Why TEFL Teaching Requires Classroom Management?
Classroom management is vital to the role of teaching EFL learners of all ages and abilities. This essay discusses some of the reasons why classroom management is important and how effective class management can help optimize teaching and learning time.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Carol T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Problems of Learning Approach
EFL learners often learn English outside the contexts and environments where it is used in everyday life, therefore the classroom is often their only opportunity to learn and to practice English (Krashen, 1976). An effective EFL teacher will not only create an environment where students have adequate opportunities to communicate, but one where they will feel safe in doing so, and enjoy participating (Littlewood, 1984).
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Getting to know their students and establishing a rapport with them is a strategy that can benefit teachers and students greatly, setting a positive tone in the classroom. In doing so, teachers are more likely to identify the communicative needs and interests of their students early on and be able to provide materials of interest at an appropriate level of learning which will motivate them to participate (Yi, 2014). Creating a positive atmosphere can also help to alleviate fear and anxiety some students may have about their abilities to communicate in English, which may be mistakenly interpreted by the teacher as an unwillingness to participate.
Understanding and having strategies to correct or prevent student behaviors not conducive to their learning is another vital aspect of class management. A student’s behavior in class can be influenced by many factors including their age, academic ability, confidence as a communicator, interests, and home life (Evertson, Emmer, and Worsham, 2003). Undesirable behavior can be disruptive for both students and teachers, consume critical learning time and upset the atmosphere.
But EFL teachers face even more complex sets of challenges in terms of class management (Linse & Nunan, 2005) as behavior can also be influenced by other factors such as differing levels of English proficiency in the group; teachers who are new to students’ cultural idiosyncrasies; or students who insist on speaking in their native language (Soleimani & Razmjoo, 2016).
EFL teachers must take particular care in addressing undesirable behavior not only to avoid causing cultural offense but also because over-discipline can cause anxiety, which is particularly harmful in EFL learning (Yi, 2014). Choosing the right materials, and providing ample opportunities for students to speak, read and think aloud in class, promotes positive engagement and it is, therefore, less likely that students will become disruptive or distracted (Fantana, 1985).
Setting Up Rules
Co-constructing a set of basic rules and consequences with students gives them ownership, accountability, and can motivate them to follow their own rules (Meier, 2019). Yi (2014) also suggests ground rules for teachers which include fostering caring relationships with their students, providing timely encouragement and positive reinforcement and placing themselves strategically in the room to provide feedback or support to individual students when needed.
A teachers’ position in the room is an essential part of class management (International TEFL and TESOL training, 2011). Teacher position can not only be effective in garnering students’ full attention but also be a distraction if used incorrectly (Griffiths, n.d.). When giving instructions to the whole class, for example, it is beneficial for teachers to be standing in full view of all students, however when students are involved in independent or one on one interactions, having a teacher standing or roving between them would be a distraction.
Total Physical Response Approach
Total Physical Response is a method that can not only be used to support language learning but also, manages a class (Arifin, 2017). Using TPR, a teachers’ physical position plays a role in the type of response/action they are modeling and will also depend on the age and communicative abilities of the students. Asher (1969) notes that his method was designed to support the link between the language and the desired action. So for example, with an instruction like “everyone stands up”, the teacher may choose to model this from a seated position or mimic this action from a standing position, by raising their forearms with their palms upturned.
Teachers who use combinations of verbal and physical prompts interchangeably to transition students smoothly through stages of a lesson are maximizing teaching time, which is critical for student progress.
‘The end purpose of effective classroom management is to optimize the students’ learning experiences by creating and sustaining an environment conducive to providing the best learning experiences’ (Mac Donnchaidh, 2019, n.d)
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In an EFL classroom where verbal communication can be more challenging, difficulty with transitions can lead to confusion, distraction, and loss of valuable teaching time. However other visual aids such as photos of students carrying out the desired behavior and displayed where they can all see it can also produce the desired behavior when required. Projecting a visual countdown clock, or writing the finish time on the board can also be helpful, but is more helpful for language learners when supported with simple verbal instructions.
Where positive prompts are used to transition students quickly to maintain their interest and engagement, students develop trust in their teachers’ ability to effectively manage the class. When these time management strategies are student-centered, they create a paradox, whereby the number of times in a lesson teachers use transition strategies can be minimized, optimizing teaching and learning time further (Butchart & McEwan, 1998).
In conclusion, class management is important because it helps to build trust between teachers and students. Careful and thoughtful management optimizes teaching and learning time. It helps throughout various stages of a lesson, helping the lesson to flow and keep students engaged.
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Student-centered class management provides students with ownership over their learning, gives them a sense of belonging can help to prevent problem behaviors occurring. In an EFL classroom, management is vitally important for reducing student anxiety and nervousness. EFL teachers who take the time to build positive relationships and to make expectations explicit are giving their students the best chance to progress their English language learning.
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