Author: jatwydell

Herding Cats: A Comprehensive Guide to Classroom Management

Disclaimer: I’m struggling to get my images to post. Here is a link to a view only copy of my CM (

Herding Cats

Classroom Management Strategies During the First Year


Jessica Twydell

EDSC 658: Classroom Organization and Management

Classroom Management Plan

Jessica Twydell

Classroom Management Plan for the Secondary Classroom


Table of Contents:




Classroom Management Plan

Preparation Before the School Year Starts ……………………………..3

Routines, Policies, Procedures, and Rules …………………………….6

Safety and Legal Requirements …………………………………………8

Planning Instruction ………………………………………………………..9

Collaborating with Educational Stakeholders …………….……………11

Summary ………………………………………………………………….12


Works Cited……………………..…………………………………………………….14



Research suggests that effective classroom management lays a foundation for students’ academic success by creating an environment where students feel safe and inspired to grow (Anhalt, McNeil, & Bahl, 1998; Bradshaw et al., 2010; Horner et al., 2009; Musti-Rao & Haydon, 2011). The notion of what it means to effectively manage a classroom vary greatly. There is a widespread misconception that classroom management is primarily constituted by discipline when in fact, preventative measures are the main player in an effectively run classroom (Brophy, 2006; Evertson & Weinstein, 2006). Teachers without adequate preparation in classroom management are less likely to remain in the profession when compared to their counterparts who were adequately trained (Harlacher & Marzano. 2015). In order to increase teacher retention rates and provide an environment that is conducive to student success, it is imperative that teachers have a researched based Classroom Management Strategy.

In my classroom I invest a lot of time into building positive relationships; not just teacher-student relationships but also student-student relationships. By establishing a sense of belonging, students feel ownership over their work and are more likely to take academic risks and ultimately grow as learners and young adults. This sense of community also serves as the groundwork for my classroom management plan. Building relationships between peers open up the doors for serious collaboration where the possibilities are endless.  


Preparation Before the School Year Starts

A teacher’s preparedness on the first day of school year sets the tone for the rest of the year which is why it is crucial to start strong. Key components of a well prepared teacher include: sending a letter to the parents, setting up the classroom, and having curriculum maps and section outlines prepared.

It is crucial to have clear communication with the family of students year round; especially at the beginning of the school year when students are flying to Southeast Alaska from their home villages. Moving to Mt. Edgecumbe High School for four month increments can be very intimidating. By communicating clearly and consistently with students’ family throughout the school year parents and students can find comfort. In my letter to the parents I include: an introduction to who I am, how excited I am to have their student in my class, what we’ll be covering this semester, how they can stay up to date on their child’s grades (Powerschool and Progress Report schedule), expectations and rules for students, encouragement to continue the flow of communication, best ways to contact me, and a sincere appreciation to parents for sending their child to MEHS.

Setting up the classroom in the beginning of the semester should be done so that the classroom is a warm and welcoming environment where students feel safe and encouraged to take academic risks. I am fortunate enough to have a phenomenal superintendent who has inspired a college-esk learning environment with flexible seating (Figure One). In my classroom, that also doubles as a tutoring center in the evenings, we have flexible seating where students have their choice between booth seating, high tops, rotating stools that also adjust their height, and standard rolly chairs. Students also have the option of choosing to sit at a collaborative table or an independent work table. This allows students to find a space that is comfortable for them and conducive to their learning style.

Figure One: Flexible Seating


When setting up the seating in the class, it was very important to me that it was conducive to multiple teaching styles; direct instruction, rotating station work, independent work, and collaborative projects (Figure Two). I also wanted to ensure I would be able to float around the classroom in a way that gives me easy accessibility to all students and does not force me into a predictable walking pattern.

Figure Two: Students Working Independently and Collaborating


The atmosphere of the room extends beyond the seating. I also have lamps around the room as a source of warm lighting and display student’s work in highly visible areas. After reading about Becky Malmquist’s classroom on Jennifer Gonzalez’s website Cult of Pedagogy, I have also implemented a Wall of Affirmation into my classroom (Figure Three). The Wall of Affirmation is a place where students can write and receive positive affirmations from their peers. This not only gives students practice in how to write positive affirmations but it also builds a sense of community within the class and fosters positive relationships between those who might not otherwise have the chance to get to know each other.  

Figure Three: Wall of Affirmation


This semester I have also learned the value of having supplies labeled, organized, and accessible for the entire class. Having class sets of materials helps to alleviate supply shortage, especially when students are doing projects. In addition to having supplies ready, it is also essential to have curriculum maps, section outlines, and safety protocol outlined and easily accessible at all times. I also like to have a Teacher Binder equipped with schedules (assembly, parade, PLC, Alaska Day, Testing, etc.), the Superintendent Calendar, Emergency Teacher Phone Tree, Teacher Handbook, in-service documents, extra rosters, and training certifications.

I also like to have a place to store master copies and additional copies of everything we do in class. I use Google Classroom to keep electronic documents and resources in one central location that students can access anywhere in the world, so long as they have internet. I also have a small filing system in class that has hard copies of all physical resources/assignments I hand out for those who lose theirs or are absent.


Routines, Policies, Procedures, and Rules


Consistency is the key for a successful school year for many students. In order to set the pace for how the school year will go I am transparent with my expectations from the beginning. Before the school year begins I have the school’s mission and my classroom expectations posted (Figure Four).

Figure Four: Mt. Edgecumbe High School Mission


Ms. Twydell’s Classroom Expectations:

  1. I will respect myself and others
  2. I will come prepared to learn
  3. I will be an active participant in my learning
  4. I will always try my best


A large part of having consistency within the classroom is having a strong culture of learning. In order to foster a culture of learning I provide my students with daily bell-ringers and exit tickets. Bell ringers engage students as soon as they walk into class and also serve as a refresher on where they left off on the lesson the day before. I use bell ringers to refresh background knowledge, practice what we learned the day before, or as a formative assessment tool. Exit tickets are primarily used as a reflection tool for students. I have students reflect on their progress, behavior, or understanding during the class period. Exit tickets are also wonderful as a low-stakes assessment tool.

We also have a small area by the door that is our Wall of Safety. The Wall of Safety is complete with all safety protocols laminated on a single ring. It is easily accessible to anyone in the room. The Wall of Safety also has a fire extinguisher and our emergency clipboard. The emergency clipboard is where students sign out to leave the room; whether it is to go to the restroom or to the main office on lower campus; this ensures accountability for students at all times. On the bottom of the clipboard are class rosters for all my classes and the red and green emergency cards for all evacuation drills. At the beginning of the semester we go over all safety protocols so that students are familiar with what is expected of them before we have a drill or emergency.


Safety and Legal Requirements

Mt. Edgecumbe High School is a licensed child care facility where safety is of paramount concern. I support the school’s efforts to have a safe school by creating an environment where students are able to learn and grow in an environment free of harm. I compliment this culture of safety by ensuring my classroom is free from fire hazards and have proper safety protocol and tools accessible at all times. I also set aside time at the beginning of each semester where I go over safety protocol and expectations with students.

We have a very small number of students who have Individual Education Plans or 504s. Those who do have IEPs or 504s are all managed by our Special Education Coordinator. At the beginning of the semester he emails out the documents outlining the accommodations that have been arranged to help them be as successful as possible.

I will always honor individual student plans but I also do my best to provide accommodations for all students. Different techniques I use to adapt to different learning styles include: 1. Chunking assignments, 2.Verbal instruction, followed by written instruction, 3. Extending time for assignments, 4. Encouraging students to use electronic text readers, 5. Differentiated news articles (NewsELA), 6. One on one instruction when possible.


Planning Instruction

A primary component of being a teacher is knowing what you’re going to teach and how you’re going to engage your students in the material. In order to plan for each course I teach, I create a curriculum map which outlines the topics we will be studying throughout the semester as well as the duration it should take. By doing this, it gives me a better idea of how long each section should take and helps me stay on track throughout the semester. After creating the curriculum map for the course, I sit down and work through section by section. With each section I figure out what my objectives are and how I will measure whether or not students have reached the objectives. After knowing what my goal for each section is and how I will assess their knowledge I fill in the middle by scaffolded their learning in as engaging and imaginative ways as possible. I strive to do collaborative projects as often as possible. As I get more teaching experience under my belt, I would like to have multiple projects for students to choose from which will enable me to differentiate work more efficiently.

At the beginning of the semester I also like to have a file of backup items, such as: bell ringers, exit tickets, icebreakers, emergency lesson plans for up to a week, things to do if I finish a lesson and end up with spare time at the end, and also discussion topics for days where we are without power or internet. I have always found comfort in the saying ‘Prepare for the worst, hope for the best’. It is much better to have things and not need them then to be a position where you desperately need something you do not have.


Student Diversity and Community Resources

MEHS serves over 120 villages from all over the state. It is essential that as a school we are culturally aware and relevant. As an educator it is my responsibility to provide opportunities for students to share their culture and be exposed to other cultures. All students have valuable life experiences that others can learn from. I absolutely love learning about student’s home lives and how unique their way of living is compared to anything I have ever seen or experienced. Magic really happens when students form lifelong relationships and basically become family.

The Island Institute of Sitka has an amazing program where five students from MEHS can take home camera equipment over summer break and film any and everything that they want. When they come back to Sitka in the fall, they work with professionals to edit their hours and hours of footage down to five minutes. The videos the students create are absolutely mindblowing. The rural, rawness of where they are from and what it takes to survive look so unreal. It is an amazing way for students to share their culture while also preserving bits and pieces of their culture. One student this fall made a video highlighting his grandparents and what he has learned from them. His video was a very powerful way to not only preserve a small part of his culture for decades to come but a great way to share his culture with the rest of the school along with the residents of Sitka.

Great ways to incorporate culture into the classroom are by visiting local places of culture such as the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, or the Sitka Public Library. Inviting speakers like Dionne Brady-Howard and Chuck Miller – two very prominent cultural figures within our Sitka community to come talk with the class would also be very valuable.


Collaborating with Educational Stakeholders

Communicating with educational stakeholders is an essential component when teaching at a boarding school. I make a point to communicate with parents early and often. I send a letter to parents before the semester begins to introduce myself as one of their child’s teachers. I update the gradebook, Powerschool, frequently and leave detailed feedback to students on the gradebook so parents are able to stay involved in how students are progressing. I also call parents after we are one third and two thirds into the semester at a minimum. This is especially important as we do not have parent teacher conferences. By communicating with parents often I am able to head off many small problems before they turn into major issues. Parents appreciate being involved in their child’s education and are very helpful in motivating their child and providing me with ways I can help their child be successful in class.

I also make a point to support evening or weekend extracurricular activities at MEHS at a minimum of once a week. Being a part of their lives and successes outside of school is just as important as celebrating their academic successes in school. Every so often I have the pleasure to meet parents of students at sporting events. It is very rare but when I have the opportunity, it is extremely special. Most families are unable to attend sporting events as they live hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Being able to support students as their parents would is a privilege and makes my relationships with students even more meaningful.

I am also very fortunate to have very experienced, insightful, intelligent, passionate superiors who care deeply for both students and staff. My principal and superintendent have opened up many doors for me and are excellent mentors who have helped me develop into the educator I am today. They not only give me opportunities to grow as an educator but also provide me with support so I can thrive and continue to grow as a professional. This makes it exceptionally easy for me to solicit feedback on new techniques or trouble areas in my everyday teaching. I am in constant communication with my administrative team and am grateful for our relationships and high quality feedback.



I am four months into my first year teaching and it has been an amazing learning experience. By having the opportunity to run my own class for the past few months I have been exposed to a lot of situations that were initially awkward or difficult to handle. Having the opportunity to learn about classroom management in a formalized setting with my peers and a mentor has helped me to feel a sense of community in my own work and has helped me to more effectively address awkward and difficult situations in the classroom. From a classroom management standpoint, I feel significantly more prepared for winter semester than I did for this past fall semester. Having a researched based classroom management plan gives me a structured plan of action for the future for which I can constantly reference and revise to meet the needs of my students. Without question I will revise my classroom management strategy countless times throughout my teaching career. In order to effectively reflect on my practice throughout my career, I need a starting point and this classroom management plan serves as such.  


Works Cited:

Anhalt, K., McNeil, C. B., & Bahl, A. B. (1998). The ADHD classroom kit: A whole-classroom approach for managing disruptive behavior. Psychology in the Schools , 35 (1), 67—79.

Bradshaw, C. P., Mitchell, M. M., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Examining the effects of Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on student outcomes: Results from a randomized controlled effectiveness trial in elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions , 12 (3), 133—148.

Brophy, J. (2006). History of research. In C. M. Evertson & C. S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 17—43). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Evertson, C. M., & Weinstein, C. (2006). Classroom management as a field of inquiry. In C. M. Evertson & C. S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 3—15). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Harlacher, J. E., & Marzano, R. J. (2015). Designing effective classroom management. Bloomington, IN : Marzano Research, [2015].

Horner, R. H., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Eber, L., Nakasato, J., Todd, A. W., et al. (2009). A randomized, wait-list controlled effectiveness trial assessing school-wide positive behavior support in elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions , 11 (3), 133—144.

Musti-Rao, S., & Haydon, T. (2011). Strategies to increase behavior-specific teacher praise in an inclusive environment. Intervention in School and Clinic , 47 (2), 91—97.


Permission to Fail

While reading Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection it was very disheartening to see how so many people’s lives have been ended because of the pressure to be perfect. There are enormous expectations on people of all ages to be perfect and to ‘outdo’ everyone. There is a lot of pressure to be the best (student, parent, teacher, athlete, employee, spouse). Social media is a huge player in the never ending race to be the best. Everyone is constantly posting all the wonderful things happening in their lives. Currently engagements, weddings, pregnancies, and promotions are plaguing my newsfeed. It feels like everyone from high school and college are living in a fairytale and everything is picture perfect. It’s nice to be able to follow along with old friends and see other’s successes but at the same time, it definitely weighs on you when you’re not at that stage of your life. I spend a lot of time second guessing if what I’m doing with my life is ‘right’ and if I’m where I should be. It can be challenging to appreciate the successes in your life when you’re constantly comparing with others. I think this is especially true with high school and college students. There is an enormous pressure to be competitive with peers while also meeting the sometimes unrealistic expectations of parents and teachers.


While reading this article I think it really made me think about what my expectations would be as a parent. To hold high expectations for your child but not over glorifying which college they go to, or even if they go to college. As a society we put so much value on how successful individuals are on paper (number of degrees, grades earned, what programs they are part of) without really stopping to think about how happy, fulfilled, and balanced they are. There’s a lot more to a successful life than draining yourself to impress others. I think by talking about the balance between happiness and success it will help to normalize a healthy balance; and while it’s not a cure all, it’s a great place to start.

Bell Ringers, Exit Tickets, Transitioning Techniques, Oh My.

This past week I had my first Formal Observation as a contracted teacher. It was a nerve-wracking, exciting experience to say the least. I have a huge opportunity for improvement with my classroom management. The class is definitely no where near being out of control but it’s not a walk in the park either. With consistent, firm boundaries I think I will be able to regain control of my class. The biggest question at this point is, how?

My principal who has been an incredible resource and support system for me, especially as a first year teacher, has suggested working on my transitions between activities. Three examples of transitions that he recommended were 1) having a chime or bell that indicates I am ready to get started/move on 2) having a sing-song response (teacher-‘macaroni cheese’ students – ‘everybody freeze’) 3) putting my hand in the air and wait until all students put their hand in the air as well.

I’m worried that these are all very elementary transitions and I do not want to belittle my high school students. I am hoping to observe other teachers this week and get an idea of how they transition their classes to have a greater understanding of the techniques and really see them at work (I am a visual learner!).

As a teacher who wants to cultivate a culture of learning opening and closing the lesson are very important components. I am working on improving my sponge activities and exit tickets. It’s relatively easy to come up with things to get students going in the beginning of class or to wrap things up at the end, but to really have a high quality beginning of class warm up or end of class exit ticket that brings the lesson full circle, is difficult. By having sponge activities in the beginning of class to get students going and to have them jump right into the lesson will not only create routine for students but also set the standard of what is expected. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and appreciate that students are able to thoughtfully respond to their thoughts and actions. In order to improve my classroom management, engage more students, and use my time more efficiently I am working to improve the purpose and effectiveness of my sponge activities and exit tickets.

I’m really looking forward to the end of this week when I can observe other teachers and see their techniques for transitioning between activities and also what they do for sponge activities/bell ringers and exit tickets.

Disenfranchised Students

Identifying injustices in the United States is not an issue, they are plentiful. Understanding the difference between equality and equity was not difficult once given examples and shown how this impacts individuals day in and day out. Knowing how to help students overcome their adversities and how to empower disenfranchised groups is not something I know how to do. I have a lot of white guilt; I am a middle class white woman, who in the grand scheme of things has had a really wonderful life. I don’t know what it’s like to be a part of a disenfranchised racial or religious group. I do know that the majority of my students do, however, fall into those groups. I want to be able to empower my students to live their best life possible and give them as many opportunities as I can.

I appreciated in the article, ‘Let Care Shine Through’ that it gave specific examples of how educators were able to use real life examples and turn them from negative experiences to positive learning experiences. In most cases the learning experience was not restricted to the individual it impacted but rather the whole class. It’s important to teach compassion and problem solving skills and there’s no better buy-in than a real life experience that students are actively facing.

These articles have inspired me to use my student’s real-life experiences as opportunities for growth. In the past, I would typically have a conversation with that individual student and try to work out the problem to the best of our ability. I think it would be a thousand times more powerful if we were able to use the experience as an opportunity for growth for all students.

Personalized Education


This summer I took a course to help me better understand technology in the classroom. This class inspired me to do something I never thought I’d ever do; create a twitter account. I made a professional account where I could build relationships and link up with other educators, both new and experienced! Having a Twitter account opened up a lot of wormholes for me. I would get very sucked into different educational articles and resources; personalized education was the hot topic this summer. I have read many articles that really sold me on the idea of personalized education and meeting the student where they are at and allowing their inspirations drive their education. While it seemed like a no-brainer, this article has definitely helped me to put everything into perspective and have a better idea of the whole-picture perspective.

The benefits of personalized education include enabling students to let their curiosity and enthusiasm drive their learning. Students will always see the value in what they’re learning and feel a sincere connection to their content. All students will be actively engaged in their education, regardless of background knowledge. Students will be in the driver’s seat!

The downside of personalized education comes with the logistics; how will this be done? How do you get educators on board without mandating it — what does that look like? What supports will be available to teachers? How do principals and other educational leaders lead this initiative? Where do parents fit into this new mold? What does a personalized education actually look like? How long is it intended to last?

This article has definitely got me thinking of the real-life implications of implementing such a program; not to say it’s either good or bad, but rather somewhere in between. If I had to choose a ‘side’ I would err to say I am for personalized education but would have to do a lot more investigating on the logistics of such a significant change before truly committing to one side or another.  

In my current school I see a lot of teachers adapting their lessons projects to fit the needs of their students. It is often very difficult and time consuming for the teacher but without question has a profound impact on the students. It turns unobtainable barriers into successful pillars of knowledge to build from. While these adaptations are currently at work and going great, I don’t think they are sustainable long-term solutions. Teachers are asked to do too much with too little; time being the biggest barrier. If teacher work loads were lightened, it would be much more realistic for teachers to be able to meet the needs of all their students.’s-Celebrate-Personalization@-But-Not-Too-Fast.aspx

Personalized Learning and Problem Solving Protocol

Personalized learning is an ideal method for educating students. One on one, or one on three instruction is where I find the most success with my current students. Unfortunately, there is not enough time or resources to provide this support. Currently I spend an inordinate amount of time lesson planning and providing feedback to students — for group instruction. Outside of structured class time I also work with students for a few hours a night on their school work. I have seen tremendous growth from students who I have provided direct instruction for after-hours. I see the benefits very clearly and strongly wish I could provide the same resources for all students, it’s an issue of not only time but also the current student to teacher ratios that have become normalized in the American education system.

I enjoyed the different points that the Let’s Celebrate Personalization: But Not Too Fast article brought up. Any change that schools want to make can be very challenging and it takes a lot of planning and tough conversations. The point that stuck out with me the most was when it talked about looking at the ‘Why’. Why are we doing this? What is the problem? What is our purpose with changing? Once establishing those answers then moving forward and looking at ‘How’ are we going to do this? Starting a dialogue of ideas — brainstorming. Once there are a lot of different ideas on the table, sitting down and really discussing the ideas, each time related it back to does this fulfill our purpose? Then taking the last step, the ‘What’. What are we going to do? Who is going to do this? What resources do we need? Starting with the purpose and working outwards is a strategy that makes the most sense when trying to implement a school wide change. It’s something we have discussed in detail at the high school I work at and am excited to see the idea reinforced through the ASCD article.



Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted on June 15, 2012. DACA made it so individuals who came to the United States illegally as children would not be immediately deported, but instead have a two year deferment period where they could obtain an education or serve in the United States military. After two years, those individuals were able to apply for an extension to remain in the U.S.

The process to apply for DACA is not an easy one. There is a lot of documentation required; proof that applicants were: 31 years of age or younger in 2012, physically present in the U.S, carrying a lawful status, and in school or in the military. On top of acquiring proof for all the previously stated requirements, applicants also had to complete USCIS form I-821D, I-765, and I-765WS. Applicants must also submit a $465 processing fee with their paperwork. Once the paperwork is received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, applicants are scheduled for biometric services where they provide their fingerprints, have their photograph taken, and also provide a signature sample. Only after this long process can applicants find out if they are eligible to remain in the United States. There is no set time frame for application review and applicants may not appeal the decision.

Those who are in the United States under DACA are individuals who came to U.S. before their 16th birthday, are pursuing a high school diploma/GED   or serving in the United States military (or have previously done one or both), and are free of any Felonies or Significant Misdemeanor. These are contributing members of our society who enrich our country. Individuals in the U.S. under DACA have worked hard to achieve their high school diploma or GED equivalent. Some individuals in the U.S. under DACA are putting their lives on the line daily to defend this country and serve in the military. Some individuals who were in the U.S. under DACA gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect and serve in the United States of America.

I am a white woman with no right to the land established as the United States. My family moved to the U.S. from Lithuania many generations ago when hundreds of thousands of other families moved to what is now the U.S. We claimed this land from the indigenous population. We did not learn their language and we did not serve in their military (or help defend their villages). In fact we did the opposite; we forced them to learn our language, we raped the indigenous women, we claimed the land they inhabited as our property, we killed those who got in our way, we forced their children to participate in our educational system, which for many of them meant being taken from their families and moved thousands of miles away. Modern day American is not comprised of a primarily indigenous population but rather those whose ancestors come from a plethora of countries. America is a melting pot of many different countries. We should be celebrating our diversity and learning from each other. We should be grateful to those who are coming to the United States of America to further their education and contribute to this nation.