Classroom management is a challenge for all teachers. Even the most experienced teachers find it difficult to keep a class on track. Here are a few ideas to help maintain order in your next class.
Many good teachers have arrived in the classroom on their first day, fresh and filled with optimism, only to be derailed by unruly students. You stand and watch as your carefully planned lesson deteriorates before your very eyes. It’s disheartening and frustrating, but it’s sadly a commonplace scenario, especially in your early days as a teacher. However, with a few simple tricks and techniques, it is one which can easily be avoided.
When you start a new teaching job, the most important thing is that the minute you walk into the classroom, you appear confident. Even if you’re quaking with fear on the inside, you cannot let it show. Your students will pick up on it immediately and things will go downhill very quickly from there.
The first thing that many kids want to do when they get a new teacher is test the boundaries, and you need to discipline them hard in the beginning. You may feel uncomfortable doing this but it will pay dividends later on. Lay down your classroom rules in the first lesson and make it clear that these must be followed at all times. Ask your teaching assistant to translate if necessary to make sure everybody understands.
For most students, a stern look is enough discipline to stop any misbehaviour. However, if that doesn’t work, and you need to verbally warn them. And bear in mind that their English may not be that good, and be sure to use language they can understand easily to explain what they are doing wrong. In many cases a simple “STOP!” is most effective.
Using Points in the Classroom
Many teachers use points as a method of classroom control, and it is a highly effective way of dealing with minor issues such as chatting, fiddling, not listening and so on.
Points should be awarded liberally, both for winning games and answering questions. Personally, I award points regardless of correctness as it motivates the students to try. In my classes, the kids’ hands are always up and I see that as a big win. At the beginning of each lesson, I write the students names on the board, and simply ask them “How are you?”, awarding them a point each. So everyone starts the lesson with at least one. It’s not that I am particularly generous, it’s just that I want to make sure I always have something to take away! When I see a student doing something I don’t like, I simply say their name, draw their attention to the board and slowly, deliberately erase one of their points.
Within a couple of weeks with my new students, they are at the point where I only need hover my finger in the general direction of their points and they immediately snap to attention. But why do they care so much? It’s because my points mean something. Many teachers award points throughout the lesson, but don’t do anything with them at the end of class. That’s fine for younger kids who are happy to have points for the sake of it, but when they get a little older and wiser, you need to make them count. So at the end of each lesson, I add up the points and whoever has the most leaves the classroom first. Simple and effective!
If your class is too big for individual points, simply divide it into teams. This works just as well, if not even better. Once they are under pressure from their teammates not to lose points, most kids are even less willing to take the risk.
Monitoring the Energy Flow
Most kids have a lot of energy, which is great, but sometimes they can be over-enthusiastic, shouting just a little too loudly or jumping out of their chairs at the most inopportune moments. The best way to deal with this is by making sure they have plenty of time out of their seats, either playing games, writing on the board or moving around during pair work. Let them help you by allowing them to tidy the classroom after an activity or erase the board while you prepare for the next one. It works best to introduce a more energetic activity just before a quieter moment such as teaching a new grammar point or a writing exercise. Then once that’s finished, get them up and moving again. This way the lesson flows nicely and the students have plenty of time to blow off steam leaving them calm and paying attention when you need them to be.
How to Deal with Crying Kids
If you’re teaching kids, at some point you will encounter tears. The best way to deal with this, counter-intuitive as it may be, is to ignore them. Of course if a kid is crying because they are hurt, you need to make sure it’s not serious. However, if they are sulking because they lost a game or you shouted at them, it’s better to leave them be. The more attention you give them, the longer they will keep crying and interrupting the lesson.
Getting your students in order early on is a must for any new teacher. Teaching badly behaved children can be a nightmare, so be tough, fair and consistent with your discipline and your kids will respect you and learn all the more. Once they know their boundaries, you can start to have fun and make your classes a real pleasure both for them and for yourself.
For more about classroom management, we have another article on the subject here.
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About the Author
Natalie Saunders is an EFL educator who also works as a writer and translator specialising in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which she studied in Harbin, China.
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