“Classroom management refers to the ways in which student behaviour, movement and interaction during a lesson are organized and controlled by the teacher” Richards (1990, 10) .
During my career as an EFL teacher I have come across plenty of teachers who get frustrated with young children. We’ve all heard or expressed the excuses. Because they are naughty. Because they cannot concentrate. Because all they want to do is run around and make a lot of noise. Having taught kids for 12 years now I wholeheartedly agree it can be a challenge. It takes however only a few things to bear in mind to make your YL classes work like magic.
Rules and routine
Children need order and quickly get used to routines and habitual activities. If you notice that turning your back and counting down from five gets their attention, keep practising that. Try to start and end a lesson in the same or similar way or have some always repeating elements in it. A good opening routine can make students comfortable and confident. For instance, a good starting routine includes a song to get focus, greetings, rules and set up and a warmer. Be strict about the rules you want the students to follow as well. For example, let them get used to the fact that you will give coloring worksheets only to the students who have already taken out their crayons and are sitting ready.
A Class Management System
3-6 year olds:
I don’t split them into teams but rather have them work towards a group goal while getting a chance to be individually appreciated.
This system starts with a visual IWB or Powerpoint, or other graphic interface ‘slide.’ The slide presents the three behaviours for which students can be rewarded with a star. IE: listening, keeping quiet, raising your hand. Students names will be listed out to one side for individual praise or reprimands.
Finally there’s a communal ‘goal graphic.’ The students work together to collect stars. 3 group stars rewards the students with the roll of a dice, they can then add this number of ‘token items’ into their ‘pot.’ Once three stars have been rewarded with ‘token items’ or points, erase the stars and begin again. An example could be they start with an empty ‘plate’ and add food items onto it throughout the class. If they can overfill the plate, there’s a class reward such as a sticker. personal star.
7 and up:
The system is essentially the same except that the students are split into 2-3 teams and we may have more than three behaviours for the students to engage in and we also highlight speaking too much Chinese as a behaviour with consequences.
Teams work together to collect three stars, which allows them a throw of the dice and collecting ‘token items.’ Once three stars have been rewarded with ‘token items’ or points, erase the stars and begin again.
Usually when a student has contributed 3 stars to their team via good contributions, they can earn a personal star. Personal stars are added as extra into our student passports which can award up to eight stars a week for punctuality, homework, and class behaviour and contributions. They can use to buy items at our front desk.
It’s important to use the dice roll to randomize the rewards, students are praised for their positive contributions but the points they can collect are random.
I’ve attached some photos of these systems in action.
Dealing with Undesired Behaviours
Let’s start by agreeing we rarely have naughty students but we may have students who engage in behaviours which result in negative contributions to class.
When it comes to hyper behaviours like disrupting the class or other students, a couple of tips:
. Use proximity praise — it works! When Billy is constantly chattering to his neighbour, stand next to Billy and draw his attention to a student who is sitting and focused and praise THAT student to Billy. ‘Billy, look at Tracy sitting and listening. Very good Tracy! Billy you can too.’
. Use a 3 strike rule in your head. When Billy has engaged in this disruptive behaviour three times I would add a sad face next to his name BUT not penalize the whole class. This is a no no especially at the 3-6 year old age range as it devalues positive contributions hereto made by the group.
. Forgive but don’t forget, if Billy has collected a sad face but then engages in the desired behaviours, show him his positive contributions far outweigh his negative ones by erasing his sad face and giving him a personal star. This will teach Billy the good things we do are more rewarding than the attention from the bad ones. That said, if Billy continues to disrupt, its important you keep track of his sad faces and work with he and his parents to lessen the number each lesson.
When it comes to older children who understand their behaviour, such as chatting to neighbours or speaking Chinese to the point it takes focus away from themselves and their neighbours, a couple of tips:
. Don’t remove points or stars — again it devalues positive contributions.
. Do give X’s to the team of the perpetrator.
. When three X’s are given to a team, allow the other team to roll the dice and earn ‘token items’ or points.
. Erase the X’s once the dice has been rolled. We start anew.
. Make it fun, students enjoy saying ‘thank you’ to the team for helping them get more items or points.
Here are a few more important areas of consideration:
Teacher Talk & Drawing Attention
Don’t speak when children aren’t listening and ready. Wait.
Establish a signal for getting the group’s attention:
1. turn off the lights
2. clap a pattern with your hands
3. Say “Freeze!” and everyone halts right where they are, like a statue. Then say “Melt!” when you are ready for them to move again.
Always have an extra activity ready for the fast finishers. If kids have nothing to do they usually start walking around, talking etc, which is something we should try to prevent from happening. The extra activity does not have to be a worksheet though. You might tell the student(s) to draw the teacher, the classroom or his favourite animal in his notebook for instance. They might also be asked to help you organize your materials before the lesson is over or clean up the classroom.
Time Left Unattended
Always focus on minimizing TIME LEFT UNATTENDED — so this means, making adjustments to increase student participation and speaking. Students often get disengaged when they are not attended or involved.
IE: during the greetings if one student states their name and favorite color while the others wait their turn, this means up to 4 minutes of time left unattended
POSSIBLE ADAPTATION: Call a student to ‘pop out to the front,’ all the kids ask, ‘What’s your name? What color do you like?’ Now all students are practicing their speaking — and listening to each other AND the students choral producing can allow you to choose who gets the next turn.
Hope this was helpful! Feel free to contact me directly for any teaching tips and support you need.
Production Manager, EF Chengdu
Mobile:+ 86 132 5815 1589