David Walters

Class control

Tips on how to make your kids classes go smoothly

New teachers are often told "not to smile until Christmas". The idea is that once you lose a class it is very difficult to get them back, so it is imperative that you make sure that you know your students and how to deal with them, before you let your guard down.

You need to know how to control them better than they know how to control you. The way you control any class depends on what size class you have and also on the age of the children, but here are some tips on how to keep your class together.

Be well-prepared

Getting your lesson well planned out and all your work ready is essential to keeping your class under control. If you spend time looking for books or fumbling through sheets of paper your children will get restless. If you have everything planned and ready the children will see a well-organized teacher that knows what they are doing.

Don't give your children time to stop and think about talking or causing trouble. You can give them a break but keep it controlled. With time to sit around the children will no doubt find something else to do and it probably won't be something you like.

Keep lessons interesting

Just like we all hate boring staff meetings, children hate boring lessons. Make sure all the activities are pitched to the children and made as interesting as possible.

If they like what they are doing, they won't want to ruin it. It may take a lot of planning time outside the class but if you are having control issues, it will save you the headache inside the class.

Remember to differentiate work appropriately. Work set too high for struggling children will see them give up early and work set too low for your higher ability will see them finish early. The busier your students are the better. Make sure you always have something else ready for them to do.

Be fun and engaging

Body language and tone of voice are your best weapons when controlling a class. If your voice is dull it doesn't matter how good your lesson is, your students will be disinterested. Be energetic and entertaining.

Show your students you care about them- Most children might not show it, but they actually want to learn. If you don't show that you have time for them, then they won't respect you.

Similarly children that play up usually just need a teacher to support them. You will get a lot more out of students when you speak to them like grown-ups and ask them why they are playing up.

Even in Kindergarten I discuss matters like the children are adults. If you are too authoritative you will create combative relationships with strong willed pupils and no one wins from there. In the long run, shouting children down never works. The children will just become accustomed and then you will have no other cards left to play.

Rewarding good behaviour

Praising impressive work really helps children feel a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it is hard to find things to praise about the more disruptive children but when you do, make them feel like they are worth something.

Don't praise poor work but grab any opportunity to give helpful feedback and make the students want to do their best. Be careful not to over-praise as this devalues your feedback.

Be consistent

Probably the most vital piece of advice you can get. Don't let good students get away with bad behaviour just because normally they are good or that you know they won't get out of hand.

The other children in the room will take note of this too. It gives them a reason to misbehave and a reason to think you are unfair. If you have a difficult class, don't allow them get away with little things.

Controlling a snowflake is a lot easier than controlling an avalanche. If you are finding one child particularly difficult, focus on the rest of the group first until that child is misbehaving alone.

Children often misbehave for attention, so if they lose the respect of the other children, then more often or not, they become less disruptive.

David Walters

Head of British Early Years Centre and Editor of BEYC magazine


Class control - it is easier said than done in real life situations in some predominantly Asian environment where they are only less likely to misbehave under their often quite brutal and extremely fierce, oppressive, suppressive Asian teachers.
I don't agree with their oppressive Asian style or their Asian method of fierce oppression to force their students to behave or the fact that they were being forced to learn. People should learn because they want to and not because they are forced by compulsion or by some institutions that is only primarily motivated by profit.
Also many Asian employers are more likely to blame the teachers even though it is the Asian students who were behaving badly, disrupting the class and wasting our time, and making it difficult for us to deliver a lesson smoothly.

By wpass, In another part of South East Asia (18th August 2019)

@Mark Newman
You brought up many points which can be quite common in many dysfunctional Asian environment.
Many unprofessional Asian employers and Asian parents together with their Asian brats are also to be blamed for victimizing teachers like us who may be ignorant of their quite rampant Asian opportunistic bullying culture. Thus, we also have to accept the rather quite common unpleasant fact that there are many rowdy Asian students who are simply not interested in following an English lesson, no matter how much effort we put in creating an interesting lesson for them.
Dealing with too many unfair, high handed Asian employers can be a tough experience. But it can made us more cautious if were forced to deal with them again out of no choice.

By wpass, In another part of South East Asia (16th August 2019)

This article didn't work for me, unfortunately. I got more from the comments, especially Brian's and Freemo's. I lasted only one semester teaching EFL in Thailand, and maybe I was unlucky or simply not cut out for the gig, but most of my students were unable or unwilling to make a decent effort to learn English. Once I accepted that and found the best way to spend the time in class - meaning, most comfortable for me and them- things got a lot better. I think the secret is just to be more accepting generally and enjoy each day as much as possible, until a better teaching situation emerges. But easier said than done.

By David B, UK (25th April 2019)

Foreign teachers, especially in Thai government schools, really do face an uphill battle when it comes to classroom management, making a lot of the generic advice in this article a case of “much easier said than done” (which doesn’t mean these tips shouldn’t be applied, but you’re going to have your work cut out for you, is all I’m saying).

One issue you’ll find is that government school classes are typically packed to the brim (40+ plus students is the norm) and contain students of wildly mixed abilities and motivation. In many classes I’ve taught, you have the select few bright students who are almost always switched on and eager to learn; then you have the majority who are of average ability and who are mildly interested; and finally, the laggards, who are largely unmotivated, and struggle to comprehend the most basic elements of the lesson, due to a learning disability or inadequate prior education.

My point is, when you have such a mishmash of students—try as you might—you’re eventually going to have to accept that no matter how fun and interesting you are, there are going to be those students who simply are unwilling to even bother paying attention.

These students are the product of a broken education system.

But don’t necessarily take it as a failure on your part as the teacher. As somebody once said, “If a man has done his best, what more is there?”

By Brian, Thailand (24th April 2019)

The best way to keep Thai students sedated, while you count down the minutes, is to play Mr. Bean videos. Thai kids can't get enough of Bean. Exam scores get curved, so your students look like geniuses anyway. Kick off your shoes, relax, and use your few baht to buy some cheap wine to kill the thoughts of going to work.

By Freemo, Thailand (23rd April 2019)

Remember too the old saying... "spare the rod spoil the child"

By peter, US (4th April 2015)

An extremely well written article which sums up well in a few paragraphs what text books can spend a thousand pages doing... and still screw up!

I read every word and couldn't fault this article... though it should be said that it's squarely aimed at teachers who actually want to be in the classroom and teach and are surrounded by support and appropriate resources ! There's not much comfort in the article for the mass of unqualified and unmotivated flotsam currently making a living out of Thailand's broken education system.

I'd like to highlight the paragraph "Keep Lessons Interesting."

The single most important key to maintaining order in a classroom is to be interesting... and that's not easy for many teachers. in an Asian classroom environment.

Text books are dull and next to useless, it's bloody hot in the classroom, the kids just want to sleep after lunch...

Am I wrong, or does the writer come from a well resourced, air conditioned business where it's easy to blame the teachers if the kids are falling asleep or shrieking and running about the gaff?

The onus on 'making things interesting' (and keeping them that way) falls just as much to the employer as it does to the teacher.

Training, staff appraisals, reception to new ideas, resources, technology... these come from above. It's very hard for any teacher, no matter how 'educated' or enthusiastic, to pull rabbits out of a hat in the classroom... and keep doing it in different ways every class, month in and month out.

So, if you are a teacher, when you are looking for that job, make it a point to assess how interested that employer is in what happens in the classroom. If you're an employer (and you care about your academic progeny) keep in touch with your teachers and figure out ways to help them be better.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (3rd March 2015)

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