Classroom management is an essential part of any teacher’s job. It can also be one of the most difficult parts, depending on a million little factors. 

What is Classroom Management?

Classroom management is a term used by teachers (and their managers) to describe the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly.  It is an essential skill for all teachers. Once a class spirals out of control, it is extremely difficult to bring the energy levels back down, so teachers need both preventative measures in place as well as the backup plan in case things spiral out of control.

Preventing Disruptive Behaviour

There is no set way to get classroom management right, as each problem that will be encountered is different and could be handled in any number of different ways. However, experience does help you to make your decisions quicker and to know which kind of actions work for you in specific kinds of situations. Planning ahead for any perceived difficulties is also very useful in getting things running smoothly within the classroom.

These are just a few of the areas that make managing a class difficult:

  • Mixed abilities
  • Timing Issues
  • Setting up tasks is tough
  • Disciplining kids is hard
  • Self-awareness
  • Teaching different ages poses different challenges!

Grouping Students

It is very important that we as teachers are in control of the seating arrangements in our classrooms. Don’t let the students sit where they want! This makes the room theirs! It needs to be yours!

It is best to use random systems to assign seats. By getting students to use a more random method, you will encourage better team work throughout the class. They must learn to work together, regardless of the relationship. Some good methods include:

  • Assign seats using dice
  • Colours on the chairs
  • Give the students numbers
  • Tell them where to sit (as a last resort)

All systems can be rigged so that you can control where they will sit (so that one team isn’t too strong or so that you know they will be in teams that will work together).


It can be difficult to give effective instruction to students. Some ideas for getting this right are below:

  1. Pre-plan essential instructions and know exactly what you are going to say.
  2. Use short sentences and one sentence per key piece of information.
  3. Don’t say things that are obvious, e.g. I’m giving you a piece of paper.
  4. Separate instructions clearly from chit chat. Create a silence by having a signal, make eye contact with as many students as possible and wait until everyone is listening before starting (not waiting is a very common mistake)
  5. Demonstrate, don’t explain!
  6. Use instruction checking questions to check that the students understood everything. e.g. Will we do A or B? Do you write or speak?
  7. Use gestures for common instructions, such as a finger to your ear for ‘listen’, a finger to your mouth for ‘speak’, and 2 fingers brought together for ‘in pairs’ etc.

Bad Behaviour

Students can produce all kinds of bad behavior. Here are a few of the things that may occur in your classes:

  • Shouting
  • Hitting
  • Throwing
  • Stealing
  • Speaking Chinese
  • Refusal to join in
  • Inability to sit still
  • Cheating on tests
  • Burping on purpose!

It is very important to try to understand the reasons for these behaviors. There are a number of factors that influence student behavior and they are all equally important.

  • Family
  • Education (the last teacher let me)
  • Self-esteem
  • Boredom
  • External factors
  • What the teacher does

Preventing Bad Behaviour in Class

The most effective method is prevention. Below are some simple tips for preventing bad behavior.

  • Keep them interested! (Make the language relevant to them!!!!!!)
  • Keep up the pace and include a variety of games and activities
  • Develop tasks for them to do in between other things
  • Exhibit professionalism (i.e. don’t look like you don’t know what you’re doing, even if you don’t!)
  • Build rapport with your learners
  • Know your students and when they are likely to do something
  • Motivate them to be involved, making use of an incentive system, scoring etc.

There is one very important factor in preventing bad behavior…

shutterstock_205008814Intrinsic Motivation


Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards, (such as money or grades).

Some tips for increasing intrinsic motivations are:

  • Short term goals for younger students (e.g. behave well and we can play a game you like at the end of class)
  • Long term goals
  • Learning Environment (display work on the wall – designated good work board)
  • Positive feedback and correction
  • Encouragement and praise
  • Don’t shout at kids – get them to think about their mistakes

Teachers have to try and develop methods to make the students want to learn for themselves. It’s really worth sitting down and thinking about what your students respond well to and trying out different methods until you strike upon something (or a variety of things) that work.

Discipline When Prevention Has Failed

What do we do when prevention has failed? By far the best way to deal with poor discipline, once preventative measures have been is exhausted, is…

Rules and Consequences

Some teachers don’t like this side of discipline and many others don’t feel confident or comfortable implementing a firm discipline system, but having a firm set of rules and consequences in your classes can have an amazing effect on your class.

Key factors in making a system work are keeping the rules simple, being consistent in your application of it, making it fair and persevering with it. Below are a few ideas that can help establish order and manage a class:

  1. Negotiate a rule scheme and a system of punishments if the rules are broken. Try a 3 strikes or even a ‘one and you’re done’ system for very bad classes. The rules should be fair and consistent and focus on the behavior, not the student.
  2. If a student breaks a rule you must make sure they know which rule they have broken, and why they are being punished.
  3. You can still reward good behavior by removing strikes if they do well.
  4. Always keep moving forward. Don’t say ‘Stop doing that!’ Try having the attitude ‘Let’s do this!’ It could be very simple like reseating students or simply moving on to the next activity. You’re looking for a new response.
  5. Any serious reprimands should be done in private (especially in Taiwan to save face).
  6. Always keep calm and don’t shout. You could try to create a signal, such as a raised hand, that the students know means be silent.
  7. Don’t forget that you have a TA. Work with them to help things improve.

Once the Three Strikes Have Been Reached

Methods that don’t work:

1) Corporal punishment

2) Shouting or raising your voice

Methods that can work:

1) Rote discipline, e.g. Lines, spellings, extra homework

2) Make them redo work again

3) Communication Books

4) Send the student to the manager or a school admnistrator

5) Get the school manager, administration, etc. to speak to the parents


Dealing with ADD

ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder and it is said to affect as many as one in four people, to varying degrees. What it means for teachers is basically that one student who cannot sit down, be quiet, do their bookwork, or all of those things and more.

ADD (also known as ADHD) is not a disease; it is a highly subjective description and covers a wide range of symptoms, many of which pose unique challenges for classroom management.

There are three types of ADD sufferers; an inattentive type, a hyperactive-impulsive type, and a combination of the two.

Symptoms to look out for include:

Inattentive Type

  • inability to pay attention to details or a tendency to make careless errors in schoolwork or other activities
  • difficulty with sustained attention in tasks or play activities
  • apparent listening problems
  • difficulty following instructions
  • problems with organization
  • avoidance or dislike of tasks that require mental effort
  • tendency to lose things like toys, notebooks, or homework
  • distractibility
  • forgetfulness in daily activities

Hyperactive-impulsive Type

  • fidgeting or squirming
  • difficulty remaining seated
  • excessive running or climbing
  • difficulty playing quietly
  • always seeming to be “on the go”
  • excessive talking
  • blurting out answers before hearing the full question
  • difficulty waiting for a turn or in line
  • problems with interrupting or intruding

Some tips for dealing with ADD students include:

  • Don’t give students time to misbehave (variety of activities and pace).
  • Give the student some responsibility – Little teacher
  • Positively reinforce good behavior
  • Build your instructions over a number of lessons.
  • Have them sit near the TA (who should help them with work)

The most important thing to remember with ADD students is that this is not their fault. Above all else you need to have patience with these students. Anger is the most common reaction that they experience and invariably they do not respond well to it.

However, it is equally important not to ignore the problem.

It will vary from student to student, but good classroom management might have some simple rules that will help that student. They respond very well to rules and as long as they understand the rules they will follow them. It is also a good idea to try and get the rest of the class working with that particular student to try and achieve a common goal. The other students can enforce the rules and you can help to make the student more accepted by his/her peers, by rewarding that student for good behaviour.

Classroom management is more of an art than an exact science, and it requires constant maintenance to be successful. However, classrooms that are well-managed make every step of the learning process more effective and less stressful for everyone involved. Students are happier and more focused, while teachers are freer to concentrate on the lessons. A class in good order is beneficial for all.

A version of this article originally appeared in Shane English Schools Taiwan’s Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) program, which is part of all new teachers’ orientation.

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