A tip that I have learned for classroom control with unfamiliar students, especially when substituting in middle school, is a simple one: learn their names. When I take role in class I try to make a notation about something distinctive about the student: if they wear glasses, what color they are wearing, if they are exceptionally tall, etc. I also try to identify possible “problem children” as they enter the classroom and figure out their name when I take attendance.
This has proven helpful for two reasons:
1. I know who to “yell” at; I can call out a name and give a specific command “Hunter, stop talking.” “Krista, it’s time to stand up and sing with everyone else.” etc.
2. Knowing the name also gives me the ability to write a student up on a referral, detention, or in a report given to the absent teacher, guidance counselor, or regular classroom teacher (when teaching an elementary music class).
The power that the knowledge of knowing their names gives is astounding. They will often be surprised when you know their name, and will sometimes grin sheepishly when you call them out on something. This is a very useful tip, in my opinion, and I hope it will be useful to you as well.