here to submit your favorite
classroom management technique.
Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience.
Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise,
because of impatience we cannot return.
--W. H. Auden
- Allow sufficient time for students to make
a smooth transition from one activity to the next, especially if directives
are given in English.
Young children in particular need more time than adults to make a mental
transition between processes, and mental transition is a prerequisite to
successful physical transition. In the long run, you'll probably save time
by taking an additional fifteen to thirty seconds to move students from one
activity to the next instead of rushing students to a new project, only to
spend several minutes trying to get everyone's attention and cooperation.
Routine can be key to smooth transitions. I keep a small cassette player
nearby and begin fading up classical music during the last ten seconds or
so of an activity. [Music with words can be distracting....] When music reaches
a comfortable hearing level, students know to stop whatever they are doing
and wait for new instructions. After I have the attention of all students,
I fade the music down and give the next set of instructions. Usually, this
leads to the immediate cooperation of all students. (Another teacher slowly
dims lights, waits for students' attention, gives instructions, increases
lighting, and continues.)
- Give students adequate time to answer specific
Get into the habit of silently counting at least to ten before giving up
on one student and asking the next. Remember, beginning students especially
will have to mentally translate the question into their native language,
formulate a response, then mentally translate the response back into English.
This takes TIME! And even beginning students need to feel like they can
communicate with some success. After all, if they can't process thoughts
and communicate in class where they are supposed to be free to learn, where
will they be able to practice English communication skills and develop the
confidence necessary to function successfully in an English-speaking
- Allow most students enough time to become
comfortable with one aspect of language before introducing another.
Some schools seem to play a numbers game. They boast that students learn
500 or even 1,000 words a month. But rote memory serves no purpose if students
cannot utilize the new vocabulary in a real-life situation. All too often,
students will memorize words like history facts, then promptly forget them
after the test. Try reserving one class per week for review. If more than
15-20% of students cannot remember information taught three to four weeks
before, then you should probably slow down and allow more time for practicing
each new language skill. On the other hand, if more than 15-20% of students
begin to demonstrate boredom with a particular language skill, then you can
probably increase the pace at which you are teaching.
- Utilize the method of cycling.
Preview new material through songs, stories, crafts, games, videos, or casual
conversation. The preview grants students some familiarity with the new
vocabulary or syntax so that they may connect it with previously learned
material when you actually teach it. (Some students will acquire the new
language through the preview alone, and these students can later help you
explain the new material to students who are struggling.)
Teach material, using verbal, visual, and sensory approaches. For example
you might teach the color blue by showing students various shades of blue,
asking students to name objects that are blue, then calling on students to
touch a piece of clothing that is blue or to color with a blue crayon.
Finally, review the material on a regular basis. Provide an extensive review
immediately after the lesson is taught, using open conversation, action games,
songs, chants, and more. Provide a brief review at the beginning of the next
class period. Review at least once per week for the next month, then once
per month thereafter. (Regular review gives the "stragglers" additional
opportunities to learn and keeps other students from losing the skill
- Allow patience to serve as one of your most
effective tools in combatting undesirable behavior.
One of the teacher's greatest advantages should be maturity, the ability
to behave in a more responsible manner than the children in his or her care.
All too often, however, inexperienced or untrained teachers react "in fashion"
to students' inappropriate behavior. The class makes too much noise, so the
teacher yells. A preschooler throws a tantrum, and the teacher jumps into
the fray. An elementary student makes a rude comment to the teacher or a
fellow-student, so the teacher verbally attacks the student. But responses
such as these are counter-productive, reducing the teacher to the same level
as the student and stripping him or her of all control. By responding in
patience, however, the teacher establishes his or her authority in
non-threatening manner. Some suggestions include the following:
- Respond to minor disruptions with
Simply stop talking and silently wait for students to grow quiet.
If questioned, tell students, "Class is not a contest. I will not compete
with you." If it is possible to extend class for five minutes or so, the
teacher may add any time he or she has stopped because of a disruption to
the end of class. This is especially effective, causing students to become
"jealous" of class time as well. After the teacher uses this method two or
three times, most students will fall silent immediately if the teacher stops
talking. A variation (if students must leave by a set time) is to routinely
dismiss class one to two minutes early, but to revoke this privilege on any
day when the class must stop more than once.
- Respond to increased classroom noise
by speaking softly.
Speak just loudly enough to be heard by the student furthest
from you if the class were completely silent. Students will begin to quieten
down as they try to hear what you are saying. You may tell students, "If
you cannot hear me speak, then you are too noisy." I have on occasion quietly
said, "If you want an M & M, raise your left hand." This rewards the
students who are paying attention, while creating a small but appropriate
penalty for those who aren't listening (generally the noise makers).
- Respond to tantrums by doing
Tantrums are primarily a means of gaining attention, and the
tantrum-thrower generally doesn't care whether attention is positive or negative.
If a child wants to throw himself or herself on the ground kicking and screaming,
simply ignore him or her as long as he or she is not in danger of self-inflicted
injury. Quickly move other students and any assistant teachers away from
the area, so that the disruptive child is the object of no one's attention.
Try to engage other students in a fun activity like a quick review games,
a favorite song, a story, or even play time. As soon as the tantrum thrower
realizes he or she is not receiving the desired attention, he or she will
stop and quietly join the other students. AFTER the tantrum-thrower returns
to the group and engages in the assigned activity, offer a moment or two
of positive attention. (Make sure that other students also receive the same
attention so they don't perceive the attention as a "reward" for
If a student is in danger of self-inflicted injury (i.e. banging head against
a concrete wall, hitting a hard object), quickly move the child away from
object(s) on which he or she could be injured. Place the child in a safe
area, and leave him or her alone until the tantrum ends. If necessary, you
may direct other students to a learning activity or video, then gently but
firmly hold the child's hands so that he or she cannot injure himself or
another students. (Avoid holding the child on your lap or offering any other
affirming action.) If physical contact, with its accompanying attention is
necessary, the tantrum will probably last longer than it might otherwise,
but the teacher must quietly hold his or her ground. (After all, the teacher
should be able to outwait a three or four year old!)
- Respond to inappropriate language
or unkind remarks by politely asking the student to say five positive things
about the person or thing he or she is verbally abusing.
This response forces the student to view the person or
thing at which he or she is frustrated from a new perspective. It also
boosts the esteem of any child who has just been insulted. Occasionally
a student will simply refuse to cooperate. At these times, you may call on
other class members to tell what they like about the person or student being
attacked. This not only provides the other students with an excellent
conversation exercise, but also makes the uncooperative student suddenly
feel very alone in his or her negative sentiments. Although the student may
"save face" by not altering his or her original position, he or she will
think twice before making similar comments in the
- Purpose in advance not to yell at,
insult, or hit a student for any reason and plan mature responses to potential
As basic as this may seem, too many teachers resort to the above tactics
without thinking. Even teachers who have previously said, "I would never
hit a child," sometimes react in an immature (and even abusive) manner when
a situation catches them off guard, especially when the teacher is teaching
in a culture that espouses shame and corporal punishment as effective means
of maintaining discipline. Teachers should establish from the beginning at
least two class rules: "In this class, no one speaks unkindly to anyone"
and "In this class, no one hits anyone." They should then apply them to
themselves before applying them to their students. The teacher
should serve as model, demonstrating through his or her own behavior within
the classroom appropriate interpersonal skills. (Even students who cannot
understand a teacher's words can comprehend the teacher's
- Give at least one warning before disciplining
for most infractions.
Young children tend to have short memories, and may disobey simply because
they forgot the direction. Often a simple reminder like, "Chang-min, in English
class we speak only English" or "Joo-ha, if you play with your eraser, I
will have to take it away" bring an end to the problem. (The exception
to this in my classroom is physical aggression toward another student. Hitting,
kicking, biting, and so forth lead to an immediate time out. Students already
actively involved in an emotionally charged situation generally will not
listen until they've had time to calm down.)
- Remember that learning is a process.
It simply takes time. Learning is also an individual process. Some students
will take more time to learn than others. Don't get impatient (or at least
don't let it show) when a particular student seems to making little or no
progress. Remember that every child has different gifts, and all do not have
a special aptitude for foreign languages. Making a child feel stupid or incapable
of learning will certainly not improve his or her performance in your class
and may significantly hamper his or her progress in other areas. Also keep
in mind that you will never know just how much a student is really learning.
During my first year of teacher, one young boy made no visible progress for six months. The other students had all learned basic actions and objects, simple sentence structures, common questions and answers, the alphabet, and beginning reading skills, but Dae-won still responded to "What is your name?" with a blank stare. I arranged for remedial tutoring after his first month, but this led to no visible progress. At the end of his second month, his mother was encouraged to have him tested for hearing loss. Half way through the fourth month, I arranged a special meeting with the mother and explained that the boy was simply making no progress and his continued attendance was a waste of time. I suggested that she remove him from the class, allow him a couple more years to develop his native language abilities, then try again. She insisted that he wanted to be in class and left him in. Toward the end of his sixth month, he nonchalantly called out "Good-bye teacher! Have a good day!" as he left class. From that point one, he communicated as well as several other students. I still don't know what brought about the sudden change, but I was glad his mother had more insight into his development than I did!