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Behaviour management tips

When we put together the overall structure for The Language Teacher Toolkit we hesitated a bit before deciding to put in a chapter on behaviour management. I was probably a bit keener than Gianfranco to include it. On balance, we decided that since surveys show that it's usually the number one concern of trainee teachers, readers might appreciate some guidance. We drew on our own experience and advice from elsewhere, notably the esteemed Doug Lemov of Teach like a Champion fame and Tom Bennett who some of you will know as England's "behaviour tsar".

Our editor (my wife, Elspeth Jones) thought it was one of the best chapters in the end. Anyway, here is a brief extract from one of our boxes of tips. Old hands will recognise much of this as common sense classroom management technique. Newbies should find it useful advice.


TIPS FOR BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT

Ø  Avoid confrontation as far as possible, but when you need to confront do it clearly and unapologetically. Then move on (‘redirect’) quickly so it does not become a spectacle or test of power to be observed by the remaining students.
Ø  If a lesson does not go well you will worry about it much more than the students who have other lessons and plenty more on their minds. You cannot win them all. Keep in mind the ‘clean sheet’ idea.
Ø  Do not allow students to speak whilst you are speaking. Use whatever method suits you to insist on this (‘deadly stares’, non-verbal cues such as a raised eyebrow or hand, a system of warnings).
Ø  Avoid shouting. If you keep your voice down students may listen harder and avoid competing with you. A rare raised voice on your part, when needed, will be all the more effective.
Ø  Language lessons have many transition points. Have a clear sign for transitions between one activity and the next. These are frequently points in the lesson when momentum can be lost and students go off task. Teachers use countdowns, hand claps, raised arms, a tap on the desk – whatever works. Set time limits for independent or pair/group tasks.
Ø  If you have asked for silent independent work, insist on it and apply a sanction if necessary to enforce your expectation.
Ø  If you fear control is breaking down consistently seek help sooner rather than later. Schools are usually very collegiate institutions full of people ready to support you.
Ø  Be assertive. Tell students clearly and politely what to do; do not ask them. Make all instructions crystal clear, one thing at a time.
Ø  Make time to speak to them individually and get to know them. See if you can remember one interesting thing about each student.
Ø  Moving around the room can be effective, but avoid pacing like a lion. Be the centre of attention when you need to be.
Ø  The most effective way to handle any disrespect is to simply and dispassionately follow your classroom management plan and enforce a consequence. Try to avoid anger, even if it is your natural reaction. Behave with calm and poise.
Ø  When addressing the whole class keep good eye contact and expect it from students.

Comments

  1. I am currently in practicum right now, so all this "newbie" advice is great! I actually have a question for you! So I really like the idea of trying to talk to each student one-on-one, but sometimes (especially in a dual immersion setting where you have 25 kids in the morning and 25 in the afternoon) it's hard to find the right time or right setting to do this. Do you have any suggestions or experiences where you were able to make this work?

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  2. The times I found to do this were when the class arrived and were lining up outside the room. This could be a nice "settling" time too - a time to establish friendly order. Other moments would be when students were doing pair work or quiet written work. In addition, you might make sure you finish all lessons in good time so you can catch a moment with particulat students. Apart from that, even in classroom teacher-led interaction, if some of the questions are "personalised" you can establish some genuine communication. I hope that helps. Thanks for leaving your comment.

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