Classroom S. O. S.

Discussion in 'Teaching Games & Activities' started by Edward, Apr 29, 2014.


How do you find classroom management in China?

  1. My Students Are Angels!!!

    0 vote(s)
  2. With A Little Attention, Managment Is Easy!

    2 vote(s)
  3. Sometimes They're Good, Sometimes They're Bad...

    7 vote(s)
  4. It's a Zoo!

    1 vote(s)
  1. Edward

    Edward Curriculum R&D Administrator

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    Is classroom management an issue for you at your schools? Every year, we receive a lot of questions and requests for help regarding classroom management from new and experienced teachers alike. These issues can range from over-enthusiasm of young learners, to distruptive behaviour of a few individuals, to lack of attention of older students, to even outright refusal to do what the foreign teacher asks of them.

    If you were to sit down with a teacher brand new to EFL teaching, and brand new to China, what THREE pieces of advice would you give him/her about how to manage his/her students?

    Managing students can be a bit of an intimidating prospect for new teachers, and nothing is more helpful than hearing about another foreign teacher's experiences. What was the worst instance of bad behaviour you ever had to deal with? What effective strategies have you used to keep your students focused, to get their attention back after a fun game, or to discipline bad behaviour? How do you encourage proper classroom behaviour, without de-motivating students? Or, how do you encourage older students to speak up and participate when they're not paying attention?

    Help us prepare our new English Life teachers by sharing your best advice and anecdotes!

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  2. Sheree B

    Sheree B Pacican Teacher

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    I'm not expert in classroom management, but from the experience i've had so far i'd have to say that the following three things have come in handy (P.N.S. if you like!) 1. Points 2. Names. 3. Structure.
    1. Points: I only started using class points recently, and wish that I had started sooner! A competition between the classes in each grade not only gives them something exciting to work towards (The prize of a class party at the end of the year), it also really helps to manage the class and enforce your rules set at the beginning of the term.
    2. Names: At the very beginning of the year, I set all my classes one homework task to "create a nameplate", where they wrote down an English name of their choice and also their Chinese name (make sure it's in pinyin!!) to give in to me next time. I then spent some time writing their names down on a notepad class-by-class, so that I could take it to my lessons and use it to call upon random students in every class. Even if you don't remember these names, at least it shows you are making an effort to personalise classes, and not just call students by their numbers. If you put a star next to the more problematic students, this is helpful for when you quickly need to get their attention and discipline them, which is more effective than just stopping the class to go approach them and tell them off.
    3. Structure: I think it is important to have a set structure for your lessons, so that your students know how they should behave throughout the class. For example, I always begin with recapping the rules, and then a "What Do You Remember" slide to recap the previous lesson. This is always followed by "Guess The Topic" title slide for the current week, followed by a "Keywords" slide. The students know this pattern now, and know that they should be paying the most attention here. During the main body of the class, the expected classroom behaviour will depend on what tasks you set, but I always make sure I include a "Question Time" at the end of the lesson, so that the students know they are going to be tested on information/answers from the classroom tasks, therefore they should pay attention. A structure also shows students you have planned their lesson and actually thought about it, which they will respect you a little more for!

    Hope this is useful! :hmm:
  3. Erika Somogyi

    Erika Somogyi Pacican Alumni

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    Hey Sheree ! Great ideas -- I've had a lot of trouble with names myself. The name plate is a good idea but they always seem to lose their name tags and we have grades 2, 3 and 4 classes 1-7 so that's 280 kids per class times three (40 per class and then the three grades) so unfortunately I have had a lot of trouble with names :( Any suggestions are definitely welcome!

    As for class management I have a few strategies:

    First: praise. Just being really enthusiastic when a student gives a correct response or when they use a long sentence. They love it. Then, with the bad children I usually make them class models or team leaders. For example today we were doing head, shoulders, knee,s and toes. One student was blatantly misbehaving so i told him to come up and be my helper/demonstrator. I gave him lots of praise made him feel a bit special and after: BAM! he behaved (of course it always doesn't work on the first try).

    Second: Up down up down. In my TEFL training long ago we learned that one sedentary activity should be followed by a physical activity and then one that's more sedentary. I find this really helpful. For example I'll have vocab repetition, then maybe a slap game, then everyone sits for a song. Then "find that object/pictionary".... basically calm activity, active activity... in this way they aren't as bored

    Third: something that has worked really well is passing or sometimes throwing a soft ball. They tend to like to have something physical when they give a response. Just giving the speaking student something to hold makes the others want to have the privilege to hold the soft ball or dragon (the things I use but it could be whatever). This also also them to pass the object and reuse the question. Yet, the most important thing is it controls and promotes good behavior by creating a physical reward for answering a question.

    Lastly: I also find the point system crucial. From the start I divide the class into two, have them pick a name (team candy, team hamburger...whatever) and then award points for certain exercises. It works so well! I then take away points for bad behavior or talking and that seems to really help because the rest of their "team" becomes "angry" with them.

    I also do use stickers and candy occasionally but not always. I have mixed feelings about physical rewards. I know they're useful but sometimes I feel like I'm buying the students--which ok at grade 2, 3, and 4 isn't exactly true, I don't know..... I'd be interested to hear what others think

    As a side note I also think my personality helps. I'm really enthusiastic and then the moment I become calm and start talking quietly almost whispering because I'm mad --then they see how I've changed and at least some of them (usually the girls) start shushing the others. Oh and I forgot "1, 2, 3... 3, 2, 1" great calmer downer!

    I hope this helps!
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
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  4. Sheree B

    Sheree B Pacican Teacher

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    Hiya Erika! Ah yes, that is a lot of students!! Mine are middle school too so they are more likely to remember their chosen English names, and the classes are slightly smaller. However, it might help if you had a big notebook, with a page for each of your grades/classes, and then pass the book around on the initial lesson to get them to write their own name (neatly!) on a line in pinyin along with a chosen English name? My students lost their nameplates after a few lessons, but by that time I had already taken their nameplates in after their first couple of lessons, and written down all their names on my own pad so that I could still call upon them in future lessons....if that makes sense! It's a bit time consuming to write them all down neatly yourself, but it does help in the lessons :D hope that's useful!! x
  5. Daniel Fox

    Daniel Fox Pacican Teacher

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    Hello All.

    Apologies about the late posting. I tried earlier on but was logged out because I am far too wordy. Here, then, is my second attempt.

    Being a relatively new teacher I was pf two minds as to whether or not I should actually engage in this thread to any significant extent (beyond using the advice, which I have already started doing, I assure you.) However, with the advent of several more difficult than average lessons and some successful attempts at resolving a few management issues (not to mention the cash-prize incentive) I have finally built up the courage to contribute.
    A summary of my situation:
    It is my understanding that this thread is aimed mostly at new teachers, though of course is an indispensible resource to any teacher. As such I feel, before I begin, that I should state that I am largely new to teaching (roughly 3 months in, at the date of posting) and I am in a rather special situation, as I am the first foreign teacher my students have had. As such some of the challenges I have faced have been slightly different (disruptive behaviour, for example, constitutes, in my present scenario, the excessive asking of questions like “where are you from?”, constant queries about life in England or repettitive “hello”ing during my first month or so.) However, The methods below have been tried and tested inthese circumstances as well as the more usual disruptions and management scenarios found in (I suspect, nay, hope) every school in China. The age group I teach is Grade 4 and 5, but I believe the methods applicable, to a greater or lesser extent, to any age or level. I teach a single period a week to each of my classes, which number 45 students per class. fixed desks, mixed learning levels and variable support from local teaching assistants (some help. Some don’t. Some try, and hinder). Now, you are aware of where my advice is coming from, so can hopefully use it appropriately. Here, then, are my three pieces of advice.
    Firstly: Points (again)
    I am well aware that it has been touched on in both of the above posts, but wanted to expand on my own personal experience of using the point systems. Firstly, Yes. They most certainly work. Indeed, the fact that using teams and points to encourage students to manage themselves, as there is always someone in each team who is loathe to lose points or miss a chance to gain them. However, if permanent teams are used it is important to manage this carefully. After all, if a teacher is not aware of which team won the last week (or even two) then the points and rewards, far from motivating and controlling a class, could demotivate and demoralize entire teams, since they will begin to believe themselves incapable of winning, and so the points could well prove counter-productive. This can be turned to your advantage, of course, with the use of a chart or record of the number of times that each team wins, allowing the class to observe their overall progress and perhaps leading to a semester-long competition between them. Personally, I settled for a table listing previous victories of teams, allowing me to keep personal track to avoid too many repetitions. Never underestimate the ability a teacher has to subtly influence results in order to encourage the less able students and challenge the more capable.
    Secondly: The deadly silence.
    A personal favourite of mine. I will admit that I am a somewhat popular teacher (being the first foreign teacher the school has ever had, I did coast through a golden month of absolute heaven before my students even considered causing me trouble) and as such a jovial “settle down… shh shhh shhh….” is, in my specific circumstance, largely sufficient. However, There are times when this is not sufficient, and it is at these times that the silence comes into play. Many people underestimate the power of silence. It is still a wonderful thing for me to observe how rapidly noisy students find themselves subdued when they realize that the teacher has stopped talking and, in cases where the noise can be isolated, is staring intently at them while they chatter. Frowning, glowering etc. has its place, but oddly I have found that an interested expression or a polite smile, as if to say “Are you done? May I continue?” can have a far greater extent. However, this is a bit of a glass cannon. Use it sparingly, and it works like a charm. Use it too often and your students will simply use the chance to keep talking without all that inconvenient teaching getting in the way. Strike the balance, if you can. Trial and error is your friend.
    Third, and final: “Ignorance” is bliss.
    This is not necessarily a technique, so much as the result of my (limitted) experience and the advice of several other teachers. It is often productive, or at least less counter-productive, to allow certain classroom transgressions to pass by without correction. By this I do not mean you should ignore the student at the back who is throwing an eraser across the room because “He’s having an excitable day, bless him.” I mean that certain things that students are doing throughout your class may well be less disruptive than the act of stopping them. In fact, as with mny things in classroom management, it can often be turned to your advantage as well. For example, if a student has been muttering away with one of his classmates for several minutes while you explain an activity or ask a question, select him to demonstrate. The embarrassment has often proved sufficient to make the individual more attentive, in my experience, and the teacher can even pretend to be innocent in such a clandestine and underhanded method, which will sometimes serve to entertain and engage much of the rest of the class, who will be eager to regard the scenario as it unfolds. It is also worth noting that often the mutterings of students may well prove to be the students aiding one another in answering or understanding questions. Higher level students will be helping lower level students (sometimes a little too much, admittedly) to engage in your lessons. It is, therefore, important to learn, as soon as possible, what to stop, and what not to stop. Naturally, if your are as new to teaching as I was when I began, and largely still am, then you will get this wrong… A LOT. However, with time, I believe that these mistakes will occur less and less often. (I’m an optimist)

    At the last, I will re-iterate that I am NOT an experienced teacher. I have been teaching 3 months. I have made every mistake I have been given the opportunity to make. As some famous, proverbial-type person (I do not recall who) once uttered;
    “To teach is to learn, twice.”
    Take this to heart, and read the other posts on this thread. They have already helped me immensely. Best of luck!
  6. Tyler

    Tyler Pacican Alumni

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    There are many things that can make your class easy to manage.
    1) Make your lessons team oriented. Students are more engaged when there is incentive to participate. You can do activities that are both competitive or cooperative, but as long as there is the incentive for the students to be involved they seem to be more engaged and less likely to act up. Student's do not want to let the other members of their group, row or entire class down. Lately my lessons include at least one small group activity [rows] (round robin race, wave), One large group activity [halves] (tic tac toe, Questions about a story while a monster they created hit points go down) and One whole class cooperative activity (guess the picture, Plants vs. Zombies). Having students work together keeps them engaged in the class and not wanting to let others down.
    2)Make sure your expectations are clear. If the language you use is not appropriate for them to understand, it is easy for the students to become disengaged. I found doing two little things helped immensely with this. While teaching a new target or vocabulary I let them become very familiar with the target by allowing it to be visible at all times on the board or the PPT. If you are doing an activity with a particular target allow them to become familiar with it by repetition first before you do the activity. Make sure you teach the target language. However one thing that you do not want to teach is how to do new activities. These I found should not be taught or explained, but rather demonstrated. I simply just do and show them how to participate in the activity rather than use many difficult words to attempt to teach and explain. By demonstration of the activities and familiarity with the targets this will allow less students to be lost and will give them the confidence to participate rather than misbehave.
    3)Make friends with those at your school. I know that everyone does not have the luxury of a teaching assistant in their classes, however having the administration and local teachers as friends makes your teaching experience very enjoyable. The teachers are also a wealth of knowledge about the students they teach and can help you gauge the students level so that your activities are appropriate. It is very beneficial to have these people as friends and when you get to know them you can find them to be very fun people. Some may be intimidated to talk to you, but make sure you go out of your way to say hello, eat lunch with them, laugh with them and have fun. If the people you work with enjoy working with you it will make everything run much more smooth, they may even help you with your management.

    Hopefully some of this advice can be helpful. The other posts are great and informative!
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  7. Daniel Fox

    Daniel Fox Pacican Teacher

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    I have to say, Tyler, that last one is pretty astute.

    Thinking outside the box and realising just how much can influence classroom management is a really important consideration. I think using the knowledge and experience of your fellow teachers is definately an important factor in effectively managing a class, and I would never have thought of including this kind of advice in this particular thread. good call, sir!