As a former teacher myself, I know that feeling of managing a wild classroom can push you to your limits and really put your anger threshold to the test.
I experienced emotions of anger more frequently in my one-year employment as a teacher MORE than I ever have my whole life! So believe me, I do understand. But with these 8 tips, I was able to feel more in control of my classroom, and I believe that they can help you too! Without further ado, let’s get to it…
1. Utilise the power of silence
Whenever students are noisy in your classroom, what’s the instinctual thing to do? To shout at them, begging for silence, right?
This was my first response, and is the natural response to it. In my experience, when you shout at students, this is the kind of response they want. It signals to them that you have lost it, which fuels them to continue their disruptive behaviour.
Offset this by using the power of silence. Whenever my students were disruptive, I wouldn’t shout at them anymore. I’d stare at them. Silently. And within about 10 seconds, they were all silent – waiting for me to continue with my lesson.
2. Shake things up from time to time
Humans are very prone to monotony. Children are even more so. They are filled with so much energy and creativity that can be used to make productive outcomes – if channeled correctly. But channeled incorrectly, and you have bored children – the root of disruptive behaviour.
Doing the same activities, in the same format, in the same classroom, with the same teacher…..even reading that makes me pity my students.
Change up your format of teaching. Change the environment. Throw in a new game. Go crazy with this. Doing anything that breaks the monotony in the classroom is sure to engage with your students once again.
3. Set rules from the start
One critical mistake I made that was hard to recover from was that I was overly friendly with the students from the start. My students were from the ages of 8-11 years old, so I had this belief that being a playful teacher would get them to like me and would have a butterfly effect of them respecting my authority.
Oh, how wrong I was!
The message this sent to the students was that I was playful, and not someone to be feared. This meant that when it was time for me to assert authority, they would not listen. I had to get rid of this overly playful image. And to be honest, I never really get over it. I tried to be stricter after this realisation, but as the old saying goes, first impressions last!
So, as advice from me to you: be strict and set rules from the start! And then you can be more playful after this first impression has been established.
4. Add a points system
I split the class into boys and girls, and then gave them points whenever students of the respective gender answered my questions. The points were written on the whiteboard.
Naturally, this makes the students want to engage, because earning points simulates a competition environment – boys want to be better than the girls, and the girls want to be better than the boys.
Additionally, I used this to control their behaviour. Whenever a student of the respective gender was being disruptive, I’d rub off a point for that gender on the board, and other students would scold the disruptive student. This adds an element of accountability for them.
You can get creative with how you split up the students, but ultimately you want to be adding a system where the students have accountability.
When you have this system implemented, students will be listening to you in no time!
5. Call the police!
Pick up the phone and call 999!
Ok, I’m just joking.
But what I mean by this is that you can assign a “police” role to your naughtiest student.
Naughty students are usually bored because the lesson is too easy for them. But I understand, you cannot cater to every single student because there’s only one of you!
What I did, purely as an experiment, was I got my naughtiest student to be my “police”. I got him to walk around the classroom and report to me who was being disruptive while I wasn’t looking.
This kills two birds with one stone, because your naughtiest student is now given a role where he/she feels fulfilled, and the other students are no longer disruptive due to the constant surveillance.
Give this unique strategy a go!
6. Positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement rewards desired behviour when it is exhibited, which encourages that behaviour to occur more often. Negative reinforcement is a punishment when an undesired behaviour is exhibited, which deters that behaviour.
A study carried out by Kelly. J and Pohl. B (2017) found that positive reinforcement was more effective at changing student behaviours than negative reinforcement.
Use this to leverage your position as an authoritative teacher.
I rewarded good behaviour by using positive words and praises, high-fiving students, and awarding them points on the board whenever they demonstrated good behaviour.
How you do this is not limited to what I did. Get creative with this. No matter how small or big the reward is, students should be rewarded for desired behaviour.
7. Develop a set routine that resets the noise level
Whenever the students were getting out of hand, I would do my silent stare, and then get them to clap once, then twice, then thrice. After that, silence would fill the room, and the stage was mine.
It was like an interruption to the current noise level, and was cue that signalled to them that silence is now required.
You can come up with anything you like, but make it a set routine, so students will know that silence is required after you complete that routine.
8. Use context when teaching
This is more of a preventative measure rather than a direct solution, but if this is implemented, then it can save you headaches in the long run!
I once read the book Fluent Forever: How To Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner, and boy, did it change my view on language learning. The way I approached my Spanish learning changed. If you are a language learner, I really recommend this book.
One important concept I learned from this book was that you will understand and comprehend a foreign language better when there is context as opposed to when it is isolated. Using the language in a way where there is ulterior motive will help with both your students’ comprehension and boredom.
With this newly learned principle, I ditched the boring grammar books, and focused more on playing games, doing activities, reading novels and watching videos. The sky is limit with this, as long as you are finding a context for the way you teach English, then your students should be more engaged with your lessons and less likely to be disruptive.
Well, those are the 8 strategies you can include in your teaching. You may find that some work, and some don’t. It really is trial-and-error. But with that said, try them, have fun with them, make adjustments to them, and once you’ve optimised these strategies to fit with the dynamics of your classes, you should be able to regain control of your noisy classroom! Peace at last!
Khun Parin is an English-born Thai person who once fulfilled his dream of teaching ESL in Thailand. Now it's time for him to share those experiences with you.
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