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Classroom Management

Having trouble controlling and motivating your class? Why not check out this great guide on classroom management and get those small children under control.

When I got my first job teaching English, I attended a training session where the trainer got up the front, and told us all that if we were exciting and interesting the children would naturally do whatever we wanted in class. After working as an English teacher for four years I can now say that IT’S LIES, IT’S ALL LIES!!!

Knowing nothing about teaching at the time I went into my first class of first graders (alone) and attempted to be as happy, interesting, and funny as possible, and it was a complete disaster. They ignored me completely, walked around the class, and it all spiralled down hill until one child was dancing on the table because he had worked out that no matter what he did I wasn’t going to punish him.

Unless you have a co-teacher whose job it is to make them be quiet and behave you will need to enforce classroom management. There is of course the rare awesome class who will do everything you say, but for most classes you will need to start classroom management from the moment you walk through the door. Here is quick and handy guide for how to make the children behave and prevent you from having a mental breakdown in class.

Establish punishments and rewards

Also known as the carrot and the stick. You can’t have one without the other. Try and remain positive and talk up the rewards more than the punishments. Even if it’s only a Disney sticker pretend to look like it’s a fantastic must have item. You can check out my great guide about using stickers in the classroom here.

Great rewards
Points that may go towards a prize once they get enough.
Candy, but don’t give it to them until the end of the lesson.
Coins from your own country, but keep it to one or five cent pieces.

Great punishments
No reward like a sticker
A set time out.
Send them outside the classroom until they apologize
Double homework
A minute of detention for every time they misbehave in class

Avoid giant dramatic punishments. There’s no point sending them into tears and traumatizing them for life if all they needed was a quick time out to convince them to misbehave in your class. Start off with small punishments and work your way up if they aren’t having any effect. If, no matter what you do works, try consulting other teachers or their parents to see if there are other personal problems with the child, and see if there were any successful strategies used in the past.

Don’t make punishments that you are not 100% willing to go through with.

Don’t tell them that you are going to call their parents if you are not going to do it. Talking into a phone and faking that you are calling their parents probably isn’t going to work either if they are above four years old and their parents aren’t going along with it.

Explain the classroom rules at the start of the lesson.

Sometimes this means every lesson, for two years. The children may only come to English once a week, so they may quickly forget the rules. It might seem a little bothersome to have to explain the same rules every single week, but it will pay off in the long run.

You need to make sure that they understand these rules 100% as well. If their English isn’t good enough to understand get a staff member to explain it to them in their native language, or make a poster of all the rules to hang in the classroom. The great thing about making a poster is that you can just point to it every time they misbehave. That way the children can’t pretend that they don’t know what you’re talking about. If the children follow all your rules in class give them a reward, and punish them if they break them.

The best thing about having a poster or well established rules, rewards and punishments is that you don’t even need to get angry. The children already know what is coming. If you dish out punishments in the middle of class without any warning the children may begin to dislike and resent you, but the great part about well established rules and punishments is that the children will begin to blame themselves for misbehaving rather than you for punishing them.

Avoid making too many rules

If you have over five or ten rules it might make it harder for the children to remember them all. Three to five is usually enough. My advice is to pick the top three things they do that drive you crazy and just stick with that.

Warn them once or twice before punishing them.

If you are a nice teacher, you should probably warn them once or twice before you remove them from the room, or take away a sticker. Usually that’s enough to make them stop. Avoid warning them too many times because they will stop believing that you will punish them and continue to misbehave.

A lot of kids don’t like being told off in front of the class, so take them aside if possible and remind them of the rules, and what they need to do in order to get the reward. This works a lot better than yelling it at them across a crowded classroom.

If the child continues to misbehave, and you are going to only take away a reward, avoid telling them until the end of class. If they know they aren’t going to get the sticker halfway during the class they may give up and become worse. Wait until you are handing out the stickers and explain that “Today you broke this rule, so I will not give you a sticker (or reward), but if you do….. and…. next lesson I will give you one” Hopefully the child may sulk or cry a little, but then try harder in the following lesson. Children also seem to forget quite quickly, so it might be worth reminding the child at the start of the next lesson again.

Don’t give in!

Just because a child cries because they didn’t get the sticker (even if the parents or other teachers are watching), there’s no point having a punishment if you’re just going to back out of it. The child will quickly learn that they can manipulate you through crying and you will lose your authority over the class. Calmly explain to the child that you will reward them next lesson if they do as you say and that’s the only way that they can get the reward.

Avoid getting angry if possible

The biggest problem with exploding at the kids is that you will have to do it every time. If you spend every week forcing yourself to be angry and yelling at the children, they will just come to dislike you, and you yourself may not enjoy your job at all.

The great thing about small kids is that they can’t actually tell when you are angry or just pretending to be angry, so a well practiced angry face is usually enough to frighten them.

Whatever you do, don’t hit the kids.

No matter how crazy they are or how angry you get, you must control yourself. There are times where you might have to physically remove a child from the classroom, but try not to physically harm them in any way. Even lightly whacking a child with a book could come back to haunt you and you could end up losing your job.

If you are too hard on the kids, they will also just take their stress out on their classmates and you could end up with a classroom full of kids who yell and fight with each other.

Final notes

Unfortunately, there is always the odd kid who can never be broken and will continue to run ramped. I suggest trying different strategies until you find one which makes them slightly more tolerable in the classroom and try to stick with that. It might also be good to consult your boss or fellow teachers and see if they have any successful strategies.
Other Great Sites for Advice on Classroom and Behaviour Management

Do you have any great classroom management stratergies? Feel free to comment below

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