ESL Teacher Class Management Tips

Class management for ESL teachers is a critical part of maintaining a positive class culture. Teachers may have an  organized curriculum and motivated students; however, if the teacher can’t manage the class well, student learning may suffer. It doesn’t matter if the students are primary age or high school, find a class management strategy for your classes are critical and can help your success as a teacher.

Here are a few tips to remember and work on if you are having classroom management issues:

1) ESL Class Management : Develop a routine.

With many ESL classes, especially low level ones, it is difficult to orally explain clearly what you want to do daily. Having a routine that you run daily helps the teacher to advance organize the students’ thoughts. If they know the beginning of class will be song time, they will be ready for it and engaged. If they know writing time is the end of class, no student will be confused on what to do.

In addition, the teacher will be not worry if the students are unaware what to do. The teacher will be prepared and can go through the lesson thoroughly.

When teaching a new class, get your routines down and stick with them. When everyone is clear on how activities are run, class will run smoothly.

Here are some activities for teaching reading.

Class management tips for ESL and TEFL teachers.
Be confident and know your standards.

2) ESL Class Management: Be Confident

Confidence comes from within the teacher. If a teacher is timid and not sure of him/herself in front of the class, the students will recognize and feed off that uncertain energy.

I always tell new teachers that they are like a captain of a ship or a general in an army. The teachers must lead and the students must follow. Teachers need to present a strong disposition when in charge of a class. How can you do this?

Be prepared: Prep your lessons down to the minute. Know exactly how long you will spend on certain activities. Also, have a goal for each lesson and if there is a kind of game of fun activity planned, run it like you planned it.

When teachers are unsure about what to do and are fumbling around for books, or hemming and hawing, they will lose the focus of the class. Keep things moving along and keep to your script. The more you do this, the easier it will be to be flexible and vary your activities down the line. Also, keep your lessons interesting and fun. Bored students tend to get unruly.

Develop a Routine: As I mentioned above, routines take the uncertainty of the teacher and students out of the equation. Once a routine is established, the teacher will appear more confident.

Make eye contact: It’s amazing what eye contact will do. When teachers keep their heads down and avoid eye contact with the class, students will sense a lack of presence. When teachers need to get their point across or may be disciplining a student, direct eye contact to that student or the class lets students know you are serious. It also displays confidence.

3) Explain your class rules and expectations clearly.

If you are a new teacher in a new class, or you are taking on a class of new ESL learners, it is important to lay out a set of rules for the students.

Some of these rules can be very basic: Raise your hand if you want to speak. Stay in your chair. No drinking in class. Speak only English. Etc.

Not only does this set a tone that the teacher is in charge, but it is also gives the teacher confidence that the classroom belongs to him/her.

Have a list of rules posted in the classroom. Go over them daily when class begins. If students are at a basic English level, use pictures along with the text.

4) Use a strong and confident voice

The voice of a teacher is important. The natural reaction to control a class is for the teacher to speak loudly in a semi-shouting voice. This is actually a misguided approach as it creates tension and stress for not only the class but also the teacher. In addition, do this too often, and a teacher can lose his/her voice.

Instead, try and use a voice that is firm, yet natural. Also, use a different voice tone for every situation. Take out your books: Natural yet loud enough for all to hear.  If you are discussing a story, speak naturally and conversationally, yet be loud enough for all to hear.

If you find yourself shouting and screaming in the class to gain control, there may be other issues at stake that are causing you to react in this manner.

5) Settle down a class: Clap, Countdown, or Wait…..1,2,3 Look at Me.

Noisy class? Too much talking and you’re ready to go? Teachers should have a signal to let students know you need quiet and they should be focusing and you are ready to work…a few ideas are…

1) Clapping: I do a few loud claps. This always lets my class know it’s time to stop chatting and settle down.

2) The Countdown: A slow and loud, “5,4,3,2,1…” and the class should be quiet and ready. Sometimes if you get to 1 and someone is not ready, you can give a small penalty like erasing a star or staying a few minutes in class during break time. Another common attention method is saying “1,2, 3” Look at me… and teaching the students to respond “1,2,3 Look at you.”

3) Standing with your hand up: Sometimes you don’t even need to say anything to get your class to quiet down. Some teachers can just stand in front of a talking class and raise his/her hand while scanning the class and making eye contact with everyone. This requires confidence and a presence so that the students know you’re serious.

4) Hand on your head: Teach your students that when you place your 2 hands on your head, then they must do the same and it’s time to be quiet.

6) How to handle a behavior issue

Good class management requires the teacher to have a presence as the class leader. One way to establish this presence is to be adept at dealing with behavior issues from particular students. There are two ways to consider dealing with individual cases:

1) Deal with it publicly: If the issue is small and a particular student has been warned about certain behavior, the teacher can choose to openly be direct with that student (use eye contact) and allow the classmates to witness it. If the teacher needs to dole out a kind of penalty or punishment, he/she should do so in front of the class. This gives a bit of warning to others who might be behaving in a similar fashion.

2) 1 on 1 talk: When the situation is a bit more severe, teachers may want to talk to the student one on one, after class, in private. At this point, the teacher can express their concern and disapproval of a student’s behavior. Also, the teacher can set some expectations and discuss repercussions with the student.

7) Have a rewards system and take rewards away

This is up to the teacher. Read my article on using or not using REWARDS in the classroom.

At my language school, we do use rewards, and star accumulation. It does help motivate students to participate at times. When a quiet or not so confident student gets a star, they tend to feel good about themselves and it may inspire them to try more.

The reward system at my schools are used by all the teachers. Also, they work better with younger aged students. By the time students are in 5th grade, they tend not to care so much about them.

Stars, however, can be effective by taking them away. When students are acting a bit out of hand, a quick erase of a star may get them to take notice of their behavior and it may change their attitude. Again, it the students do not care about stars, this method will be ineffective.

8) Final ESL Class Management: Know your students.

If a student is misbehaving, it very well could be more about the student than your class management.

Many times there are other factors to blame for a student having discipline issues in the classroom. Some things to consider:

  • Is it age? Younger children may just not be ready for certain classroom environments?
  • Is it hunger or tiredness? Often, in Asia, kids have long days and without an afternoon nap may be quite exhausted for a late afternoon or early evening class.
  • Is it the environment? Some students may just not fit in your school or class?
  • Is it ignorance? Students would rather act out than not know. Often, the disruptive student really just can’t follow the class or is having a hard time with the material.
  • Is it the home? Home life, parents, and family have a huge impact on how students may behave in class.
  • Is your method suitable for that student? Perhaps your teaching method is not getting through to certain students. Find other ways to help them learn. One on One. With a peer….etc.

As teacher, it’s a good idea to consider your students if you are having class management issues.

Class management is an integral part of teaching. As teachers become more experienced, class management almost becomes second nature.

For all you new teachers, keep working at it and you’ll get there. I hope these tips help.

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