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Classroom Management for Diverse Classrooms

All too often when teachers discuss classroom management I hear, “When I was in school…..blah, blah,blah….” When a teacher begins his/her statement with “When I was in school” my eyes immediately roll because I want to ask the teacher are you teaching your mini clones? Don’t get me wrong I can understand these teacher’s frustrations but every generation is different.

It just baffles my mind to hear these teacher’s view of classroom management. For this very reason I realized that there was a need for a classroom management class that met the needs of teachers who teach in diverse settings.

This summer I facilitated my first classroom management training. I know what you’re thinking, but this was no ordinary classroom management training! This is a 3-hour training and only focuses on 3 topics: building relationships, culturally responsive management, routines and procedures.

Developing Cultural Competency

This past weekend I attended The National Council on Teaching Mathematics Affiliates Leader Conference because  I’m the NCTM Rep for the Benjamin Banneker Association . NCTM  has taken up the issue of  access and equity  in mathematics education. So naturally cultural responsiveness was on the agenda. One of the over arching ideas of developing cultural competence is that teachers have to recognize biases, values, and ways of doing things that arise from their own culture. Before teachers can recognize these things they must be able to identify their social identity.

The goal of cultural responsiveness is to help students to succeed. The opposite of cultural responsiveness is called assimilationist practice, in which school systems attempt, consciously or not, to steer students into conforming to practices that are valued at school but at odds with their own culture (Ladson-Billings, 1994). I think as our students change over time, teachers have to examine what classroom management should look like in a classroom in 2017.

The Classroom Management Spectrum

Teachers often approach classroom management as either discipline or as a reward and routine. I’m not sure that teachers (me included) have ever looked at classroom room management from an student engagement standpoint.

The rationale behind student engagement focused classroom management is by shifting to a student-engagement focus, the teacher becomes more concerned with inclusion of all rather than exclusion of those misbehaving.

Some of the teachers that I talked about in beginning of the this article will ask why. Well the answer to their question is, students from home backgrounds more closely resembling the dominant school culture are most likely to feel engaged in school and have positive school relationships (Zyngier, 2008). Classroom management designed by European-American middle-class teachers for European-American middle-class students does not meet the needs of many of those who don’t fit that description (Milner & Tenore, 2010).

Strategies for the New School Year

Students who are not from the dominate culture will sometimes come to school with a resistant attitude. Research  has proven that these students see themselves as outsiders to the culture of the school and this leads them to resist enculturation.

When teachers focus on engagement it recasts the role of the teacher from an authoritarian figure to a helping and collaborative relationship. Focusing on engagement can be demanding because it requires the teacher to get to know their students, the root of their disengagement, and how to address it.

Engagement is not “edutainment” it is creating authentic opportunities that allow students to actively engage in classroom activities. Students are best engaged through lived experiences, including popular culture, acknowledging their socioeconomic realities, cultural heritage, language, and the social context of the community (Yang, 2009).

1. Classroom Environment

When setting up your classroom for the new school year pay close attention to how you arrange your classroom and develop your routines and procedures.  Sometimes teachers can inadvertently send negative messages about behavior through classroom arrangement, routines, and procedures. Using a classroom design that supports collaboration can enhance cultural relevance among those students who value cooperation over competition.

Personalizing your classroom environment can also encourage students to claim an important sense of ownership and familiarity with their surroundings. Every school year I see teachers buying decorations to create a classroom environment that resonates with the teacher. The classroom environment can be used strategically to communicate respect for diversity and cultural representation, to reaffirm connectedness and community, and to avoid marginalizing and disparaging students (Weinstein et al., 2003).

2. Routines and Procedures

Routines (sometimes called rituals) are shared, socially scripted patterns that reduce the cognitive complexity of the classroom (Leinhardt et al., 1987). Research suggests that teachers who start class immediately and interact with students throughout class time are more effective in terms of student achievement (Latham, 2002).

The nature of routines can contribute or take away from culturally classroom management. Strict and rigid routines can isolate students. Routines that encourage collaboration and community can make students feel like they are a part of  your classroom and then use their own knowledge base to participate in the classroom activities.

Some questions to consider when planning for classroom routines and procedures can include:

  • What should the students do after they enter the classroom?
  • How will I distribute or collect student work?
  • What signals will I use to get the students’ attention, end an activity or regroup?
  • How will the students line up to go to the restroom?
  • How do I want the students to ask for help?
  • What should students do when they are finished with their work?
  • What will be the procedure for dismissal at the end of the day?

Classroom management is more than rules and discipline. The decorations, displays, classroom arrangement, routines and procedures are all essential parts of successfully managing a diverse classroom.




6 thoughts on “Classroom Management for Diverse Classrooms”

  1. This blog post is so detailed and informative! You have a number of references that I’d like to read more from, would you mind sharing your reference page so I can look up the resources? Thanks!

      1. Hi ignitED Teacher! Could share your reference you use in this paragraph?

        The goal of cultural responsiveness is to help students to succeed. The opposite of cultural responsiveness is called assimilationist practice, in which school systems attempt, consciously or not, to steer students into conforming to practices that are valued at school but at odds with their own culture (Ladson-Billings, 1994).

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