Classroom Management Plan
Classroom management defines the learning environment.  A classroom management plan sets the tone for teachers, students, parents, the physical environment, and the multitude of relationships connecting these elements.  For pre-school settings, the most critical aspect of classroom management is the arrangement of the physical environment.  “The difference between chaos and an orderly atmosphere that facilitates learning depends in great part on how the teacher prepares the environment” (Crosser, 1992, p.23).  Because a child-centered curriculum depends heavily on a child’s interaction with the classroom and its materials, taking careful consideration of all furniture, learning centers, and learning materials, creates the foundation for a successful classroom management plan.  Once the physical environment has been arranged, the teacher can begin to consider the philosophies, personalities, and procedures that will dictate the school year.

Eggen and Kauchak describe the typical classroom with the following phrases: “multidimensional and simultaneous,” “immediate,” “unpredictable,” and “public” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2007, p.369).  These four descriptions seem particularly adept at capturing the lack of control a teacher has over the school day.  To counteract the chaos that can erupt in a classroom, I find it more helpful to form a loose foundation that structures the potential ideal environment than to enforce a strict code of conduct that dictates the actions of personalities.  A high level of rigidity can disturb the emotions of young children leading to more conflict than learning.  By envisioning classroom management as a foundation rather than a plan, expectations rarely disappoint and the behavior of young children can inspire insight rather than conflict.  In his description of Discipline without Stress, Punishments, or Rewards, the author relates the need for positivity, choice, and reflection within the classroom while maintaining the importance of strong classroom management (Marshall, 2005, p.51-54).  “Chances are that when you walk into a room, you do not pay much attention to the floor, but if it were missing, that would be obvious” (51).  Using a Classroom Management Plan as a blueprint for positive ideals can lead the behavior of the teacher in response to the impulsivity of young children.  By being flexible, but always maintaining a focus on priority, the teacher can get the most out of every classroom situation.
Description of Rebecca McNeeley’s Classroom Management Plan
An Eclectic Combination of Psychological Theories of Motivation

Behavioral views of motivation relate to the psychology of Skinner as he manipulated the environment to attain a specific behavior.  Cognitive theories of motivation focus on the operations of the mind as the human brain develops and reacts to the environment.  Humanistic views of motivation theorize that individuals learn best when internal needs are met.  With the attainment of basic needs, the individual can eventually become more enlightened as the soul enriches the mind.  These are my understandings of three theories of motivation as discussed in Educational Psychology:  Windows on Classrooms (Eggen & Kauchak, 2007, p. 298-312).

I believe that the three theories are credible because they all explain functional methods used to create an optimal learning environment.  As an individual, I prefer humanistic theories because the ultimate focus appears deeper than both cognitive and behavioral theories.  I believe that cognitive theories accompany humanist ideals best when humanist theories need support for abstract thought through more concrete reasoning.  Behaviorist views are the most immediate, temporary, and, therefore, shallow of the three theories.  In the classroom they provide the easiest methods of controlling the learning environment.  For this reason, behaviorist theories are practical as a last resort when immediacy is necessary.  Behaviorist theories neglect soul and understanding, but are useful tools of manipulation that can prepare an environment where understanding can occur. 

All three theories are helpful in any situation, but may inspire quite different long-term effects.  I am unable to inspire a child to understand my lesson if he or she is always running around the room.  Because of the nature of the young mind and focused attention, I may need to use behaviorist methods to prepare an environment where cognitive and humanist theories can take over.  In my ideal classroom, humanist theories would prevail.  I do not believe that an educator should neglect any theory based on the experience that it is difficult to implement.  Though behaviorist methods are easiest to practice, I do not plan on settling for such practices but will utilize the assistance in preparing the environment.  If I do not hold cognitive processes and humanist ideals true within my practice as they coincide with behaviorist influences, there will be little foundation for cognitive and humanist practice when behaviorist goals have been achieved.  There may also be instances when behaviorist methods are unnecessary, depending on the child.  I may infuriate a child by using behaviorist-inspired manipulation if the child can see through my intentions to control him or her.  In this case, cognitive and humanist or merely humanist methods are probably more appropriate and even efficient.

The Role of the Teacher

When manner in teaching is brought under intelligent control and when it is sensitive and appropriate for the individual student or class, it is artistic in character (Eisner, 2002, p.48).
I believe that the role of the educator is similar to that of an artist.  Professionalism by itself may be inept if the term is too rigidly defined.  Technique, theory, and self-reflection may cultivate a resume for an individual looking to become an artist, but without personal insight, born of both instinct and experience, one can not hope to become an artist.  This applies to the educator as he or she practices technique, theory, and self-reflection within the classroom.   

In the pre-school setting, the teacher is less of an informant of socially-constructed knowledge and more of a moderator and provider.  The teacher takes on the role of caregiver as he or she provides children with the capacity to understand the environment.  If the teacher can give such care throughout the day, she has successfully fulfilled her responsibility.  Classroom management can assist the teacher by making learning situations more abundant, apparent, and appreciated. 

In The Arts and the Creation of Mind, Elliot Eisner describes the variable state of teaching:
Teaching, like knowledge, cannot be shipped, pumped, or transmitted like the contents of a letter into the heads of students… The teacher designs environments made up of situations that teachers and students co-construct. (Eisner, 2002, p.47)

As the child interacts with his or her environment, the teacher adds provision to enhance the realization made by the student.  This realization can be shared by both the teacher and the student, but the moment can never be synonymous in both minds.  Eisner describes the reality of learning based on the involvement of perspective and a student’s personal meaning:  “Students learn both more and less than what we intend to teach (51).”

The Role of the Student

Before developing an effective classroom management plan, the teacher needs to be aware of the developmental characteristics that define his or her students.  Students’ tendencies and abilities can partially be defined by these guidelines.  Teachers also need to be aware of students as individuals.  Doing so will create a personality for the classroom and inspire a sense of belonging, which invites the student to learn within the environment.

Once the child has arrived in the classroom, I ask that he or she respect the classroom and everything within the classroom environment, including knowledge. 

Classroom Rules

When viewing popular classroom rules, I see that they do not apply to my classroom and the children in them.  First of all, my classroom is very affectionate and we encourage hugs, tickles, and friendly touches.  Keep hands and feet to yourself, seems highly contradictory.  The second rule, Listen to your teachers, is functional, but I believe the children should listen to everyone (and thing) within the room.  Use an inside voice can be a helpful rule, but, again, there are days that speaking loudly is mandated by a language-based activity.  The last rule, Walk while inside, applies to my room and is needed, but I would prefer the children wear the rule taped to their forehead as a reminder.   I am more fond of an all-inclusive rule that is revered internationally for its wisdom:  Treat everything as you wish to be treated.

When working within an early childhood classroom with language delays, translation of certain expectations is necessary. In my classroom the most useful translation of the Golden Rule is, "We don't hurt."
Young children understand "hurt." This seems to generate an all-encompassing feeling of both respect and compassion.  When a child pushes in line, he or she hurts a friend.  When a child decides to be rude during story time, he or she hurts the other individuals.  The success of this translation can only happen in a loving atmosphere that respects children and that relates their self-worth.  

Classroom Procedures

As a pre-school classroom that operates within an elementary public school, much of the day consists of routines and procedures.  The toughest job for the teacher in this situation is making sure that the children maintain their mental stability while being shuffled through the hallway in lines five times a day. 

Transitions are the most difficult part of the day and require the most work from the teachers.  The children are told five minutes ahead of time when a transition is about to take place.  The children use the bathroom individually while the remainder of the children are engaged in either group or center work.  When the children enter a classroom, they join in a group area for bathroom time.  Before leaving the classroom, the children use the bathroom during classroom clean-up.

When the children leave a classroom, they first gather at the door.   When going to and from meals and related arts classes, the children walk in a line using a color-coded rope.  During the beginning of the year the children have a specific color to hold.  Walking down the hall takes time as the children learn how to walk both quietly and in a straight line without disturbing a classmate or classroom.  As the year progresses, the children are required to hold new colors and change places with classmates. 

Accommodations for Learner Diversity

I will focus on observing the child and not the adult’s measurement of the child.  I hope to always share perspectives with the child as he or she confronts the classroom environment, both of which will be enriched by the materials I have carefully selected.  I promise to always view these children as individuals with souls instead of data sheets with profit margins.  In this way, accommodations for learner diversity will be enmeshed in my general respect for every individual who enters the classroom. 

The Roles of Parents and Family

A child is partly defined by his or her home environment, which is typically maintained by the child’s parents.  Communication with the home environment is crucial for student success and assists the teacher with maintaining the student’s education.  One of the most important and fortunate routines within the early childhood classroom involves the presence of the parent at the beginning and end of the day.  Because the parent must accompany his or her child to school, I am able to see him or her daily, speak with him or her on a regular basis and even cultivate a relationship that focuses on the parent as an individual in addition to caregiver. 

Church, et al., suggests several simple procedures for familiarizing parents with the classroom (Church, et al., 2005, p.38-47).  Before the school year begins, parents and children should be able to tour the classroom environment (39).   Registration day is an ideal time for teachers to invite the families for a classroom tour.  Taking the time to call each family personally ensures that the parents will take the time to visit.  The article goes on to suggest simple ideas that reach past parent conferences and PTA meetings and assist the formation of personal relationships between parents and teacher. 

At times teachers complain about the apathetic reactions to a child’s life in school while simultaneously rejecting the concerns and feedback offered by parents.  “Parents are not only principal players in their children’s development and education, they are entitled to have their values, expectations, goals, and insights seriously considered as stewards of their children’s health and welfare” (Denno and Malone, 2003, p.270).  To officially invite parents to become more involved in the classroom, I have created a letter and questionnaire to be given out at the beginning of the year.  The letter contains personal information about myself as well as requests for parent’s contributions.  The questionnaire centers on the idea that a family’s values, expectations, goals, and insights are important for the creation of a personalized curriculum and helpful for teachers looking to cultivate continuity between home and school. 

As the year progresses I look to involve parents in classroom activities, community outings, and planning for special functions.  I keep the parents informed about curriculum changes and special events during arrival and departure time and through written letters.   A multi-page monthly newsletter shows photographs of the children during school accompanied by text that explains the children’s processes and the academic value of their activities.  The newsletter also acts as documentation for the mental and physical growth of the children as the year progresses. 


Artistry-the artistic performance of a practice-is enhanced as artists of that practice learn to see and reflect upon what they have created.  This process is enhanced as they receive informed criticism concerning their work from others…The promotion of artistry in teaching is more likely to be realized not by searching for a formula for effective teaching, but by finding out what one is doing and by imagining how it might be made even better.  (Eisner, 2002, p. 49)

As the teacher familiarizes him or herself with the students, parents, and resulting new classroom personality, changes will need to be made.  A classroom management plan should grow and bend with the personality of the classroom.  Maintaining an environment with neither rigidity nor chaos involves a high level of self-reflection and consultation with others.  Perhaps the most efficient way to begin an assessment is to ask one’s self a multitude of questions.

What works?  What doesn’t work?  Why?  Is it the student, the teacher, the environment, the parents, or a combination of these elements?  What can I do?  What can I change about myself?  What can I improve within the classroom environment?  Am I clinging to an arrangement because I want it to work despite the trouble it is causing?  Can it be improved?  Am I attributing a problem to an individual when the issue is environmental?  Did I prepare an element of the environment that has become a stressor?

Assessment of an individual child functions much in the same way.   The teacher must be wary of both subjective and objective explanations.  A child's history, culture, and material environment must be careful balanced with a knowledge of child development and current research.
I do not believe that successful assessments can occur in thirty minutes, a day, or even a week.  The assessment of a child is an investment and should be treated as such.  A successful assessment knows the child.  This can only be achieved with ongoing observation and reflection that never settles for stereotypes.  After a child's strengths and weaknesses have been weighed, the teacher must use the knowledge to prepare a fitting environment that accomodates others.  As the child becomes successful within the environment, the environment must be remodified in preparation for the next milestone.  A teacher does not rest after goals have been achieved because learning never ends.      

Intervention Plan for a Specific Behavior Problem
Case Study for T

In a Special Education classroom for children ages 3-5, two new students join four previously enrolled students for the new year.  During the first two weeks in January, the children become accustomed to the classroom rules and routines and begin a new curriculum topic.  There is one five-year-old student, three four-year-old students and two three-year-old students in the classroom.  The children are accompanied by two adults, a teacher and an educational assistant.  During the day the children have meals in a large cafeteria. 

Although every child displays problematic behaviors, one child in particular displays impulsivity that seems to disrupt routines and learning more than others.  The three-year-old child displays hyperactive behaviors and a limited attention span.  Inside the classroom he is preoccupied with compact disc players and electrical outlets.  He likes turning lamps on and off, will unplug electrical items in the classroom, and will climb furniture to reach a compact disc player.  In the cafeteria, he often runs from the teacher, will pour his milk on the table, and takes food from the other children and teachers.  Outdoors and in the bathroom, his impulsive behaviors could prove hazardous to his health.  When there were four children in the classroom, his behavior was easier to monitor, but with the arrival of two new children, he is more difficult to maintain.

The other children are responding to the humanist and cognitive philosophies that are practiced within the classroom.  This child does not respond to humanist or cognitive philosophies, though it is apparent that he craves attention, especially human touch.  The child who is described has a history of neglect and his heredity includes bi-polar disorder.  The child did not hear anything for the first two years and, after being placed in his uncle's care, had tubes put in.  He also suffered a terrible fall and certain behaviors imply brain damage.  He is three-years-old and is difficult to diagnose

Description of Intervention Plan

Before deciding on a plan, I must observe, reflect, consult parents and coworkers, and outline ideas that may correct problematic behaviors viewed in the classroom.  After considering the behavior of the child, I must reflect on the role of the environment and classroom routines, and the interactions of the child with fellow students and teachers.  There are specialized staff members, such as the school psychologist and speech therapist, within the school system who are willing to assist me with my plan.  If I still feel uncomfortable with my understanding of the problematic behaviors in question and possible methods to resolve classroom management problems, I can consult literature pertaining to education and child development. 

The child whose behavior is being considered has not responded to humanist and cognitive motivators.  After reviewing the problematic behaviors in question, I draft a plan to be reviewed by the school psychologist, the educational assistant, and the caregiver.  The other adults and I agree that, because of developmental delays and the child’s medical history, behavioral interventions will be most effective.  The plan is behaviorist in orientation and is not used with other children because behaviorist motivators are incongruent with their personalitiesThe child will remain in a loving environment with a focus on cognitive understanding, but specific behaviors will be addressed using quicker and more efficient behavioral methods.  These methods allow teachers to spend more time in other areas of the classroom with the other students.  As problematic behaviors lessen, cognitive and humanist motivators will replace behavioral manipulation.  I implement the plan as soon as possible.
Behavior Plan for T.
Beginning 1/29/07
Impulsive behaviors being displayed:
Lunch room
      pouring milk and other foods onto table
      taking food from other students and teachers
      playing with CD player
      playing with electrical outlets
      running around the classroom
Possible reasons for ongoing behavior
      Reactions from students
      Reactions from teachers
      Interest in cause and effect of material
      Interest in material
Possible methods to discourage inappropriate and potentially dangerous behaviors
      Avoidance of situation
      Removal from environment and other students
      Redirection, which has proven ineffective because of his tendencies to obsess over dangerous objects and his limited attention span.
Plan for specific behaviors
      When T is in the lunchroom he will sit with a teacher and will be watched at all times.  He will not receive his milk carton unless he asks a teacher:  “May I have a drink of milk, please?”  In preparation for a problematic situation, the teacher will have a dry rag, which T will use to clean his own spills.   
      Playing with electronics:  When T is found playing with electronics he will first be placed in a chair near the item.  The teacher will face T and look at his eyes while explaining to him that he may not play with the items because of possibilities of harm to either the material, T, or both.  After T has remained seated for three minutes, he will be assisted to an area of interest, preferably one that is similar to the behavior being displayed.  For instance:  cause and effect (bowling, pushing cars down ramps into a target), pushing of buttons (piano, science area lap computer and bus), inserting materials into holes (beads, lacing), playing with water (sensory table). 
      Running in the classroom:  If T is found running in the classroom, he will be removed from the classroom environment for three minutes.  A teacher will explain to him why he has been removed from the environment and explain the appropriate behaviors for the environment.  For instance:  We walk in the classroom.  Furniture will be arranged so that running is difficult

After two days of implementing the plan, certain elements must be modified.  For example, having T clean his deliberately poured milk is not a helpful solution because he enjoys playing in the spill.  The educational assistant and I reflect on the plan throughout the day and speak with his caregiver at the end of the second day.  After learning about practices at home in greater detail, we decide to alter the plan to provide continuity between home and school and to improve the plan’s effectiveness. 

Cafeteria:  When T is in the lunchroom he will sit with a teacher and will be watched at all times. He will not receive his milk carton unless he asks a teacher:  “Milk, please?”  The teacher will help T drink from the carton, while instructing him to use both hands.  When he is done with each drink he must take his hands off the table.  The teacher will remind T to eat at a slow pace if he gets excited.  The teacher will rub his back if he gets excited.    
            A month later, his impulsive behaviors continue both at school and at home.  He remains affectionate to caregivers and responds most consistently to hugs and rocking.  Teachers and the guardian begin discussing psychiatric referral to assist in evaluation of his behavior.  A sound machine and a tape player with headphones are presented to the child to redirect his behavior and satiate sensory deprivation.  With these materials, he spends more time being engaged in a specific activity.  Since he is insistent on pouring his milk out, a cup with a lid is used during lunch so he can feed himself without being able to pour his milk on the table.  The extra material provides assistance with behavior management by removing the possibility of the behavior.   


As a special education teacher with an interest in early childhood development, I embrace methods of inclusion and structure that value individuality and soul rather than standardization and efficiency.  I intend for my classroom to reflect an open mind with a strong belief in the power of knowledge as created through individualized exploration.  I intend to monitor the activity of my classroom, not to maintain a category of plans, but to witness the need for intervention as they express themselves through their many behaviors.  A special needs classroom for early childhood development can benefit from a combination of behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic theories to “present strategies for intervention that are in harmony with developmentally appropriate practice and incorporate special educational principles that have enabled children with disabilities to participate more fully in integrated settings while achieving individualized goals and objectives” (Cavallaro, 1993, p.293).

Sources Cited

Cavallaro, C.C. & Haney, M. (1993). Developmentally appropriate strategies for promoting full participation in early childhood setting.  Topics in early childhood special education, 13(3), 293-307.

Church, E.B., Drucker, J., Greenberg, P. & Hanna, S.  (2005).  Open the door!  Welcoming children and families into your program.  Scholastic early childhood today, 20(1), 38-47.

Crosser, S.  (1992).  Managing the early childhood classroom.  Young Children, 47(2), 23-29.

Denno, D.  & Malone, D.M.. (2003).  Decision making in early childhood intervention.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 30(4), 265-273.

Eisner, E.W. (2002).  The arts and the creation of mind.  Connecticut:  Yale University Press.

Eggen, P. & Kauchak, D.  (2007).  Educational psychology:  Windows on classrooms, Seventh Edition.  New Jersey:  Pearson.

Marshall, M. (2005).  Discipline without stress, punishments, or rewards.  The clearing house, 79(1), 51-54.

Rebecca Stone McNeeley
Last Updated:  Winter 2007