Using a Management Matrix to Develop and Set Clear Expectations

When implementing your classroom management plan, do you ever hear, “But Mr./Mrs. So-and-So doesn’t make me do that!” or, “That’s not how we do it in our classroom!” As an art teacher, trying to keep up with twenty different sets of rules, while trying to enforce my own in the art room, is enough to make me want to hide in the teachers’ lounge and never come out.

That’s why I’m so excited about this upcoming school year.

For the first time at my school, each teacher will post a similar behavior matrix in his or her classroom.

Notice how I didn’t say the same matrix. Of course, students are expected to do different things in their classroom than in the gym or in the art room. However, the core of these matrices will remain the same so that expectations are consistent for students throughout the school.

I recently got together with my specials team to hash out what the matrix will look like for students coming to specials.

We felt it was important to meet as a team so that students would see consistent language and expectations across all of our subjects.

Here is what we came up with.

You can get a copy that looks like mine, but in MS Word for you to personalize right here. If you’d like to share this with classroom teachers at your school, you can download a more generic template here. If you teach Middle School or High School, expectations might look different, but a matrix can still be helpful once you tweak it to fit your needs.

I love that the matrix clearly lays out what students are supposed to be doing during each part of class.

Our school rules are the “Brooklyn B’s”: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be a Learner, Be Your Best. You can put your own school rules along the left edge. The top lists each part of art class. The matrix works like the game Battleship. For example, to see how to Be Respectful while Lining up, find where the two categories intersect to get the answer, “HFO (Hands, Feet, and Objects to yourself)” and “Stand Quietly.”

Here are a few notes about the language you see in the matrix.

  •  When creating the matrix, we made it a point to use positive language only.
    So, instead of saying, “Don’t talk in line” we chose to say, “Stand quietly.” A positive statement gets better results, as it indicates exactly what the student is supposed to do, instead of ruling out what they are not supposed to do.
  • As part of our school-wide PBIS system, we have implemented the language HFO, which means “Hands, Feet, and Objects to yourself.”
    Whenever a student isn’t respecting another student’s space, we just say HFO as a reminder. Quick and easy!
  • We are a “bucket filling” school.
    You can learn more about this PBIS strategy here.

Even if you don’t use the matrix in your classroom, filling it out can be a great way to work through your expectations for students during each part of art class. I plan to make my matrix into a big poster and hang it on my wall so that the students and I can reference it all throughout the year.

 Does your school have a school-wide set of rules? What are they? Do they work?

What are some management tricks you might have specifically for Middle School or High School Art you would add to your matrix? 

Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Cathy

    We art going to introduce and implement the Bucket Filling strategy this year at our school. I am really excited about this and am excited to artistically decorate my bucket in the art room. We have been using other PBIS strategies for about 5 years but realize it is time to update and add something new for the kiddos this year.

    • The kids really seem responsive to it, Cathy! I think it’s because it’s such a nice visual for them to understand. Hope it goes well for you! 

      • Vicky Siegel

        Amanda, you are from Madison, right?  I, too, in Kaukauna, WI use PBIS and Bucket filling!  Last year we had to make a matrix for our rooms, too.  I tried to upload my matrix, but it wouldn’t work.  Let me know if I can send it somehow or if anyone wants me to e-mail it to them. :)  Vicky

        • Hi Vicky, 

          Yes, I am from Madison! I would love to see your matrix. Have you tried taking a screen shot of it and pasting it into your comment? I shared my daily schedule that way in a previous comment thread and it seemed to work well!

          • Vicky Siegel

            Hope you can read this!  Vicky

    •  My school utilized “Bucket Filling” too.  We had a cute, fancy bucket with all kinds of sparkles shooting out of the top of it that served as a traveling trophy for the class that filled the most buckets each month.  The kids really bought into it. 

      • Ooooo a shooting sparkle trophy! I’m going to suggest that at my school :). 

  • Every teacher has their own approach to classroom management in my schools.  For Martin Luther King Day our K-2 school has Kindness and Justice week. There are school wide activities planned around the years theme. this past year we used  the book ” Are You a Bucket Filler?”  for the second time.( we rotate several books over a couple of years) The students really love being “bucket fillers” not “bucket dippers”. 

  • Tiffany

    Just wanted to throw this out in hopes of some great feed back. I have a 5th grade art class that has 19 students, 6 of these students are special ed with various IEP modifications. At least 4 of these students have behavior issues but so does most of the class in general. I took points from the classroom management article you posted during the summer. It has become ineffective for the older students. I teach within the week 1st gr-8th gr students. Trying to discipline the special ed students has been a big challenge. I recently had a parent blow up at me because I gave her child after school detention for misusing art materials-which was in our school discipline code but she keeps throwing her child’s IEP in our faces. What this boils down to is that I’m hoping for some feedback from anyone who has had experience with this, thanks! BTW-one child has a class aide that does Not accompany her to class.

  • Beth Carter

    What is HFO? I am making one with our R Time rules and was curious. Thank you so much!

    • Hi Beth. HFO stands for “Hands, Feet and Objects to Self” When students aren’t keeping their hands to themselves, we just say “HFO” and they know what it means. It works really well, especially because the whole school uses that language!

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