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chocopie Feb 19th, 2005 12:17 pm

Classroom management (discipline)
I think figuring out how to handle "classroom management" is a vital part of being a good ESL teacher, and unfortunately comes only with experience. I've been teaching ESL for 5 years, and I've learned a lot about controlling a classroom, but I'm always interested in hearing tips from other teachers. Sometimes you get those classes that don't respond to anything in your bag of tricks and just make you want to pull out your hair. There are a lot of little things I do, but in general I try to avoid yelling as it just tires me out and I FIRMLY believe that it doesn't work, and I believe the kids feed off of it. If I'm yelling it just shows that the students have succesfully gotten under my skin, it doesn't demonstrate my authority. Also, if you save yelling for those really rare times when they've been SUPER-bad, it has a greater impact, as they're not used to hearing you get angry.

I also don't coddle students - if they don't like this game/activity/exercise or don't want to participate, they are pleasantly informed that they are welcome to sit in the office or go home (of course unless there is a good reason, like they have laryngitis or their grandma died or something). With younger students I sometimes use the "3 strikes you're out" rule, where a check is put by their name on the board each time they're breaking class rules, and after three they go to the office. This prevents tantrums at being kicked out as they know what's coming and they know it's within their power to prevent it.

For me the biggest problem is snarky, snotty, don't-care-if-the-teacher-sends-me-to-the-office-I-hope-I-can-piss-her-off-and-score-points-with- my-friends kids that I can't handle. Usually male and in the 10-13 age range. Beyond that I try to use humour to make kids feel foolish for acting like idiots, and I do tolerate a little goofing around as long as they don't push it because hey, they're kids.

Soooo.....what is your classroom management style? What things work/don't work for you? What type of student/age group/gender do you find most frustrating?

little sage Feb 19th, 2005 11:12 pm

The Silent Treatment

Quote chocopie
There are a lot of little things I do, but in general I try to avoid yelling as it just tires me out and I FIRMLY believe that it doesn't work, and I believe the kids feed off of it. If I'm yelling it just shows that the students have succesfully gotten under my skin, it doesn't demonstrate my authority. Also, if you save yelling for those really rare times when they've been SUPER-bad, it has a greater impact, as they're not used to hearing you get angry.

I like your management tips. I agree completely with the bit about yelling. I used to yell, out of frustration I guess, in my first year or so. But now I do the exact opposite: I fold my arms and wait.

With younger kids, I praise whoever is doing what I what I've instructed (book open and ready or book put away, etc) and the rest usually follow. If it's a noise issue, I stare down the noisy one with a look of perturbation on my face, but without saying anything. The class usually catches on pretty quickly. One class of 7 year olds even likes to fold their arms like me and say: "I'm ready teacher!". It's pretty cute.

The same technique also worked with the highschool boys class I had once a week. I surprised myself there. As I was thinking about how to shut them up, I silenced them by not saying anything, unplanned but successful. The silence I create is usually weird enough to get their attention. Good point (above) not to overuse any one technique though, because then kids just tune it out.

I also use a points/reward system at least in the first few weeks of a class so that everybody knows what behavior will and will not be tolerated during class. Sometimes the physical reward system (stickers, prizes) just naturally fizzles out and sometimes I have to keep it up for as long as I teach the class (months, years ???). I've been lucky the past few years and haven't had to deal with any true go-ahead-punish-me types, I've had mainly younger, more malleable, age groups.

My biggest displinary problem this year was completely unexpected: my housewives class was shockingly insensitive to my silent treatment (they'd usually go right on chatting away in Korean when I got to class), I even had an issue with one dominant-type student who took away my chair when she claimed it was her spot!

I was honestly baffled at having to exercise authority with such disrespectful adults, all of whom were older than me. I had relied on the unspoken terms of common decency and was never too vocal about establishing rules. I hadn't thought of myself as a mousy type of teacher, but I guess I'd come across as a wallflower type with this particular group of women.

If anyone has advice on how to "discipline" adult students, please advise. I'm going to be teaching more adult classes this upcoming year and I'd like to be prepared for the odd pitbull type student or class.


Eric Feb 20th, 2005 04:55 am

hey, nice list!

i use a lot of what you two use. silent treatments, yelling only when necessary, etc.

For those "don't-care-if-the-teacher-sends-me-to-the-office-I-hope-I-can-piss-her-off-and-score-points-with- my-friends kids" i try to use positive reinforcement. i find that these students thrive on getting attention from me and the other students. it really doesn't matter if the attention is good or bad.

so for those students i try to praise them heavily when they do well and not assume the worst in them (easier said than done). I had one student who loved attention and loved showing how little he knew. he loved the attention from his classmates and he loved when i yelled at him. so i changed my strategy, i started praising him very strongly when he did something well. after that his attitude changed in class. he started answering more questions and his behavior got better too. he was receiving attention and he was feeling good about himself. somedays this method worked better than others. for these kind of students you really have to be consistent with the praise.

anyway, thats how i handle the students who don't care.


fishead soup Apr 18th, 2005 06:16 pm

Korean students can be self policing. The way to do this is to tell them that if they act up there will be no game. If the class gets too noisy I simply stop whatever game we're playing and make them take out there text books and do five to ten minutes of listen and repeat.

little sage Apr 19th, 2005 01:03 am

Fishead Soup,

I like the idea of simply stopping the game. Noisy disruptions = Forfeit game, I think is a good lesson in consequences and choice. I am wary of having kids associate studying with punishment, though, so I never do writing as punishment (I know you didn't mention that). I sometimes do a couple minutes of silent waiting (and hope no one gets the giggles).

Do you worry that your kids will starting thinking of study time as the punishingly dull part of the lesson, and the game time as the best part? Just curious how you deal with that. I don't know if it's just me being wishy-washy or what.


fishead soup Apr 19th, 2005 01:28 am

Good point alternatively you might want to write the amount of time allocated to preffered activity time. You do this at the beginning of the class and start your standard lesson. Everytime someone disrupts your lesson simply substact one minute from it.

Actually the idea of preffered activity time is a standard classroom management tool. I think there are some activities almost all students hate.
Example choral repetition.

Eric Apr 19th, 2005 07:34 am


Quote fishead soup
Good point alternatively you might want to write the amount of time allocated to preffered activity time. You do this at the beginning of the class and start your standard lesson. Everytime someone disrupts your lesson simply substact one minute from it.

I forgot about this one. I use this, but only on my really loud/bad/crazy classes and it is SOOOO effective. I do it a little different, but it has the same affect. I just basically write my lesson plan on the board. For example

1. Review
2. Introduce new material
3. Writing or production activity
4. Game using the new material

Since my games rule ( ;) ) they always want to play them. If they get noisy i dont even have to say a word. I just look at my lesson plan on the whiteboard and watch the seconds tick away on my watch. The usually clam up in about 1.3 seconds. :D

Thanks for the reminder on that one fishead soup!

Pix Oct 19th, 2006 08:50 am

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
I used to do a fair bit of tour leading, interspersed with my teaching and travelling lifestyle, and I discovered that positively the WORST listeners were teachers.

I dreaded the August trips which would invariably be full of teachers who were so used to doing all the talking and being listened to that they couldn't bear to have someone telling them anything.

The use of silence worked like a charm and would instantly shut them up, while trying to talk over them failed absolutely.
So silence is my number one trick for adults.

Using praise and giving positive attention or responsibility to the naughty ones is good although sometimes you just want to throw them out of the class but unfortunately you can't. Often people are naughty because they are bored so I give the naughty ones extra tasks like handing things out so they can't mess around in the meantime.

I split friends up if they muck about together and put naughty people at the front.

I also have the group in teams and deduct points for bad behaviour from the team so that encourages peer pressure to keep the naughty ones in line.

clivehawkins Oct 19th, 2006 09:16 am

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
This is a really interesting subject.

With the adult classes, of which I teach the most, I rarely have discipline problems. I guess I'm lucky. If someone is a bit of a problem I usually have a quiet word explaining why they should calm down a bit and that if it carries on they'll be chucked out of the school. (It's my school, so they know I'm not joking.)

However, the kids! I'm having quite a few problems on that front, especially with the 6 year olds. At the moment we're finding each other's limits. I've set limits with all of them and they know what I will and won't accept. When they overstep the limit I sit them on the punishment chair where they stay until I decide they can come back. They don't like this and I've already seen a slight improvement when I tell them to calm down \ get on with their work etc etc.

When the class as a whole plays up, I raise my voice and insist on silence. When I've got it I then tell them to carry on in the way I want them to or the activity stops and we copy from the board. Again, this seems to be having some success.

My biggest problem is the student who refuses point blank to do something. If I insist it makes it worse. If I leave them to it, I lose authority. It's a bit of a stalemate. I try to reason with them , encourage them, praise them for their previous work but most of the time I'm banging my head against a brick wall.

What do you guys do in this situation?

jellybeanenglisch Jun 18th, 2009 02:46 am

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
I realise that this thread has been going on for a while but mob control is an ever present situation in the classroom (unfortunately). I´ve been teaching ESL to kids for almost 3 years and have had to deal with a lot but yesterday was the WORST. 17 1st graders. Each one of them a sweet person but as a whole they are a challenge. Yesterday they were a total mob and each activity (I try to keep them moving since they fidget when sitting down, falling off chairs etc.) ended in screaming and crying (those kids with sensitive ears). I made them sit down and fill in a worksheet. My last resort though not very productive in a conversation class.
One big mistake I made: I was not prepared, only had half-hearted ideas instead of having the whole lesson planned out.
The Silent Treatment: does NOT work with German students. Have tried it but they don´t care and will scream and run and just ignore me for as long as it takes.
What does work is addressing the child directly, face-to-face, quietly. But only for a short while and all around me hell is breaking loose ...
Thanks for letting me vent.

jellybeanenglisch Jun 21st, 2009 12:42 pm

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
Hi there. Anyone still reading this thread?
If so, success on the classroom management front. My undisciplined 2nd graders were my guinea pigs for something new and it worked!
I divided the class (22 students) up into 2 groups - as they sit in rows, I split the room down in the middle - gave those sitting in the window half the name "windows" and the other ones, you guessed it, very original, "doors", drew up 2 columns on the board and explained the rules to them: for every unruly behaviour, their team gets one red dot. Five red dots means no sticker reward at the end of class.
You should have seen them each time the class got noisy and I took the red chalk, they went "ssshhh!!!" so in the end, everyone got their sticker and the class went well. Goal achieved. For this week anyway.:D

nelsonclassic Sep 12th, 2009 02:26 am

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
I liked your tricks, they are very good..
But it's true that after being a teacher,you have to be very patient...sometimes it look like students are checking patience..
Initially I use to get irritated and started punishing students,but after sometime I realized that it is not a solution..
I will suggest you to try new tricks like while taking class..try to interact with students for some time and then start teaching that it doesn't becomes monotonous and boring for them..and try to be friendly in class,so that they can share their doubts without any hesitation..:o


duygugul Oct 8th, 2009 03:08 pm

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
I hope this thread is still being read. I have read all the suggestions above. I already use some of the mentioned tricks in my classes and I will have used the rest by tomorrow..
This year I teach to variety of age groups and one of my class is for 17 years old students and I study Integrated skills with them for 4 hours a week. There are 22 students in the class and their English level is not so good. I am expected to teach them in intermediate level. :( there are also about 5 students who has real discipline problems - they are so disrespectful and naughty that they may be send off from school. I don't want to lose those students and I want to gain them. I also want to have fruitful lessons together with other students as well. I will higly appreciate any suggestions..
Thanks in advance..

Allisonk Oct 10th, 2009 07:48 am

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
hi there,

I've only been teaching for about a month in South Korea, and managing a class is still tricky for me. One thing i have learned from some of the other teachers at my school is to make a red square on the floor in the classroom with red tape. If a student misbehaves they have to stand in the red square for a certain amount of time. It's like a time out and kind of embarassing. Another idea that a korean teacher at my school suggested is that if there is a really disruptive student in your class, take away their chair and make them stand for a few minutes. These two ideas are more of a punishment, and im not sure how students react to these tricks because I haven't tried either of them yet. But it may be helpful for some of you guys!


kisito Oct 16th, 2009 05:12 am

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
I think we sometimes need to differentiate between classroom management vs. Classroom discipline. With good classroom management you can achieve good classroom discipline but that does not change the fact that they are separate
issues. Management is having good procedures, routines for helping you teach properly. It is often the lack of good classroom management techniques that leads to discipline problems and now you have to do behaviour management.
Our greatest challenge as ESL/EFL teachers is how to have fun while maintaining discipline. That is where classroom management steps in. In short lay down the ground rules, procedures and routines which get reinforced throughout the course and then you have good classroom management. I prefer to understand classroom management as prevention and behaviour management the cure.
So which are we talking about here? Classroom management of behaviour management?
Classroom management is so important your COOL lesson ideas will fail without it.

showell Apr 23rd, 2010 04:41 pm

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
I've been teaching refugee adults in the United States for about a year, each class is 10 hours a week but only 8 weeks long. My most recent group was extrememly challenging, partly due to the diversity in the classroom- it was half East Africans and half students from the Middle East, neither group was willing to interact nonetheless cooperate. The lead instructor offered an interesting idea, since we were learning numbers, US money and shopping each student was given a "wallet" (envelope) that the picked up at the begining of class. The recieved play money for attendance, listening, asking questions, paying attention, flash card games etc. At the end of the 8 weeks we held a "ESL class store" where the students 'paid' me with their play money for small treats (usually from the dollar store or things friends donated...a tape measure, picture frame, bath sponge, lotion, earrings, screw driver, pack of gum etc) everything was priced differently- so everyone was able to purchase at least one thing. There were very pleased and excited that there hardwork paid off!
We also have a large 'piggy bank' that you have to put spare change into if your phone rings in class or you answer it while your in the classroom- the money goes towards the class party at the end, however when students got the hang of it, they started turning their phones off!

bread_baker Apr 23rd, 2010 04:57 pm

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
I teach adults. In the first class meeting of a term, I explain my expectations. I repeat this information in the second week, because I always have students who add the class. A lot of the students seem to cooperate. They understand that I am serious about teaching, and serious that they learn. The problem students are usually those who are taking the class as a social activity. They really aren't too concerned about learning English. They are there to find or be with a girlfriend or a boyfriend.
I have an idea about coping with a student who continues to speak his/her native language almost all the time, in spite of the many times I tell the person to not do that, and to speak English. I change the seating. I put the problem person between two other students who don't speak the same native language as the problem student!

chokosaki Apr 25th, 2010 09:48 pm

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
Recently, I've discovered this works very well for my classes. I teach 6 classes a week (from preschool to middle school). I write my lesson plan on the board. Everything's covered: warm up, lesson, songs, etc. At the end of the class I always have a spot for 'student's choice'. After the lesson I use a game to practice the day's lesson. I have many games that I've introduced to the students. However, some students like certain games more. During the class, I give out symbols on the board (stars or something pertaining to the lesson). Symbols are given for participation and being good when others are naughty. When it comes to game time, I count the symbols of each student. Whichever student has the most symbols can choose their favorite game for us to play. My older students become very competitive now. They always try their hardest and do a great job. I'll award 2 symbols also if they are especially creative with their responses. This works very well for me now.

Recently, my school has introduced small notebooks for each student. At the end of class, I must write performance notes and comments for the parents (which I think is kind of lame because most parents don't even speak English). Also, I give them stamps. How many stamps the student gets is totally up to me. During the year, the students can trade their stamps for prizes (school supplies and even some electronics for many, many, many stamps). Students like this and cooperate more. However, there are still some problem students every now and then. I think, for this, I will implement what jellybean suggested. Divide the class into teams and do the red dot method. I've also had some fun with doing something similar. I divided the class into teams and drew a face for each team. The face had ears, eyes, mouth, nose, eyebrows. When a team did very well or when the other team was misbehaving, a member from the good team could come up to the board and erase a part from the other team. The students liked this but it doesn't work for every lesson. Sometimes my classes will have a mere 2 students (during national holidays...which China has a lot of) and other times they could have 10. I actually find it harder to manage only 2 students as opposed to 10. Weird....

confusionisben May 23rd, 2010 10:32 pm

Re: Classroom management (discipline)

I am a new ESL teacher, and new to the board. This topic has proved especially helpful as i am coming to grips with good classroom management. I just have one problem, a private student, age 5, who is completely uncontrollable. The first lesson i had he was shy, and would barely participate, but not a problem. Now he just runs around. I've tried a points system, "no sticker", and stopping and waiting crossed arms, and using the "activity every 5 minutes" in case it was boredom, as of yet no yelling, but he still runs around, jumps on tables, wiggles his bum at me. I'm not sure what i can do. Being a private student i think makes it even worse, because i can't do the 'exclusion from activity' idea that many recommend.
Any help would be very well received. I am new to this, so i understand i have a lot to learn, and this child will be good for me in the long run if i can just get him to learn and behave.

jellybeanenglisch May 24th, 2010 06:16 am

Re: Classroom management (discipline)
Hi and welcome to the forum.
Have you talked to the parents? If a child seems overwhelmed by an unfamiliar environment, then maybe there are deeper problems that need to be solved BEFORE he/she can start learning another language. Make sure the parents are aware of that and if nothing changes, drop that "customer":cool:

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