12 May Managing Classroom Behavior
“People are different. Therefore, they will behave differently in your classroom. Managing those differences and ensuring that all students focus on a topic at the exact time that you need them to is one of the challenges teachers face daily. It is what makes our job interesting yet tricky!”
Eton Institute’s English instructor, Nola Adams, has some great ideas for handling classroom behaviour.
In order to create a comfortable classroom environment, it is important to encourage students to give the positive experience that they deserve and truly connect with them. With this in mind, it is important to identify inappropriate behaviours and create classroom guidelines at the beginning of each class.
I recently had the privilege of instructing a kid’s class. After my first class, of 11-year olds, they were bursting at the seams with energy and literally bouncing off the walls. I quickly realized that I had to adjust my classroom priorities.
As it turns out, some of the strategies I used to maintain an orderly and positive classroom in my kids class have proven successful even in my adult classes, especially when larger groups are concerned.
I think the most frequently observed misbehaviour in the classroom is students talking during instruction. I find it extremely distracting to teach a lesson when there are multiple side conversations in different languages all happening at the same time. Unavoidably, it is usually those students who participated in the side conversation who later have questions regarding the topics that they had missed.
This is why I believe it is important to have a consistent classroom routine set in place, so students know what to expect and can participate productively in learning. For instance, depending on the level, I always kick off with a “brain warmer” such as a crossword puzzle, brainteaser or even a short text that students have to read and then write what they have understood the previous class. This lets students know that it is time to wake up, settle down and get stuck in.
Also, after the 5-10-minute coffee break, I find that students are often tired or too relaxed, so it is essential to make them active again, especially in classes of longer duration where concentration has to be maintained. For instance, I get them to put the answers up on the whiteboard, so they have to get up and get physically involved; you will be surprised how much they love playing as the teacher! When delivering classes of more than two hours, it’s a good idea to allocate the last 15 minutes of the class to “talk time”, but make sure:
- It is topic specific and challenging.
- Dictionaries are used to build up vocabulary.
- Pronunciation is stressed.
However, there are days when some students prefer to have side conversations instead, so, when the gentle hint to be quiet fails to bring results, here are some practical tips to maintain classroom control:
- If the students begin to have side conversations, use proximity control to try to stop them, literally stand next to them.
- If that doesn’t work, write the name of the talker on the board in bold and red, this is normally so embarrassing that they stop disrupting immediately.
- If it still doesn’t work, get a whistle. I have a whistle and I am not afraid to use it; sometimes the sight of the whistle is enough.
I try not to forget to meet and get to know the students, ask them what their short and long-term goals are, and then attempt to tailor a class to fit their learning needs as each individual’s behaviour and needs differ. Involving and empowering students in the classroom by using constant positive feedback is essential to their overall language success.
I read somewhere that “good teachers don’t have to worry about discipline”. However, we work and live with people from different backgrounds, so there might be at least one student who doesn’t pay as much attention as the others. It might not be on a consistent basis but it will occur at least once. It is important to be able to manage the situation in a positive and productive manner.
Remember, if all else fails, get a whistle!
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