Classroom Management Tips
Updated: Jan 18
I once read that successful teachers spend the first month of the year on developing classroom management and establishing rules, the unsuccessful ones spend the rest of the year struggling with the discipline.
Every time I take a new group I inwardly complain about my existing students being better than "these new ones" who often give me a hard time. Then I realise that I have actually taken time to build that special atmosphere in my current groups and that we have reached the stage when I can control my students with a mere look, subtle gesture or a change of intonation. Hence, my first tip, remember that it always takes time.
As to the steps that ensure the efficiency of the time mentioned, there are four main areas that you need to constantly work on. Some of those will require more energy at the beginning of your journey, some you will need to bear in mind every day.
I. Team Building
Your task is to turn a bunch of people who might or might not know each other (at Study for Success we often have students coming from the same school and/or an extended family) into a team. Here are some steps you take to achieve that.
1. Give Them a Name
The choice of the name should be a group effort. There are three main techniques I have been using for the procedure.
Take their initials and turn them into a funny world. Play with that. Elicit several versions and then vote on them. For example, in a group where we have Alla, Alex, Angelika, Artsrun, Eliza, Sabina and Merie, the options could have been: SAEMAAA, ASEAMAA, etc. However, we stopped at ASAMAEA, because we thought it sounded beautiful. One issue with this technique is that some students might leave or join the group and you will need to change the name time and again to make sure everyone's initials are included.
The second technique I've come up with to overcome the mentioned drawback is to let them choose a two-word name including an adjective and a noun. This is how we ended up having Happy Monkeys and Mighty Lammas.
The final one is a combination of the two above. We still have an abbreviation, only this one stands for a certain phrase. So far we have had a TBGE (read as T-B-G-E, the best group ever) and TSABEBGE (the smartest and best behaved group ever).
Update! Breaking all the previous rules I found myself teaching a new group called Kings and Queens.
Once you have chosen a name, use it as often as you can. If you are using Viber, Quizlet or Facebook groups/messages, make sure you include their name into the posts and messages. They are not just separate people but Happy Monkeys now. 2. Organise Group Work The more your students interact with and help each other, the closer their bond will be. Organise team games, such as tic-tac-toe and alias, where the students need to help each other to make sure they all win. 3. Have Tea Parties
At Study for Success "Tea Party" is a symbolic name for the lesson during which we leave our books at home, share food and play games. This informal atmosphere can take your students far in creating team spirit and mutual sympathy. 4. Say "Good Things"
I started this tradition many years ago. Its initial goal was to teach certain students to see and voice the positive qualities of their groupmates and themselves. Once a week (or more seldom if you lack time) you can ask your students to notice one "good thing" about others and themselves. This can be something as simple as "I like your T-shirt" or as deep as "I like how you share what you've learnt and make sure everyone understands that". Knowing that they are appreciated by the team and the teacher helps the students to feel loved and makes them more willing to cooperate.
II. Creating Rules and Sticking to Them
The role of clear rules and expectations is hard to overestimate. Make sure you have certain rules of dos and don'ts. These should be clearly communicated to the students and constantly reinforced. Often times the mere existence of the rules is enough; however, you might need to support them by setting the punishment for breaking or (better) a reward for following the rules. For example, if my students show appropriate behaviour during the lesson, I draw a star on the inner side of their textbook cover and give them an appreciation sign of their choice (kiss, hug, high-five, dab, boom or dzz (don't ask). An important thing about the rules is that no one, not even you, is above them. Serve as a model and remember that... it takes time.
III. Teach Great Lessons
As obvious as it sounds, having great content shows your students that misbehaving is not in their best interest. If they have to sit out an activity while everyone else is having fun, chances are they will choose the better alternative.
IV. Eliminate the Cause
Try to understand why your students are misbehaving. Are they bored, tired, angry? Do they want some attention? Is there something that bothers them? 1. Outside Problems
Maybe there are some problems at home or at school that keep your students from concentrating on the lesson. If you have good relations with your students, you can ask directly why they do what they do and try to solve the problem or at least show some sympathy and win them over. Another idea is to tell your students that your classroom is a special place and before walking through the door they should shake their problems off. 2. Take away the distraction
Are they playing with the curtain, a spinner or the Rubik's cube? Simply take it away, put it on the shelf and tell them that they'll get it at the end of the lesson. This is much easier than constantly telling them: "Stop doing that!". 3. Keep Them Busy We have already mentioned the necessity of delivering an engaging lesson. You should also make sure your students are not idle. Here are several ways to do it:
If your student finishes a task sooner than the rest of the group, ask them to tell you what they did the day before. This helps you to know your students better, practice past tenses and enrich their vocabulary. Alternatively, you can ask them to write down a paragraph on the topic of your choice.
Set pairwork and ask the early finishers to help their partners with the task.
Turn the ones who finish the task first into your assistants and ask them to check their groupmates' work.
Classroom management is something many teachers find challenging. Be patient. Be constant. Keep working.