Engagement is the Best Form of Classroom Management


Tips for New Teachers: Classroom Management

Engagement is the best form of classroom management. That statement still makes me cringe. In my first year as a teacher, when my classroom environment was less then desirable and I asked my principal for support, that’s what she told me. Although that “advice” really wasn’t very helpful to me at the time, I have to admit that it’s true.

A lot of student misbehavior is opportunistic. They’re not sure what they are supposed to be doing, or are bored, so they chat with their friends, check their phones, get up and walk around, etc. As a new teacher, I always interpreted this as defiant behavior, but the majority of the time it wasn’t intended to defy or disrespect my authority as a teacher.

There are many ways to deal with opportunistic misbehaviors, some of which we will cover in later tips, but probably the best one is to avoid the opportunity in the first place through engagement. When students are fully engaged in the lesson, it becomes harder for them to find opportunities to act out. Here are my favorite engagement techniques. Good Luck!

  • Start each lesson with a “hook.” The best time to engage students in a lesson is at the very beginning. Each day, after going over the Do Now, I would spend 5 minutes deliberately trying to engage my students through a hook. I was a science teacher, so often this meant showing them a short video clip that related to the day’s concept, or doing a demo. I actually included this in my lesson plans, so I was actively thinking about it each day.

  • Make it personal. Students often find it hard to engage with material that is abstract or unrelated to their lives. An easy way to make it more “real” for them is to connect the concept or lesson to a real person or narrative. For example, when I taught my students about cell signaling (very abstract), I chose to frame it through diabetes and insulin (less abstract), and would start the unit by reading about and watching videos on two children that actually had diabetes (personal, specific). I found that my students were much more engaged when they realized what we were learning actually impacted the lives of two very real people.

  • Be energetic! Sounds simple, but very effective. If students see your passion and energy come through, they are more likely to be engaged. This is particularly helpful for maintaining engagement through mini-lessons. I moved around a lot, made lots of hand gestures, and even tried to act out some of the concept we were learning.

  • Break away from pen and paper. Students probably complete a bajillion worksheets each year, so a break from that always boosts engagement. As a science teacher, labs were the obvious hands on activity, but it can be way simpler than that. Activities involving markers and chart paper work just as well!


Chen Liu spent four years as a New York City high school science teacher. Chen also trained new teachers for The New Teacher Project.