As a teacher it is inevitable you will have classes you are going to LOVE walking into and those you completely DREAD. As a new teacher you have the added pressure of having very little idea of what you are walking into at all.
It could be a dream or a bomb site, and it is often the latter.
When teaching English as a second language, you have the added challenge of actually being able to communicate with your students. Trust me, grilling a Vietnamese kid in English is not going to get you anywhere. You’re just digging yourself a hole that you may as well jump in to hide.
In my first two months of teaching I have already picked up some very effective, and sometimes very odd methods for managing my class. They are by no means effective all the time, but I have found they really do help.
If you’re reading this because you have no idea how to stop your kindergarten kids screaming at the top of their lungs and putting your hearing in serious danger, then I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. But if you do, please get in touch!
Problems and Techniques to Help
Remembering 100 Names
When I walked into my first class, I was introduced to Harry, Henry, Elsa 1, Elsa 2, Ben, Tom, Mina, Mila and a few others. Names that to be honest sound extremely similar to me. I was baffled.
The kids knew it too. They used it against me. This was my worst ever lesson and one that I have buried deep in my brain so hopefully one day I’ll forget it.
When you’re class arrive, be sure to write all of their names on the board in the order they are sat. When you can’t differentiate Mina from Mila, all you have to do is refer to the board. Simple!
If you have a really difficult class, you could also implement a seating plan. Draw up a template of your classroom and write names where you want your students to sit. This way you can choose your students seat in the class and whom they sit next to. Again, refer to the plan when you’ve drawn a name blank.
If I’d known this simple trick, I’m sure this lesson may have been at least 1.6% better than it was.
In adult life we are driven by different goals. It’s a well known fact that statistically any individual will work harder if they know they are working to achieve something. Whatever that something is.
It’s the same for kids! Only switch that quarterly bonus for a 10p pack of crayons from the supermarket.
One of the most commonly used techniques for rewarding students in the classroom is the star system. The effects of this system can be phenomenal when used correctly.
At the start of the lesson show the kids what they are working towards. Make sure they know what they have the opportunity to get.
Reward your students with stars for good behaviour and participation. Try to be as fair as possible or trust me, your students will take it to heart.
Likewise, remove stars for bad behaviour. Taking away kids stars can seriously make them think twice. Sometimes they behave like you’ve just run over their pet dog.
Law of the Classroom
In everyday life we follow rules that prevent us from breaking the law. We are all aware of the consequences we may face if we do so. Why should it be any different in the classroom?
It’s difficult to discipline a child if they’re genuinely unaware they are doing anything wrong. To be honest, it’s completely unfair to. This is why this next technique is vital.
At the start of every lesson be sure to remind your kids of your classroom rules. Have them on display for all to see and for you to refer back to if they are being broken.
It’s a good idea to act these rules out so the kids are fully aware of them. Give each rule an action and get your class to repeat them with you. You can try and make this as fun as possible. The more fun the better even!
It’s the first part of your lesson, an opportunity to get your class in high spirits.
Break It Up
Realistically how long can a person sit and listen to someone at the front of a room talk for? 10 minutes? 20 minutes? I find myself loosing concentration and nodding off at around 20 minutes.
Your students are no exception. Our brains are not built to concentrate on one thing for long periods of time. They crave activity after about 20 minutes max.
The Vietnamese are big supporters of a nap, which you’ll notice if you teach in Vietnam. I’ve had kids completed spark out before and I don’t have the heart to wake them. I feel their pain.
Our lessons are made up of two 45 minute blocks with a 5 minute break in between. Trust me, an 8 year old cannot focus on one thing for a whole 45 minutes.
Implement a brain break every 15-20 minutes. I’ve tried a few things with my classes and I’ve found it improves the lesson as a whole.
Games: a quick game with some competitiveness can bring your kids back to life.
Yoga: get your kids up and out of their chairs doing some yoga poses (also great for calming a class down).
Teacher Says: like yoga, get your kids to copy your actions. For example, stand up, hands on your heads, sit down, touch your toes, star jump…
Singing: put on a song with actions that will get them out of their chairs and singing.
If you have a naughty class, often you’ll find there is an instigator amongst them. I didn’t really realise this until very recently when the instigator in one of my classes left.
I had this one particular class that were consistently difficult and a real challenge to teach. I’d gotten to a point where I’d just accepted that this is how they were and there wasn’t much I could do about it.
Then it happened, this one particular kid was moved to a different class and all of a sudden they were an absolute dream to teach! This kid had just blended in amongst the chaos and I hadn’t singled him out at all.
Isolate the Instigator
Monitor your kids closely and do your best to identify the kid that consistently acts up. Once you have, react immediately. Nine times out of ten your kids have already identified the instigator themselves and are just waiting for their signal to start being naughty.
Try separating this individual from the kids who are easily led, sit them with a student you know pays attention. If they continue to misbehave, try isolating them completely by giving them their own table at the front.
If none of your previous attempts work, give them 3 chances and then remove them from the class.
No kid wants to be removed, no matter how naughty they are. If they refuse to leave, don’t continue teaching until they do. Just sit in silence and watch.
This may seem harsh, but sometimes you have to be this harsh. It’s that I do, but it’s sometimes needed.
Mum’s the Word
In Asia, parents are often very strict. No kid seems to want to be in trouble with his or her parents.
Any mention of contacting mum and dad can often calm a student. At our centre, if a kid has been removed from class their parents are called to collect them. I wouldn’t want to be that kid when their parents have to collect them early from a lesson they have paid a lot of money for.
Bring in the Parents
When you’ve got a kid who persistently will not listen and is a distraction to others, threaten to call their parents. Do it in class in front of the other students so they are aware of the consequences.
Again, this isn’t something I have to do often. Once you’ve established your position in the classroom, you’ll find yourself doing this less and less. It’s more so your kids are aware of the lengths you’ll go to if needed.
Which brings me nicely onto my final point.
Be a Friend/Teacher
This method isn’t for everyone and some teachers prefer to just be just that, a teacher. If you want to be a teacher and one that your kids respect, it’s easily done. It’s just not me.
Rapport is vital in the classroom, whatever that rapport might be built on.
Do your best to know your students. Learn their names and what they do outside of the classroom. What hobbies do they have? What their families are like?
Open up too! Often they are fascinated about you and where you’re from. I regularly hear, “Wow, what’s London like?”
You can mess around with them. Joke with them. Be an idiot. Be a clown. Bully them (in a friendly way). Wrestle with them (admittedly something you’d loose your job for back home).
Generally, be a friend. The kids I have the best rapport with don’t want to let me down. They want to impress and it’s the most heartwarming thing in the world.