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6 Best Classroom Management Strategies for CTE Health Science Teachers in 2024

January 11th, 2024 | 9 min. read

Mike Cescon

Mike Cescon

With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the iCEV curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.

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Even on a good day, high school students can be tough to manage in the classroom. But with the rise of virtual instruction, students have gotten even more used to doing things on their own time and with their own schedules in mind. And as a health science instructor, that makes your job even more difficult. 

You’re an expert in your field, and you want what’s best for your students, but if you can’t manage them in your classroom--get them to sit down and learn the material--all of your knowledge and experience won’t amount to much. 

Thousands of health science teachers have approached iCEV asking for strategies and structures that will help them manage their classrooms, so that their students will have the best learning experience possible. 

In response, we’ve developed a list of classroom management strategies that CTE instructors like you can use to ensure you and your students develop the rapport necessary for the healthiest learning environment. 

In this article, you’ll learn 6 strategies to help you manage your health science classroom:

  1. Start the Year with Clear Expectations
  2. Be the Model of Respect for Your Students
  3. Seek Personal Connections
  4. Incorporate Bell Ringers to Start Class Strongly
  5. Prevent Down Time During Skills Work
  6. Accommodate and Differentiate Your Instruction

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to implement some of these strategies to ensure your course has the structure it needs to help your students thrive.

1. Start the Year with Clear Expectations

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As a teacher, you’re the leader of your classroom, and often the mark of a great leader is striking the middle ground between honesty and firmness. 

That’s why it’s important to start the year off openly with your students as to what your expectations are, while being firm on the ones most important to you. 

What kind of class is it that you want to teach? What kind of teacher are you? Are you strict about assignments, or laid back? What are your goals for the semester? What level of participation is necessary from your students to reach those goals?

These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself while defining your expectations. 

Some classroom policies you could lay out include:

  • Technology policies (Are students allowed to have their cell phones out?)
  • Participation policies (How often are students expected to participate in discussions?)
  • Bathroom policies (Are there any restrictions on when students can use the bathroom?)
  • Homework policies (Is homework a requirement? Will it contribute to their final grade?)

Why This Strategy Works

Students need this level of honesty and structure. It provides them with an understanding of what to expect every day when they walk into your classroom. No one wants to walk into a class with an erratic teacher or ever-changing rules--that’s way too much stress!

Providing these expectations to your students ensures they gain insight into your teaching style and that they won’t be blind-sided by an unexpected assignment or development down the line. This will ease classroom anxiety and tension and make your students more receptive to your lessons. 

If you successfully communicate your goals and are clear in your classroom expectations, your students will appreciate it.

2. Be the Model of Respect for Your Students

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We’ve all seen high school teachers who are far too strict, overbearing, or even tyrannical in how they run their classrooms. 

Whether they’re bringing the hammer down on some students for forgetting to do homework, or unfairly targeting students for being “problematic,” what they’re really doing is making students afraid of them. And is that the kind of teacher you want to be?

It’s unfortunately all too common for some teachers to demand respect from students while offering none in return. Our advice is simple: If you want students to respect you, respect them first!

Employ some of these techniques to make it clear to your kids that you’re on their side and only want what’s best for them:

  • Treat all students equally, regardless of whether some have reputations for being problematic. 
  • If students are disruptive, be calm and cordial with getting them back in line. Losing your temper won’t help the situation. 
  • If discipline is necessary, judge whether it should be handled privately. Often, students need a bit of private guidance to get them back on track. Calling them out on their disruptive behavior in front of their peers may only prompt them to be more defiant. 

Why This Approach Works

When a teacher loses their temper or lords their power over students, they’re not helping the student learn. What they’re really doing is cultivating an insecure, unstable environment--an environment where students are too aware of the power disparity to truly sit down and learn.

By genuinely respecting your students, their lives, and their best interests, you demonstrate that you’re on the same team as they are. And for that, they’re more likely to respect you in return. This will make your class easier to manage. 

Instead of your relationship being combative, it becomes cooperative. And a classroom with cooperative learning at its core is one of the most valuable learning environments out there.

3. Seek Personal Connections

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Ask any student, and most will tell you that the teachers who had the biggest impact on their life were the ones whom they genuinely connected with. 

This is probably the case for you, too. Maybe your favorite teacher asked you how you were every day. Maybe the two of you shared an inside joke. Maybe their teaching style opened your eyes to a new understanding of the course material.

However it came about, the teachers we connect with on a personal level often change our lives for the better. 

When it comes to making these valuable connections with your students:

  • Understand that your students have lives and troubles outside the classroom.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask them questions.
  • Reach out to all students--even those who don’t look like they’re dealing with hard things.
  • Always maintain privacy and trust. 

Why Seeking Personal Connections Works

Experiencing a genuine connection with anyone makes them more receptive to what you’re teaching. To put it simply, if students like you, they’ll try harder in your class. 

Besides that, a connection is a two-way street. If you know your students well, you’ll know when one of them is having an off-day or whether something is bothering them. You can then shift your class slightly to be more accommodating to them to cultivate the best learning environment possible. 

By seeking personal connections with your students, you encourage them to see you as a person. That may lead them to try harder in your class, and that extra effort they bring may be invaluable to managing your classroom. 

You’ll also have a better sense of who they are and how they think so you can better teach them course material. 

4. Incorporate Bell Ringer Activities to Start Class Strongly

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It can be difficult to wrangle the attention of high schoolers when they first walk into your classroom. They’re caught in a limbo between their social life in the hallways and the course material of your class, and it might take them a little while to adjust. 

Why not help them along?

Bell ringers are a great way to quickly engage your students with your course material and help keep them engaged for the rest of class. 

Some example bell ringers for a health science class include:

  • Asking students Questions of the Day to set the stage for your lesson.
  • Assigning students current event articles to match your material to important events going on in the world. 
  • Gauging student knowledge about the topic you’re teaching to see where they stand and encourage their understanding. 

Why This Approach Works

Bell ringers both clearly signal that class has begun and give students an assignment that immediately focuses them on your course material. This makes them an excellent choice for gaining student attention. 

In other words, by using bell ringers, you give your class a powerful kick-start that will keep momentum going. This way, students can get the most out of class time and are more likely to stay focused throughout. 

Plus, if you choose the right ones, your students will have fun along the way completing either games or other activities that will probe their knowledge!

5. Prevent Down Time During Skills Work

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As you know, CTE health science classes can be skills-intensive. You might have some students demonstrating Phlebotomy or EMT techniques for ten or fifteen minutes at a time.

But what are the rest of your students doing during these demonstrations? Are they observing? Taking notes? Sitting and twiddling their thumbs? Or worse?

Your classroom can become quite chaotic if some students don’t have anything structured to do during skills work. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting class time for these students. Instead, have them get to work on their own. 

Some activities your students can complete during their down time include:

  • Independent work, like homework or skills practice.
  • Small group work, like creative projects. 
  • Observing the skills work and taking notes.

Why This Approach Works

As an instructor, it’s your job to provide structure for your students. This structure--this stability--is essential to the learning process and ensures your class doesn’t devolve into chaos as soon as you turn your back. 

When your students have a lot of down time where they aren’t doing anything, it means your class structure isn’t doing its job. Precious time isn’t being used, and is going to waste. More than that, your students may begin to distract themselves, and then it becomes harder to regain their attention. 

By preventing this down time, you ensure as much class time as possible is being used, and also keep your students focused on the course material so that their engagement isn’t interrupted. 

6. Differentiate Your Instruction

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Not all of your students are the same. Some respond well to lectures while others are bored to tears by them. Some gain everything they need from textbooks while others require hands-on skill work. 

Your class is composed of diverse learners, and sometimes, one solution won’t fit all of them. That’s where differentiated instruction comes in. 

Differentiated instruction, simply put, is when you provide different students within your classroom with different avenues for learning course material. Essentially, you adapt and diversify your teaching style so that every student--regardless of ability--will have the chance to learn in the way that best fits them. 

Some strategies for incorporating differentiated instruction in your classroom include:

  • Grouping students based on topic knowledge so that they can work with others of similar learning styles. This ensures students won’t clash or be frustrated by who they’re working with. 
  • Creating pods with student captains, where those knowledgeable or confident students are paired with groups of struggling students that they can help and lead. This can help decrease classroom misunderstandings and disruptions. 
  • Using the Think-Pair-Share method so that students can bounce their thoughts off of a peer before engaging the rest of the class in discussion. This helps to relieve anxiety for students who may be nervous sharing their thoughts with the entire class right away.

Why Differentiated Instruction Works

Classroom management can become complicated when your students are all learning at different paces. 

When some students finish up their work long before others, challenges like drama or anxiety can rise in those students who are struggling. 

However, when you use differentiated instruction to adapt your teaching style to the needs of your students, you ensure each of them is learning the course material in the way they know how. 

But differentiated instruction is a broad and in-depth topic, and if you’re like many CTE instructors, you probably need more information on ways you can incorporate it in your classroom.

If that’s the case, this article will help you discover more strategies for differentiated instruction so you can help all of your students succeed:

Discover the 9 Best Differentiated Instruction Strategies for CTE