How Effective Classroom Management Establishes the Foundations for Successful Learning
ESL teachers implement a variety of strategies to help students learn English as a second language. Even with a repertoire of methodologies, activities, and resources, however, teachers still find that some students fall short of reaching their academic goals. This is especially apparent with younger learners who may not have an intrinsic motivation for studying English. Many efforts on the parts of teachers may fail because learning is a process that fundamentally begins with effective classroom management: the connections between teachers and learners, the establishment and following of class rules, the use of daily routines, the strategies for keeping students’ attention and the impact of positive reinforcement. Only with a robust and well-established system of classroom management will ESL learners be able to succeed at their highest potentials.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Emily W. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The Basis of Classroom Management
Classroom management, at its core, derives from the positive connections formed between teachers and students. When teachers know about their learners’ interests and goals for studying English and later refer to these, students feel cared for by their teachers and show a greater willingness to put forth their best efforts in the classroom. A positive connection is also founded by the type of language that teachers utilize. Positive behavioral language, respectful giving of instructions and never raising one’s voice model to students how they should communicate with others around them. Once teachers can institute a culture of respect within the classroom, based on positive connections with learners, students will be more likely to respond optimistically to other aspects of classroom management.
Teachers must also create and implement foundational class rules. These rules should be related to the students’ success, given with brief and clear language, displayed visibly in the classroom and referred to throughout the term. In some cases, teachers may develop the class rules with the input of students. Importantly, teachers must remain consistent about the rules, acting as though they cannot imagine any possibility of a student breaking a rule. If a student does disobey a rule, there needs to be a clear system of consequences previously made explicit to the class and followed exactly. Teachers should also give students the chance to discuss the importance of rules, allowing them to recognize a purpose for following them. When rules are clearly communicated, consistently enforced, and relevant, students respect rules as core principles of a class, limiting the possibilities for disruptions.
Along with class rules, teachers must establish common routines that will be followed in the class. Routines are activities repeated often, if not daily, that students should eventually be able to perform with little to no instructions. While the types of routines will depend greatly on students’ ages and ability levels, teachers must take care not to introduce routines and then fail to use them again. Students should see routines as familiar activities that are useful tools for them to achieve learning goals.
Although the diversity of activities is important to give an ESL class a sense of excitement, using routines lets students know what to expect when they walk into the classroom, making the class into a secure environment.
In addition to these elements, classroom management also encompasses a variety of strategies to keep students’ attention. Attention grabbers, short phrases called out that students respond to, are effective tools for quickly refocusing the class. Teachers’ positions, both in the classroom and positions made by the body, can also command attention from students. Hand signals prove useful as well, such as having signed for sitting well and tracking the speaker. When teachers have resources available to re-capture and maintain students’ attention, time that may end up lost in calling for attention converts into ample instruction and work moments.
Lastly, teachers should provide a variety of opportunities to give students positive reinforcement. Simple forms of praise, such as having a congratulations song, can be easily used to reward a student following rules or overcoming an academic hurdle. Wow, cards, notes, or stickers can be sent home with students to remind them of their successes. Even simple gestures, such as smiling, reinforce good behavior in students. When students feel recognized for their efforts, they are more likely to continue behaving well.
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In conclusion, a well-formed system of classroom management lays the foundations for a positive learning environment. When a teacher gives students the tools to regulate their behaviors, as well as explicitly defined limits, a class becomes ready to listen to others, follow instructions and tackle elements of the English language with careful attention and motivation. Therefore, classroom management must be an integral building block in every ESL class, priming students to learn English to the best of their abilities.
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