Thought I'd write on a topic very close to my heart. It's all about classroom management. Now I know how most people feel when they see that word 'management' it's laden with responsibilities and memories of authority figures. So let's think of 'Classroom Management' as Classroom Mastery for a bit. ^_^
Why Classroom Mastery?
Because I want you to feel confident and in control like a real master. Classroom 'Mastery' has become an increasingly important issue and probably will continue to do so in coming years. A few reasons for this could be:
-Students expect more from experiences thanks to modern technology and connectivity
-Teachers are unsure of what they can do to control students as more regulations on discipline practices come in
-Through popular culture students feel it's cool and asserting to stand up to authority figures (sometimes just 'testing the water' to see what they can get away with)
-Parents spend increasingly less time with children especially in the growing middle class. This means it's up to the teacher to instill values and discipline
The reasons why students are increasingly behaving badly are probably much more than that but whatever the reason I want you to add the following tricks to your toolbox, some of you probably already have but hopefully I can give you something new today that will help you teach better and change the lives of your students. Amin.
Tip #1 Badly behaved students are sometimes just bored
The most basic tip and what you've probably already realised in your own classes is that students play up when they have nothing to do. There is a famous saying 'idle hands are the devils playground' so the trick is to keep those hands busy in good works. Sometimes though even though the hands are busy, the mind is unchallenged. We are sometimes unaware that our most disruptive students are the most intelligent. You may be interested to know that one teacher of Albert Einstien's called him a "foolish dreamer" and asked him to drop out of his class. He did eventually quit school before finishing High School because he found it utterly boring and obviously due to that didn't receive much stimulation or support from teachers. How many Albert Einstiens may we have in our classes at the moment without even realising it? It shocks me to think about it which is why we should never judge a book by it's cover. 'As long as you have a pulse, you have a purpose' and it's up to you, the teacher to help your student find their purpose and explore the best way for them to learn and where their talents lie.
So tip number one is make sure all students are stimulated in learning. The basic form of this is keeping those idle hands busy and the icing on the cake is to make sure those 'challenging students' aren't overlooked as 'dreamy' or 'disruptive' but as 'innovators' and as 'challengers to the status quo'.
Tip #2 Engaged and Inspired People don't work for money but work with blood sweat and tears
If you can inspire your students to learn and engage them in something they really want to immerse themselves in, then why on earth would they misbehave? Some of you may be thinking 'yeah right Hugh, easier said than done' but seriously, an EFL teacher has so many weapons in their arsenal. If Mathematics teachers and other 'Subject' teachers said 'easier said than done' I would have to whole heartily agree with them, but not you! As an EFL teacher all you need to do is "Build language awareness in context" What that context is, is up to you! You don't have to stick to the book if it bores the hell out of your students. Think outside the box and work outside the book!
Tip #3 Motivating students may require rewards
Although this is a controversial subject rewards don't have to involve something material.Sometimes the motivation could be just be some free time, a movie class, a class party (where students bring their own healthy foods) or maybe just scores on the board. You can also use material rewards as long as you don't go overboard (maybe small useful things to them like stationary etc.). Some studies have shown that this 'earning' system creates strong psychological connections of effort with joy. This is essentially a good thing as when you remove the reward the student is often still excited to make an effort as it has become a habit, in life we are generally rewarded for our efforts. The object of rewards in the classroom is to simulate this. Of course it should eventually be made clear that some times it is the process of doing our best that is in fact the best reward.
Tip #4 Making a flexible and energetic classroom makes for a high fun factor
For younger children you probably want to focus more on focusing their energy levels rather than maintaining it. As students get older though they sometimes suffer from either low energy or anxiety. Having a high energy, flexible, fun and non-threatening lesson helps break down barriers to learning and maintains discipline.
There are a few techniques that can be used to maintain a high energy atmosphere. For children and teens power teaching is defiantly a great method, I usually have a few links to power teaching videos at the bottom of my screen. You can learn all about this way of teaching completely for free through their youtube videos and their website http://www.wholebrainteaching.com. And a method for older learners is through a regular change of activities so that they don't drift off. A good example of this is a Suggestopedic lesson where no activity is carried out until it's end, thus apparently leaving the receptors in the brain open and raring to go. See How to become a Suggestopedic teacher.
Tip #5 Failing to warm-up can lead to a cold lesson
Warming-up serves many purposes and to miss it would be a grave mistake. It gets the students ready mentally, physically and linguistically for the lesson ahead. Also by getting our students moving at the very start of the lesson it engages them, generates energy and enthuses your students, no matter who you are teaching.
Tip #6 Build rapport with your students
Developing rapport with your students can not be stressed enough here. It is absolutely essential without a doubt. How many times have you heard somebody say "I didn't like maths in school" or "I didn't like English in school" and the reason they give for this is "my teacher was cruel to me" or "I didn't like my teacher"? Developing rapport with students makes you approachable, worth listening to and worth respecting. Never forget, your students are your real clients, not the principal, not the management and not the parents. Your students success is the thing that is going to lift you to great heights so your focus should first and foremost be building rapport with them. Make sure they feel comfortable with you, know that you care for them on an individual basis and feel that you're there to support them in excelling their own expectations.
Never forget that you are the master of your domain. Spread happiness, values, discipline and friendship amongst your students and you'll very rarely have any regrets when you look back on your career.
Tip #7 Positive correcting techniques sets up an environment of exploration and bravery
Students should be brave, they should be brave to try and brave to fail because these two things are bound to happen. Of course as teachers we always want to set our students up for success, but it is sometimes only through failure that we can learn, persevere and finally succeed. For some it takes longer than others, but some of the late learners end up being the bravest and the strongest because although the quick students learned quicker the slower students would have had to of persevered for longer. A famous boxer once said "it's not about how many times you get knocked down, it's about how many times you get back up again". In business school nowadays students are taught to fail, that really surprises a lot of people "Why on earth would they teach them to fail?" they ask. Well now it is common knowledge in the business world that failure is inevitable. All business graduates now know the term 'Fail fast and forward' it means get out there and fail. If you've never failed, you've never tried hard enough, you've never tested your limitations and you probably haven't learned much in the process. So get your students to fail fast and forward and congratulate them for doing so, because to succeed in learning a language they will need more bravery than brains, more perseverance than proper pronunciation and more failure than flukes (getting lucky in getting things right the first time). That's how we learn a second language so always encourage them, give them time to work through the process and support them through positive correction techniques.
An example of a positive correction technique is 'echo correction' it is where you don't so much say "you're wrong" but you repeat the sentence they've gotten wrong back to them in the correct form.
Tip #8 Sometimes students need a good talking to or some time to think
Sometimes no matter how fun, high energy, stimulating, challenging, accepting, flexible and comfortable your classes are, you're still going to get one or two problem students. They are sometimes more concerned with outside forces than they are in learning from your lessons. Here the most powerful form of discipline is first setting clear expectations of all of your students, some students play up because they think that your lessons are so flexible and fun that there are no longer any rules. So whenever you get a new class for the first time, make sure you set down the ground rules. It's better start of a little hard and later get softer than start of soft and fun then get hard and stern (this lets the students down, makes the expectations of you unclear and makes them think you've taken a turn for the worse).
The next most powerful thing in discipline is counseling. If the rules are already clear, make sure you take the time to counsel your students. This sometime means talking to them but usually means doing a lot of listening. One technique is to sit together and get the student to establish the problem, if they are finding it hard help them, then get them to think of possible solutions, it doesn't matter how silly or how absurd the solutions are, get them to think of as many as thy can. Then get them to pick the best out of all of them and make a commitment to apply them. You will find that when you get the student involved in the solution, it will be more likely to take effect. That being said, you must be patient, to sit with a student and counsel them maybe several times before they come good. Showing them that you are committed to them and will take the time for them is also an important part of the process.
Tip #9 There is nothing wrong with a little Student-Teacher feedback
Ask your students whether they enjoyed the lesson and why. Maybe even make a questionnaire for your students to fill in every second month. You may think this is strange to ask for feedback from students but if you don't do it they will give feedback one way or another, the only problem with that is that you'll know about it when it's too late. Often parents ask their children "How was your day, do you like your teacher?" and lots of school management now give questionnaires to students to evaluate their teachers. So in the case of feedback it really is "first in best served" if you show your students you care about their opinion they will be more likely to give it to you before anybody else. They will also usually be more respectful of you when finally asked by somebody else. Because you made the effort to care about if they enjoyed learning with you or not. Remember 'Feedback is the breakfast of champions!'. Sometime the best way to know if you students really are thrilled with you classes, is simply just to ask!
Okay guys well I hope you've gotten something useful out of these tips and remember if you enjoyed reading share it on facebook, recommend it on Google or tweet it! That way we can change more lives through shining, sharing and succeeding! ^_^