View Full Version : Classroom Management

August 23rd, 2008, 07:37
If you have never taught, or ever even worked with children, then you might be quite surprised to discover that more than half of effective teaching is good classroom management. You may believe that this is merely the disciplining of children, something for which you are not responsible contractually, but discipline is only a small part of classroom management.

Classroom management is a set of techniques that effective teachers use to keep children focused and on task so that they can learn as much as possible in the time you have with them. This article will be almost entirely pointless for those of you who work with JTEs who have you do very little. However, if you are front and center, teaching the kids whilst your JTE paces in the back of the classroom, then this article is for you.

As an ALT, you face some problems that the JTEs do not. For example, because you cannot discipline children (if you are asked to do so, politely refuse and inform the requesting party that it is their responsibility and not yours, as per your contract (AND THEIRS!)), I will not discuss techniques that require your ability to do so.

1. LEARN YOUR STUDENTS’ NAMES: One thing that gets kids to pay attention more is when they have the impression you actually care about them. The one way to give them that impression more than anything else is to learn their name. When you refer to them as “You,” or “that kid in the third row, second from the back”, they quickly realize that you don’t care about them, and thus, they have no incentive to care about you or the subject that you teach.

Note: this doesn’t mean you actually have to care about them. It’s cynical, yes, but that’s reality. To say that you will not desire nothing more than to see one or more of them dropped into a vat of acid, is unrealistic.

2. GET TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS: When you get to know your students, they will be more willing to participate in class, and more willing to open up to you. Students that know you will be more likely to like you, and students that like you will WANT to pay attention in class and participate, rather than do their own thing, or worse, disrupting class. My best students were the ones that I got to know. The ones that like you the most will actively enforce discipline on the other kids for daring to disrupt your lesson.

3. SPEAK SOFTLY: If you have to shout across a classroom, you’re not doing it right. Kids who have to strain to hear you will quiet down and listen more carefully. This does not mean that you whisper. It just means that you speak in the same tone you would if you were talking to a friend of yours at a quiet restaurant.

Consequently, when you do actually speak NORAMLLY, it will SEEM like a booming yell. Your vocal chords will thank you for this.

4. SILENCE IS GOLDEN: When children are not paying attention and chatting animatedly whilst you are speaking, stop speaking and simply stare straight at the back of the classroom. Do not look at the problem children. The class will soon pick up that you aren’t teaching any longer and wonder what is going on. Just as quickly, they will figure out who is causing the problem, and they will tell them to shut up for you. Hopefully, someone will use violence against the offending parties. Be sure to thank them for their help and then continue on with the lesson.

5. FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENT: Routine and procedure are important. Kids hate having things change from day to day. They like to have similar things happen in a similar order. The game might change, the content of the lesson might change, but they’re not going to want you to do things in a different order every single time you see them.

Your first lessons should be about establishing a procedure for things. When you raise your hand, they quiet down. When you say, “sit,” they sit. When you say, “stand,” they stand.

6. CLARITY: Make sure that the children understand exactly what it is you want them to do. Never assume that they know what in the hell you are talking about. This is where preplanning becomes so important. If you cannot speak Japanese very well, then it will fall on your JTE to communicate what you want the children to do. If you do not work this out with her first, he or she will not know what you want either, and they will not be able to effectively communicate it if they are like many of the JTEs who teach English, but cannot really speak it themselves.

7. OVER PLAN: Make sure you have more than you are capable of doing during the class period planned. Make sure your JTE knows that not all of this needs to be achieved, but woe befall you if your lesson finishes ten minutes early and you have nothing to fill those ten minutes with. You do not want to have them extend that fruits baskets game any longer than it needs to be, and no matter how quick a thinker you may be, by the time you come up with something to cover that time, it will be almost gone and too late. It’s a lot better to say “Sorry guys, time’s up,” than to say “Um . . . uh . . . well, that’s all I had planned . . . so . . . um . . . like . . . uh . . .”

Idle hands really are the Devil’s tools. Better to keep those kids engaged and on task than sitting idly waiting for you to come up with something for them to do.

8. BE ENTHUSIASTIC: If you come in moping with a scowl on your face, rolling your eyes and sighing, what sort of impression does that give to the kids about the lesson you’re about to teach? Shit, if it sucks that much for YOU, then it’ll probably suck that much more for them.

I’ve gone to school more than a few times ready to impale on a pike the nearest thing that even so much as LOOKED at me the wrong way, but in front of ANY kid, I was instantly sunshine and daisies.

9. BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE: Ensure that your kids see that you and your JTE are fucking tight like this! They need to know that the JTE will KILL THEM if they look at you wrong, and you’d do the same for him or her. You two are so fucking tight you can’t slip a piece of paper in between you. That last sentence is metaphorically important. Any time you have two teachers in a room, if the kids see that you two are at odds, they will play both of you off the other. The more time you two spend at each other’s throats, the less time you’re spending making them actually LEARN.

It’s okay to beat your JTE to within an inch of their lives after you get back into the staff room, but outside of the staff room, you two are fucking TIGHT! You might have to ensure your JTEs know that this is how it will be, or you will douse them with kerosene and set them on fire in front of the kids as an example.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of for now, so feel free to contribute more to the comments section. I’ve learned these lessons though substitute teaching for six months, then teaching middle school full time for a year, and then two years of being an ALT.

August 23rd, 2008, 14:51
It:s going to hit these kids like a tonne of bricks when they get out into the real world and realise that they have to respect other people and sit through boring meetings all the time, school is just a tame practice version.

August 23rd, 2008, 20:00
This is all good stuff, though I disagree that you should necessarily speak quietly. You should never need to shout or speak over the kids, but even though speaking normally, everyone needs to be able to hear easily. It's about projecting rather than raising your voice.



These three I think are probably the most important. The students should always know what they're supposed to be doing and how. This may mean having to invest time explaining and demonstrating an activity in the beginning. The first time I did a minimal-pair tree with this years first-years, it took about 20 minutes making sure everyone knew what to do. Now they take a few minutes.

Things I would add are:

10. KEEP IT SHORT. I teach junior high, so I've got 12-year-olds to teach. If an activity or section of the lesson lasts more than about 5 minutes, they start fading. Even if it's the actually the same activity, breaking it up into smaller chunks that seem separate keeps them focused. If other options don't seem appropriate, even announcing nijū byō kyūkei (20 seconds' rest) and having the kids stretch and wiggle has been helpful.

11. DON'T TALK SO MUCH. Related to the above, no matter how much they like English or think you're cool, the students don't want to hear you explain something for 10 or fifteen minutes. Boredom leads to the students trying to entertain themselves, which is rarely by studying quietly. Break long or complicated explanations into smaller chunks, and see how much you can get the students to help you with the explanation. Ask the class leading questions rather than giving them the answers.

August 24th, 2008, 15:16
Thank you ampersand!

I agree wholeheartedly.

I learned the "talk quietly" technique from some continuing education seminars in my school district back in the USA. I should clarify. You don't talk so softly that only the front row can hear. However, you speak with just enough volume that everyone can hear, but no more.

I also agree about projecting your voice. So many people speak from their mouths and not their lungs, and they wonder why their voices go to shit so quickly.

People need to learn how to treat their bodies as they would a guitar. The strings (your vocal chords) make the sound, but the sound first travels into the guitar body (your lungs), and reverberates, becoming much more loud, and then exits the hole (your mouth). Most people just bang the strings as hard as they can (vibrate their vocal chords too much) to yell over the kids, and keep their lungs constricted (pushing lots of air across those overly-vibrating chords).

This damages your voice box!

I actually have a fairly loud, booming voice when I speak despite my vocal chords vibrating just enough to produce the sound.

October 13th, 2008, 07:46
Excellent OP, one of the most common mistakes new teachers make is thinking they can compete with a class in terms of noise production. Stand and stare works a charm. Cues to signal transitions are also great aids (3 claps, a rattle of some kind, whatever).

October 13th, 2008, 08:59
I find my stare of death works a treat, as does going over to stand next to the noisiest kids.

October 18th, 2008, 01:48
12. MOVE AROUND: Don't just stand up front and yap, shout orders, etc . . . As wicket mentioned, going over and standing next to noisy kids tends to shut them up, but this technique need not be merely reactionary. You can use it proactively by simply moving about the room.

When the kids know that you will remain up front, they will be more emboldened to speak out of turn, act out, etc . . .. However, if they know that there is a potential for you to be standing over them at any given moment, they will tend to remain on task, pay attention, and behave.

October 22nd, 2008, 19:10
12. MOVE AROUND: Don't just stand up front and yap, shout orders, etc . . . As wicket mentioned, going over and standing next to noisy kids tends to shut them up, but this technique need not be merely reactionary. You can use it proactively by simply moving about the room.

When the kids know that you will remain up front, they will be more emboldened to speak out of turn, act out, etc . . .. However, if they know that there is a potential for you to be standing over them at any given moment, they will tend to remain on task, pay attention, and behave.

Yes I'm quickly finding out just my physical proximity can silence even some of the shittiest shitheads (not all).

It's funny because I'm about the least intimidating guy you'll ever see, but just walking toward someone with a serious look on my face can scare them pretty well.

October 23rd, 2008, 09:25
Yes, I think that some classes would just ignore the silent stare. But standing near/next to the distrupitve students has always worked for me.