago regarding literature books that help teach emotionally healthy principles to your students.  You can access that article here. (Also note that some of the books I feature in that article are free!)

The bottom line here is that emotional health affects every aspect of life and every relationship.  So it is a good thing to teach it in the same way that we experience it–throughout all of life and circumstances.

Give Kids a Break

Many kids have a reason to be acting out (not generally a valid excuse, but still a reason).  They may or may not know what that reason is themselves.  It could be due to tiredness, hunger, overwhelm, boredom, difficulties at home, or a myriad of other underlying issues that could go even deeper.

For the sake of this article, I will only be addressing routine forms of difficulties in the classroom, and not issues that would require the help of a professional.

Some Good Options

So the short of this point is that if your students have some issues that are causing them to lose focus, sometimes the easiest way to diffuse it is just to give them a break.  That can take many forms.  Here are a few:

  • Free reading
  • Coloring
  • Crafting from a crafting station that you keep in some designated place
  • Writing
  • Playing a game with another student or two
  • Playing a video game
  • Taking the whole class out for an unscheduled recess
  • Doing an impromptu classroom game (check out this article for some ideas)

Sometimes it actually saves time to take time to remove students from their academics to take a breath and refocus.  And honestly, if you’ve already lost their attention, no amount of teaching is going to get them back to instantly learning again.

If you’ve already lost their attention, get it back in a way that they will appreciate and be ready to get back to the task at hand.  They will respond better to you in the long term when they know you aren’t just trying to get work done in a tunnel-vision sort of way (something we are all guilty of when we see how little time we have to get so much done!).

Do What You Can to Avoid Teacher Burnout

All teachers experience burnout.  It’s a fight to keep it from happening.  And it’s always a fight to get through it.

If we are burned out (and sometimes it seems unavoidable) our students pick up on it very quickly.  And honestly, toward the end of the school year some of them are burned out too.

Here is a list of some of the things we can do to prevent and/or combat it:

  • See a doctor
  • Recruit a student helper
  • Take back some time every day
  • Switch things up
  • Confide in someone who understands

I have an article that addresses all of these things.  You can access it here.

Here are some of the best resources available to help you deal with teacher burnout:

 

Conclusion

So these are the best classroom management strategies for middle school.  But at the end of the day, we are working with other people.  We don’t always know what other struggles they are having in life that can affect their behavior in negative ways.

And for this reason, we can’t guarantee that you can follow a formula that will  magically make all of your students perfectly well behaved.  We have off days ourselves.  So our students will too.  And being an engaged and understanding teacher can go along way to mitigate this.

So while these classroom management strategies will  not guarantee you a problem free classroom 100% of the time, they will make your classroom and students much easier to work with the vast majority of the time.

Here is a super short but awesome video that gives a few more ideas that are perfect for finding the best classroom management strategies for middle school:

What classroom management strategies have you used that worked well for your classroom?  Please feel free to share in the comments below!

If you liked this article, I think you will like these articles as well:

10 Perfect Picture Books That Teach Middle Schoolers Emotional Intelligence:  Some are Free!

Conflict Resolution in the Middle School Classroom

How Teachers Can Encourage Introverted Students

This Post Has 97 Comments

  1. Krysten Quiles

    I love the idea of making the classroom personal. I think it’s great to have an inviting environment and it helps students to identify with you.

    1. Marie

      You are exactly right, Krysten. The more personal the space feels, the more relaxed and able to relate the people in it are.

  2. Loise

    Most studenta nowadays are very active thus interacting with the students and have them engage in the class topic was really a great help. Love also the idea of creating a nice classroom atmosphere where they can be a lot more comfy. Great and very helpful tips you have here!

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Loise!

  3. I love the idea of making the classroom a bit more personal. Sometimes the classroom can be intimidated to students so a nice environment is key.

    1. Marie

      Very true!

  4. I give teachers SO MUCH CREDIT. I don’t think I could ever handle being a teacher. I have ZERO patience!

  5. julseliz

    The classroom setup and decor are fantastic! I wish I had a classroom that looked like that growing up. Teaching strategies have changed from the days of just sitting still and reading from a book. Engagement is huge and keeping the students active. This post is great for this time of being stuck at home and not having school.

  6. Angie

    I love the way you make it personal and have ideas and techniques for children of all types instead of a one size fits all approach. The decor and the way you have the room laid out looks very inviting.

  7. Amber Myers

    My middle schooler has always preferred the personalized rooms! She loves when there is nice decor and tends to feel the most comfortable in those rooms.

    1. Marie

      It really makes a huge difference.

  8. Tara Pittman

    I have 2 in middle school so this is good info. Right now I am trying to teach them at home

  9. Amila Wickramarachchi

    I like all these ideas.Although I don’t teach kids,these tips are helpful for me too for my workshops for adults.I like the idea of keeping them engaged.

    1. Marie

      I am sure they translate well to adult classes!

  10. Shruti and Delta

    As far as I have heard middle schoolers are tough nuts to crack. the ideas you have posted here are amazing and should definitely help to keep them busy.

    1. Marie

      I have spent a lot of time teaching middle schoolers. It ended up being my favorite age because once they realize you care about them and are listening, they open up and love you back!

  11. sdamasceno

    Those clasroom pictures are so cute. I would love to go to class in them! I agree with having a good atmosphere.

  12. Peachy A.

    I love the idea of making the classroom personal. I think it’s great to have an inviting environment and it helps students to focus more

  13. Kelly

    Very powerful advice here. Creating a “learning space” is so important. I have noticed teachers even creating centers in their classrooms where students team work. Each space is welcoming aesthetically, which does help with overall student learning and focus. Thank you for the practical advice!!

    1. Marie

      I am loving the freedom that teachers have in their classrooms now. And there is great design advice that helps with functionality in many places as well!

  14. Christine A

    You sound like someone who gives a lot of thought to their students – thank you for being the kind of teacher I would want my children to have!

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Christine. 🙂

  15. Nyxinked

    These classroom transformations look gorgeous! I think having a calming and atmospheric classroom really helps. Looking back our classrooms were always generic, dark and dingy.

    1. Marie

      I wish my classrooms growing up could have looked like this! Mine were all the things you said plus cold. I just remember being cold all day long.

  16. Krysten Quiles

    Oh my gosh this is such good advice and so helpful for students to learn. Thanks so much for sharing Marie!

  17. littlemisadvencha

    I am an educator as well. and the attention span of students, be it in middle school or in professional state, is really short. That’s why it’s really important to engage them in your discussion. I love the tips you presented here. Great post!

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Cha! 🙂

  18. Sayanti

    I think these are some great engaging techniques. Listening to kids and their opinions is very important and it instills a sense of self-confidence in them and mutual trust and respect between the students and teachers.

  19. Oh man!! I never had a classroom that looked so good. I must have missed out on a lot during my childhood, can I join your class? haha!! Being that person is super important.

    1. Marie

      I know, just think of what we could have learned if we grew up in classes like that!!

  20. aisasami

    Ahhhhhh man, I am preschool teacher! I actually haven’t taught middle school for a while. But these are wonderful tips on how to do!

  21. kcarr125

    Middle school can be a tricky age. Making engaging lessons and listening to your students will help manage a classroom!

  22. Zephyr Hill

    My favorite teachers in school employed strategies like this. And I don’t only enjoyed class, but learned so much more

    1. Marie

      Exactly! So much more gets done when your students know you are invested in the process. Just like at home when you tell your kids to get the work done and it takes forever if they even bother. But when you are right there with them helping out, it gets done so much faster and the together time is so worth it in the end.

  23. Jessica Joachim

    This is great! Especially for middle school parents right now. My kids are a bit younger but I’m sure this would work even with my oldest. Teachers are something special for sure!

    1. Marie

      Most of it would work regardless of the grade level. I usually just concentrate on middle school because that is where I have done most of my work.

  24. Sophia Damasceno

    I totally agree with you that the classroom should be engaging. It just doesn’t work if they aren’t somewhat engaging.

    1. Marie

      You are exactly right, Sophia!

  25. Cindy E Ingalls

    I love the decor in the classroom, it seems like a calm quiet place.

  26. Enriqueta Lemoine

    I like the designs of the classrooms. Seems very friendly and open

  27. Caitlin + Dani

    I think – now more than ever – people are so grateful for teachers. Thank you to all the teachers who are the real superheros!

  28. amberleshae

    It’s so important to be personable with the students!

  29. Gladys Nava

    Such a huge information! Thanks for keeping share

  30. Tia m

    Great tips for helping to calm a class. Middle schoolers are a rough age because of all the hormones. So I can only imagine. I taught pre k and that was insanity

    1. Marie

      I actually found middle school to be easier than pre-k! I didn’t have the energy level for the constantly moving little kids. But I didn’t mind listening to the middle schoolers all talking to me at the same time, lol.

  31. angela k church

    so many awesome tips makes me want to go back to middle school. Love the awesome classroom and the colors included

  32. WorldInEyes

    Such a great tips…they are really very helpful…. i love the colour and looking of classroom… thanks for sharing…

  33. GREAT tips!! I don’t know how teachers do it! I wouldn’t HAVE THE PATIENCE to do what they do!! So I commend them 100000%

  34. Ronnie E.

    These are great tips! It can be hard to keep pre-teens interested in the material. These ideas will help!

  35. Michael

    well well well.. pandemic season just made this more complicated than usual since most classes will be done online, right?

    1. Marie

      For sure it will be complicated in some ways, but now the teachers will have had more time to prepare and with some thinking outside of the box, it can be awesome. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Michael!

  36. Monidipa

    These tips are really required to manage middile school students as they are at a very sensitive point of life. Thses points are efficient if one can follow.

  37. Gervin Khan

    Such an incredible idea, it tackles every aspect we can think of and I may say this is definitely a great way to make student to love going to school.

  38. rogwillis

    I have a couple of friends who are middle school teachers. This helpful information might be beneficial to them.

  39. WritesandBlogs

    Very nice and good tips. Students at every stage in school like interactions and presenting their thoughts to their teacher. I notice that in my son too, specially since I can hear him out now when he attends his online classes. They love to speak and when the teachers encourage that, there is such a special bonding created between them. Its really awesome. — Kuntala commenting as WritesandBlogs

    1. Marie

      You are absolutely right, Kuntala. Thank you for sharing about your son. I am glad he is doing well!

  40. emman damian

    I love personalized learning. It’s really needed now given the pandemic. Since everything is digital, I think it can be achieved.

  41. knycx

    That’s an interesting blog and I had no idea that there are so many things to be aware of while teaching in a classroom. Thanks for your insights and will take note – Knycx Journeying

  42. beamaureen

    Interesting take from a teacher’s perspective! Good tips you’ve written 🙂

  43. Sachin Yadav

    Great tips for managing middle school students. Thanks a lot for sharing it.

  44. Fabulous Perks

    I love this! These are tips I could use at home while teaching my boys.

    1. Marie

      They absolutely are!

  45. World In Eyes

    Classroom management cycle looks good, good guideline for teachers, “keep things moving but not crazy” and making classroom atmosphere pleasant is very important…

  46. Lauren

    These are great ideas. And I love the classroom decor!

  47. Let me tell you, there are always those few students who just want to make a teacher’s life difficult no matter how great they are doing!

  48. Nilakshi

    All the tips that you have shared are very practical and very true. Thanks a lot for spreading the words.

  49. Papa Jack

    Thanks for sharing this tips. I am sure this will absolutely help especially doing all the schooling inside the house.

  50. Michelle

    Oh, I love the concept of a homey classroom. The farmhouse classroom was amazing. My only thought was funding for classroom makeovers probably aren’t in many budgets.

  51. Renata Feyen

    It’s a bit like bringing up a kid – you have no scenario and you do it the way you believe is best 🙂

  52. Razena

    i’ve never been a teacher, but I am a manager and while reading this I realised that as much as we grow older and change, we really only stay the same. All these strategies you mention are as relevant to a group of employees as they are to learners and students at any level.

    1. Marie

      You are exactly right, Razena. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  53. Sushmita Malakar

    You are apparently a great teacher! I love how your posts are a great resource for new teachers 🙂

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Sushmita!

  54. There nothing as peaceful as having learning and teaching environment, it boost the ability to settle down and learn everyone including the teacher feels so relax and comfortable to learn at the same time. I find this article very educational and awesome for teachers as well.

    1. Marie

      Thank you!

  55. Jessa Bonelli

    Classroom management isn’t really like following a recipe. It takes time, practice, and patience!

    1. Marie

      Very true, Jessa. 🙂

  56. I agree with all these points. and encouraging our students is really essential. One way is to give positive feedback to ur students. Praising our students is one of the most effective ways to lift them up and keep them working hard. <3

    1. Marie

      Very true, Cha. Many times it gives them just enough motivation to try to make the positive feedback well earned.

  57. Ben

    This is going to help a lot of teachers for this age range. I can’t imagine trying to wrangle middle-school classes all day long. I remember being that age. I was old enough to be louder and more obtuse in my snottiness, which I was still retaining from being a little kid. LOL

    1. Marie

      Haha, we all have our moments.

  58. Iris Findlay

    Lol, this post made me miss middle school. I had some excellent teachers.

    1. Marie

      I am glad to hear that, Iris. I had the same experience, but I know a lot of people that didn’t.

  59. Matt Taylor

    Those are all fantastic ideas for creating a better classroom environment in middle school. Middle school was so long ago for me, but the memories that stick out are from classes that were engaging and fun, but still learned, like my cooking class!!

    1. Marie

      Exactly, Matt! And look where your cooking class got you! So awesome to look back at what shaped us. 🙂

  60. Kevin Brotac

    I love your blog for this content. Very informative and useful for all teachers. Being a teacher is really hard work, but with dedication and passion there is a lot you can accomplish

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Kevin!

  61. Kileen

    Such a great post! I think middle school aged kids can be hard because they’re not quite adults yet but they’re not kids anymore, it’s kind of a tricky phase of life. I love the tip on being THAT person. That one really spoke to me.

    Kileen
    cute & little

    1. Marie

      I was speaking to myself too, Kileen!

  62. Cristina Petrini

    I would have liked to be a teacher a lot even if I then took another path, the fact remains that I love reading your articles because I love the topic!

    1. Marie

      I am glad, Cristina. I love reading your articles as well. I feel we have gotten to know a lot about each other from different parts of the world. And I have always wanted to visit Italy!

  63. Emman Damian

    These are great strategies! It is very helpful for middle school teachers. Great job!

  64. Aliceee Traveler

    Great list my dear! Teachers can do so much more in this century. Creating a better place for kids will do good, not just for them, but for the teachers as well. It’s a win-win siuation

  65. Mayuri

    These are some great classroom management techniques. I think inclusion of emotional intelligence in the list makes it comprehensive. I feel the stress on emotional intelligence should start from early learning curriculum too.

  66. Ntensibe Edgar

    Wow….I mostly employ what I can call, dramatization. I let somebody or a group of learners, in the crowd, take up the position of the teacher and they get to do what I do. The results are usually very interesting!

  67. Lily

    Great tips for middle school classroom management. I think engagement is key!

  68. Mow

    An interesting article. I can appreciate the need for more personal interaction between pupils and teachers. It can really help break barriers and encourages more trust between both parties.

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