BTR-TESOL Unit 3C - Managing Classes
by Iva Crookston
This unit focuses on a crucial topic for effective teaching. Good management of the learners in your classroom is foundational for all else that you do as a teacher. If you don't establish the proper learning atmosphere or keep students on task, paying attention to what they need to do to learn, all your other teaching methods and materials may be in vain. That is why the inability to manage classes of learners is the number one reason why novices get frustrated and give up on teaching.
James, a graduate student from the USA, accepted a job as an English teacher at a high school in Brazil. Happy to teach an intermediate level of a new Business English class, James started working on the class content. Based on engaging and fun teaching methods he had experienced at college, James started creating groups in which students would work together during the semester. His curriculum was based on interactive tasks such as students preparing presentations, working on group projects and creating dialogs.
Very soon he found out that not only were the students at different proficiency levels, making it very difficult to work in groups, but they also seemed hesitant to engage in any group work. Besides that, students hardly ever participated in class, answered questions or paid attention to the lecture. Students were playing with their cell phones, texting each other and carrying on discussions during class. They seemed to show no respect towards the teacher. James was disappointed and lost, not knowing how to pursue his curriculum goals and maintain discipline that would create a good teaching-learning environment.
How would you respond to this situation?
What might be the reasons behind the students’ behavior?
If similar situations occur in your class, does it mean that you are not a good teacher?
As you work through this unit you will:
As you work with English learners from different parts of the world you will most likely experience some of the class management challenges James from our scenario experienced such as:
No matter how difficult and impossible it seems to be to resolve those situations, there are ways to succeed. Let’s walk through these challenges together and see that you can do it! The following ideas won’t be necessarily based on the scenario, because unlike James you don’t have to experience all these challenges at one time. Therefore, we will address them separately.
Take time to get to know the culture, the new education system and the school or organization you will be teaching for. Some countries or institutions can even be hesitant letting you use new or different teaching methods so make sure that your boss will be comfortable with it. If possible, start preparing before you go abroad, so you have enough time to become familiar with the new system. It will help you to plan your lessons and prepare materials to take with.
If you will be introducing new teaching methods and activities, be patient with your students because it will take time for them to get use to the new approach and find confidence in it. A clear explanation as well as demonstration will save you time and help prevent confusion. Moreover, new activities should also be introduced by clearly stating the benefits so students become motivated.
Some methods often used in the U.S.A. but not in other countries are: group work, collaboration, giving presentations, stating their opinions, taking a stand, arguing, creating conversation or using computers to explore, read and get exposure to the language.
How to approach cultural differences
There are many cultural differences within one country, school, even a family, and culture is indeed an inseparable part of people’s lives. Be aware that culture affects the language and language effects the culture which means that culture is also part of language. You as teachers have to take that into an account, work with it and be aware that culture will affect your student’s behavior and the way they study and how much they understand certain subjects.
As teachers you need to know your students, what they like to do, what they usually do when they are not in school, what their motivation is for learning English and what their plans and chances are to use the language outside of classroom. All these aspects will shape what you teach and how you teach it.
Here are some other cultural differences you should also be aware of:
Because in many cases your culture is going to be very different from the one you will be teaching in, it would be smart to let students teach you about their culture and you can teach them about yours. Students will come to understand who you are and get comfortable around and with you. They might also be more open to new ways of teaching or to new subjects. Your students will most likely be interacting with native speakers at some point and be exposed to the American culture. It will be very beneficial for them to see culture as part of the language and how helpful it is for language acquisition.
One of the most common problems in language teaching is students with different proficiency levels. Very often you might be teaching not only people with different proficiency but also large classes where it is difficult to give students personal attention.
Assuming that you have students at different proficiency levels, you might want to:
In many places outside of the United States, students are still encouraged to work separately rather than in groups. When sharing and collaborating, they might feel that they lose time that could be spent on individual study. If you think that group work would be beneficial for them, you might want to:
There are many reasons why students do not pay attention to a teacher’s lecture. Teachers should perform some kind of analysis, either self analysis or ask for student feedback to find out what the reasons are so they can be fixed. Some of the very common reasons are:
Ways to get the entire class’ attention:
Remember our scenario and the previous example? Maybe the fact that students do not participate in class is a culture thing; maybe it has something to do with the time the class is offered or maybe they don’t understand the instructions. Here are some techniques that encourage interaction in the classroom:
Another common example that you might experience in your classroom is that after presenting a task to students, some of them won’t be working on it. Here are some things you might want to try:
On the other hand, it is important to mention that there will be students in your classes who will try to dominate discussions and not allow others to take turns. Remember that as a teacher you can regulate discussion by calling on people or selecting proper activities where each student has to be involved.
Negative and disrespectful behavior is something that every teacher will experience to some degree. A golden rule for every class is to establish rules. Make sure that students are familiar with them from the very beginning and they understand them. However, if the rules are not enforced, you might end up with the same problems you try to avoid. It is also very helpful to establish and maintain some kind of procedure or routine that students are familiar with so they know what to expect and what the consequences for poor behavior are. Based on that, here are some ideas that teacher might use:
The teaching profession, because it is based on personal interaction with students, can become a very sensitive subject that might determine whether we and our students succeed or not. Our goal is to help build a sense of community and become responsible teachers by providing positive feedback and encouragement. However, if necessary teachers need to be able to choose less favorable solutions such as:
Classroom management in these cases requires certain skills as well as self-confidence and preparation on the teacher’s side. We hope these ideas will help you to feel more confident in classrooms and come up with activities that will be beneficial to the whole class based on their proficiency level and culture.
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For more information about culture, please see the following units:
For more information about how to approach students on different proficiency levels:
Additional related units:
Go to http://www.theteachersguide.com/ClassManagement.htm. This website contains a lot of useful strategies applied in real life situations; also contains additional links to different classroom management related websites.
8 Steps to Classroom Management Success – A Guide for Teachers of Challenging Students by George Kapalka - Includes a step-by-step plan that helps to improve students’ behavior. The techniques give simple instructions, using appropriate warnings, handling tantrums, creating behavioral contracts, and managing transitions, preventing disruptions, improving behavior outside the classroom, developing effective homework routines. - Paperback: ISBN 9781412968782; $30.95 - Hardcover: ISBN 9781412968775; $66.95 - Publisher: Corwin Press
100 classroom scenarios, techniques and activities to enhance classroom management in your class, 38 strategies to document academic and behavioral interventions, you will learn about new research in this field and you will be provided with assistance with students who requires special attention. - Paperback: ISBN 9781412937016, $40.95 - Hardcover: ISBN 9781412937009, $85.95 - Publisher: Corwin Press
Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tale - The main idea of this book is “Stop shouting and start teaching!” - you will learn how: good planning helps to prevent classroom management related issues and enhance academic success of your students - to create an effective physical environment, develop a proactive classroom management plan, lessons and how to deal with different behavior problems. - to create your own management strategies - Paperback: ISBN 781412927802, $30.95 - Publisher: Corwin Press