Implementing Air Traffic Control Analogy In Classroom Management

ED 331 Classroom and Behavior Management

Classroom Management using Air Traffic Controller Analogy

Classroom management is an important aspect of classroom learning. Without classroom management, learning is not possible. After my placement in teaching sector, I realised that learning is possible only in an environment which has defined set of rules.

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My philosophy is to use an Air Traffic Controller analogy to guide the students. An Air Traffic controller provides directions to the pilots and guides them in flight. The controller is also responsible for providing intervals between departing and arriving aircrafts at the airport and is responsible for the flights. In short, they lead the aircrafts all the way through and ensure safe and efficient movement throughout the aircrafts journey in air as well as on land. Teachers are akin to air traffic controllers as they are responsible for controlling the classroom. They are also responsible for the learning of students in the classroom and ensures safety in their movement from one class room to another. Teachers lead the students throughout the day in the school (Mundschenk, Miner & Nastally, 2011).

Classroom Management becomes easy by following the air traffic controller analogy. Air Traffic controllers set clear limits on what pilots can and cannot do. Setting rules for students is also crucial to manage a classroom as it can prevent unwanted behaviour. One example is setting rules for toilet break (only one student at a time) can prevent students wandering out of the classroom in groups. Another example of setting rules can be controlling movement of the students in classroom. This can be done by instructing students to stay within their space, like aircrafts on their path, by way of marking every student’s space with coloured tape. They will need permission for going out of the tape but can move around within the tape (Mundschenk, Miner & Nastally, 2011).

Air traffic controller analogy not only helps in making rules for everything but also in improving learning experience. Like pilot uses both instrument’s reading and feedback from the air traffic controller, teachers should also use different communication ways i.e. reading, writing, giving visual signs and prompts to enhance learning. While presenting written material, teachers need to read it aloud so that all students can easily gain understanding. Visual signs help teachers to know that students have accomplished the task or have understood the content. Whereas visual prompts are given to students to make them continue the task. One way of doing it is by circulating it around the classroom and acknowledging students efforts by making a line with coloured ink under the last bit of work they have done. It can also be done by pointing or nodding where required for providing a clue to the students, etc. (Mundschenk, Miner & Nastally, 2011).

Seating Arrangements

My classroom management policy is based on air traffic controller analogy because it grants the control of the classroom to the teacher which is necessary for improving academic outcomes. As Air traffic controllers guide the pilots for safe flights, classroom teachers guide students in order to promote learning (Mundschenk, Miner & Nastally, 2011).

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My philosophy is closely aligned with Assertive Discipline (AD) (Lee and Marlene canter) because I believe that assertive discipline i.e. establishing a set of rules (discipline

plan) is necessary for maintaing order and facilitating teaching and learning practices. Wood, Hodges & Aljunied, 1996 stated that AD trained teachers makes the use of positive recognition more often and in greater number of times as compared to the non- AD trained teachers..

  1. Listen to the teacher carefully
  2. Follow teacher’s instructions
  3. Complete your classwork and homework
  4. Raise your hand for answering questions
  5. Enter and exit the classroom quietly

Classroom seating arrangement can be done many ways. As a science teacher, I would need both teacher centred seating arrangement and learner centred arrangement. Teacher centred seating arrangement will allow me to give lecture and make demonstrations in open area while learner centred arrangement will enable students to discuss and work in groups.

These two seating arrangements would best fit my expectations (“Effective Classroom Seating Arrangements”, 2015)

Clusters: This type of seating arrangement is learner-centred and good for small groups for all class sizes.

I like this classroom setting because it encourages greater interactions between the students and creates personal and safe environment for pupils to convey their ideas. It also promotes teamwork and co-operation between students. This classroom setting develops reflection, problem solving skills, communication skills and social skills in students (Wood, Hodges & Aljunied, 1996). I also find this classroom arrangement useful for the management of classroom.                                      

However, this seating arrangement is not useful for all classes as it may result in increased noise level and decreased productivity. It may also reduce individual accountability. For example, the assessment of level of understanding of the students becomes difficult because some students do not perform well in comparison of others.

I would use this style interchangeably with another style (Horseshoe/U-shape) which focuses more on individual students and class work.

Horseshoe/U-Shape: This is teacher and learner centred seating arrangement. This set up is for small to medium, lecture and discussion-based classes. I prefer this style because it allows easy interaction with all the students. Furthermore, it encourages discussion and participation in the classroom and increases connection between pupils and teachers. It also offers large open area for presentations and demonstrations and is thereby suitable for a science class. I also find this classroom arrangement good for the purpose of managing the students as it allows the teacher to approach students easily.

Routine/ Procedures

Expected Students’ Behaviour

Entering Class

1.     Enter quietly

2.     Once you enter the room, do not exit the room without permission

3.     Go directly to your seat

Getting Assistance

Ask your teacher by raising your hand if assistance needed in the classroom.

Sharpening Pencil

Sharpen your pencil before entering the classroom and when teacher has finished giving instructions and put all the waste in dustbin.

Distributing worksheets/papers

Worksheets/papers are to be distributed by the teachers themselves or by one of the student when asked to do so.

Marking note-books/papers

Complete all worksheets and glue them in note-books. Complete all notes every day.

Working with peers/ in a group

Respect your peers. While working in groups assist the members of such group.


Students can ask questions or do as instructed by their teacher in transitions.

Class dismissal

Students are required to note homework in notebooks, pack their bags, throw all the waste in dustbin and leave the classroom quietly.

Greeting Students

Beginning Instructions

Teachers begin with oral and written instructions.

Giving Directions to students

Teachers use gestures/voice for giving directions.

Feedback on tasks

Type of feedback given depends on the type of task. Feedback can be oral, written, formal or informal.

Marking the task

Marking is done according to marking criteria.

Instructional/ lesson planning

Lesson plan is crucial part of every lesson. Lessons should be planned days before with back plan always in mind.

Lesson Plan Format

Every lesson should begin with a “hook” in order to get students’ attention. Hook should begin with objectives followed by body of the lesson.

Body of the lesson has to be such where teacher gives instructions and has planned activities for students.

Lesson ends with conclusion.

This is the basic format however in the classroom teachers can make required changes to the lesson according to the situation or students’ engagement. Planning a lesson is a theoretical component which ensures that taches knows what they are required to do. However, delivering a lesson involves a lot more than just theory such as teacher has to act and seem as excited as students for learning the new concept. This is necessary for creating excitement among the students for the topic. Thus, delivering a lesson is a skill which is developed with experience.     

Instructional Technique

A good lesson should have explicit instructions provided both orally and in writing.

Working with students of diverse abilities

 Differentiation is the key to teach students with diverse abilities. Differentiate each activity according to the level and interest of the students for creating a successful environment in the classroom.

Working with students belonging to diverse backgrounds

A teacher should use culture sensitive language and gestures while working with diverse group of students.

Communication with parents

Teachers should communicate with parents with the help of written reports. Any suspected behaviour should be reported to parents on time.


Positive reinforcement is the key to encourage positive behaviour. It can be encouraged using a number of Principles. I believe in assertive discipline (Lee & Marlene canter) and in following methods for encouraging positive behaviour.

  • First establish order in class for maintaining good teaching and learning environment which in turn will encourage the students to learn.
  • Explain and teach the discipline plan and rules that involve positive and negative consequence for compliance or non-compliance. It is important that teacher considers positive consequence and enforce them in class every day for encouraging positive behaviour. Pointing negative behaviour does not encourage positive behaviour however pointing positive behaviour does. Thus, always give rewards for positive behaviour for reducing negative behaviour. This can be done using various methods such as:
  1. Smiling and sad faces on the board and writing names under both faces.
  2. Rewards for short term positive behaviour such as free time or allowing to leave the class first.
  3. Rewarding well behaved students with lollies or stationery.
  4. Having points system, points can be awarded in groups or to the individual students and announcing as rewards such as, X and Y has earned rewards for XYZ activity or behaviour. Rewarding points in groups is beneficial for teacher as students in group try to control behaviour of disturbing elements of the group. Teacher can also make mixed group of students with good and bad behaviour for having better control of the classroom.
  5. Another important method to encourage positive behaviour is getting to know the students and building positive relationship by communicating with them and knowing their interests. Students respect the teachers who genuinely care for them and behave positively in the classroom.
  6. Never ever get angry or shout in the classroom for encouraging positive behaviour. Students try to annoy their teachers as it is a fun activity for them. They act more rowdy once teachers start shouting. Thus, no matter what happens teachers need to maintain their cool and deal with situation calmly as this impacts the students in good way and results in positive behaviour.
  7. Seating plan also helps to have positive behaviour in classroom by separating trouble making kids and arranging them with good behaviour kids. However, always recognise good kids in the class by writing their names under smiling face or providing them rewards or points and this is really important for maintaining their good behaviour. In this way, they will not learn bad habits or behaviour from other kids. This is my personal experience in the classroom.

To conclude, every classroom is different and so as every student. The methods need to be applied in the classroom and in case they does not work, teachers can switch to other methods because every method does not work for all students. Thus, teachers need to find out the methods which can result in the success of the students in the classroom.

The teachers will encourage positive behaviour by using various ways as discussed in previous paragraph and negative behaviour will be discouraged. Some other methods are discussed as below:

  • Try to understand the cause of negative behaviour. Some students misbehave because for attracting teacher’s attention. Thus, giving them attention for good behaviour and ignoring the bad behaviour would help.
  • Be consistent i.e. sticking to the rules and procedures and applying them is a good way to diffuse negative behaviour.
  • Using proximity i.e. moving closer to the problematic student can help.
  • Reinforcing desired behaviour – when a student goes off task or off behaviour remind him/her of the desired behaviour, that would help the student to get back to the right activity or behaviour.
  • Giving the students a choice is helpful in directing them towards right behaviour. Students can be asked to behave appropriately or get prepared for the consequences such as if a student does not clean the practical area after finishing the practical can be asked to choose between cleaning the area or staying after class until the area is cleaned.
  • Withholding the desired activity or privilege is also a way to encourage positive behaviour and discourage negative behaviour. Such as when working in groups chosen by students, teachers can change the group of students until they behave in a correct manner.
  • Using 1-message is an effective way to control problematic behaviour. I- message involves communicating the problem with the behaviour of students and how it is affecting the classroom. For example: if a student is making noise while teacher is giving instruction then the teacher might say, “The noise is interrupting the lesson and is making me frustrated.” The purpose of I-message is to communicate to the student that why his behaviour is problematic.

Therefore, it can be concluded that encouraging good behaviour will diffuse negative/problematic behaviour.

Some students might not respond to either the encouragement of positive behaviour and discouragement of negative behaviour methods. Teacher here needs to apply emergency procedures for such students. The emergency procedures are as follow:

Isolate the student: if nothing works, separating the student from the whole class is first step to make student think about his choices. Student can be given theory work if removed from practical or can continue doing work if direct instructions are given. Keep in mind for providing ways in order to participate back in the classroom.

Assign detention:  Assigning lunch break or recess detention is also a way for guiding the behaviour of students in the classroom. An advantage of giving detention is that students hate it and want to avoid it at any cost. Detention can be around 10-15 minutes for not so severe behaviours. Detention also gives time to teacher to communicate with the student and ask for the solution to his problematic behaviour.

The disadvantage of detention is that it waste the time of teacher’s time as well. For example: if it is lunch or recess detention then teacher must also stay with the student during the detention time. Another problem is that student might run after class to avoid the detention thus there has to be consequence if that happens such as doubling the detention. This is only possible if appropriate records are kept. Also additional time would be required to deal with such issues. Sometimes for ensuring that students come to detention, a teacher has to find out their classroom before lunch break or recess and wait outside to get the student/students.

Detention is a good strategy however it wastes teacher’s time. Teachers has to be consistent with detention for ensuring that it is working properly.

Referral to the school office:  In some schools, referral to school office is made for extremely problematic cases such as insulting or not obeying the teacher or consistently misbehaving. School office then puts the name of student on a card and ask each teacher to rate the behaviour after each class. If the student gets bad rating from most of the teachers then deputy principal and parent meeting is organised.  If this does not resolve the issue then student might be suspended for some days. After suspension, again a behaviour card is issued to see improvement in behaviour. Students want to avoid getting referred to the office because of the involvement of parents and deputy principal. This should be used in extreme cases or it will lose its effectiveness.


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Wood, S., Hodges, C., & Aljunied, M. (1996). The Effectiveness of Assertive Discipline Training. Educational Psychology In Practice, 12(3), 175-181.