Classroom Management in an EFL Setting: Transcending Language to Enhance Learning
Educators have debated on the topic of classroom management since the first class began. In the same way curricula and teaching cultures vary, as do the intricacies of classroom management. A topic that is, in my opinion, not taught enough in the realm of TEFL, is finding ways to manage a full classroom of young students for an entire day. As the trend for “kindergarten” prep courses rises in China, the void for managing 20+ five-year-olds has been dark and silent. Because many principals in these prep centers refuse to allow Mandarin in the classroom and the fact that these students do not initially understand basic commands in English, this creates a sense of chaos that hampers the learning process.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Carrie C. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Important Skills to Manage Kindergarten Students
From prior research and personal experience, I have found that managing a classroom of 20 kindergarteners who do not speak any English requires two specific tools: a non-verbal attention getter and a visual behavior chart with specific rewards. In my scenario, several different groups once a week. For the average kindergartener, it takes six weeks (this means coming to school for five days in one week) to be accustomed to a kindergarten routine. Even though I only saw each group for an entire day once a week, we made significant progress academically due to my non-verbal attention getter and the behavior chart.
Non-Verbal Attention-Grabbing Techniques
First, I will explain the importance of non-verbal attention-getter. In a foreign language environment, it is easy to tune out the foreign language. Consider this concept on top of the attention span of a five-year-old and it is obvious to see why 20+ Mandarin-speaking children do not respond well to “Okay! Let’s clean up! Hey! Come sit down! Small groups are finished!” Instead, we implemented a clapping system. When the teacher is ready for the students to pay attention, the teacher begins a “clap----clap----clap-clap-clap-“ and the students respond with the same clapping pattern. Then, the teacher, using a strong and clear voice, states, “1, 2, 3!” and the students reply with, “Eyes on me!”.
The clapping attention-getter automatically makes the students put down anything in their hands and thus further attention to the teacher. The call and response encourage them to stop talking or looking at their activity and instead look towards the teacher. Sometimes the clapping pattern must be performed several times if students are deeply engaged in small group work.
The second classroom management tool is a behavior chart that hangs at the front of the classroom. Five different colored squares are hanging vertically; purple at the top (best behavior), then blue (doing great), then green (student is ready), then yellow (think about it), and finally red (call Mom and Dad). The teacher begins each day by showing the students their name clips on the green. The explanation for clipping up or clipping down is said the same way each class and many hand gestures are utilized. At the end of the day, students on purple received 3 “bee points”, students on blue received 2, and students on green received 1. At the end of the semester, these points could buy prizes at the school auction. After several weeks of utilizing this visual behavior chart, disruptions will decrease and learning can be maximized.
Do you want to teach English abroad? Take a TEFL course!
While preparation for teaching English abroad comes with a strong linguistic foundation, the true tangible tools of classroom management are often overlooked and thus the language acquisition process is hindered; especially in large groups of young students learning the language for a long period. By utilizing behavior management tools that do not require an understanding of the target language, the students eventually learn the terminology associated with the target language and benefit academically from a well-managed classroom
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