Having good classroom management strategies, is essential if you want to get the most out of the limited time you have with your students. Classroom management is about identifying the ‘critical moments’ of a lesson that need addressing to create an effective learning environment.
Rather than establishing rules and reward systems, let’s think about creating an effective learning environment where learners are actively engaged. A lot of natural, genuine communication takes place while managing a group of learners that provides them with comprehensible input, so keeping instructions and classroom language in English increases the opportunities for language to be acquired and practised.
Here are five simple strategies to implement to help you manage your primary classroom:
Establishing expectations and routines
Routines help to establish expectations making classrooms function more efficiently and effectively. Having familiar routines help children feel secure in the classroom as they promote cooperation and a sense of community. Having well-structured routines also helps to provide opportunities for repetitive language meaning that the language is acquired more easily as it is supported with actions and highly contextualised.
Some of these routines may include:
- Entering the classroom
- Speaking to the class
- Asking questions
- Giving instructions
- Setting up activities
- Getting learners into groups/ pairs
- Dealing with materials
- Tidying up
- Ending lessons
Keep instructions simple and in English
By keeping instructions in English, you are increasing the students’ exposure to English at the maximum which encourages them to develop their listening and understanding skills and helps you to communicate with them.
Try using imperatives so the instructions are not hidden in lots of unnecessary language. Consider the difference between:
What we are going to do next is that we are going to look at some pictures and see if we can match them with the words on the board, and then I want you to write the correct word under the picture.
Look at the pictures. Look at the words. Write (supported with a demonstration).
Limit the number of instructions you are giving to two or three. This will enable you to stage the activity appropriately ensuring that each child knows what is expected of them and the class will complete the tasks more or less at the same time.
As well as using imperatives, support what you are saying with a demonstration or example, especially if it is the first time you are doing a new activity. Children are very good at trying to understand what you want them to do, and don’t just listen to words. They look at what you are doing, they understand body language and gestures, and they read pictures and visuals well.
To aid this, consider presenting the instruction verbs you are going to use at the beginning of the lesson as a ‘listen and do’ activity. A couple of minutes spent doing this will make the lesson run much more smoothly.
These communication tools are invaluable in the language classroom and support classroom management just as much as the language you are teaching.
Find ways to get and keep their attention which don’t involve raising your voice. Here are some ways that you could do this:
- Train your students to respond to a signal such as a small bell, a tap on the blackboard, or raise one arm which the students have to copy.
- Stand at the front of the class and quietly whisper a short sentence. The children nearby will go silent in order to hear what you are saying, and the whole class will gradually quieten down.
- Have a notice on the wall with Shhh! on. When you want their attention, move to the notice and point at it. This is a ‘positive anchor’ point, so only stand there when you want to use it.
- Have a ‘Call and Response’ strategy. For example the teacher calls out ‘Hocus pocus!’ and the class respond with ‘Everybody focus!’ Or clap/tap a rhythm that the students copy. However, make sure to change it regularly so they don’t take it for granted.
- Shout out an instruction that all the class has to follow, for example stand up or, hands on heads. Just make sure you are not disrupting your own lesson.
Plan what you are going to say and do
If you are new to teaching, or feel you need to make improvements in your classroom management, take some time to plan HOW you are going to do something. Very often we focus on WHAT we are teaching and forget to plan the HOW. Make sure you allow time in your lesson planning for all of the management bits and pieces as it takes time for children to enter the classroom, to get books and equipment out, or to stand up and get into groups. Therefore, make sure you plan how you are going to get the children into groups and how you are going to do each activity. Most importantly, plan what you are going to say. If you have thought about it beforehand, it will happen more naturally.
It’s not WHAT you do in the classroom it’s HOW you do it. When it comes to Classroom management and behaviour there is only one person’s behaviour you have control over…YOURS!
Find more resources to support your day-to-day classroom management, plus ideas and practical tips to motivate young learners and help your mixed-ability students shine here.
Jane-Maria Harding da Rosa’s career has spanned over 25 years. She worked as the Director of Studies and Teacher Training Coordinator at International House Porto and specialised in Teaching English in Young Learners, (in which she has a Master’s Degree from York University). For 10 years Jane worked as part of the Academic Management Team at International House Newcastle and, as well as teaching, was heavily involved in running CELTA, DELTA and CLIL methodology courses. In 2020 Jane completed a PGCE in Primary Education at Sunderland University, and has since been teaching in Primary schools in the North East of England. The ELTOC session on classroom management in relation to group work has been written considering Jane’s first-hand experience in managing large classes of children in conjunction with her expertise in English Language Teaching.