What is classroom management and why is it important?

When we say ‘classroom management’ we mean the ways in which a teacher controls the lesson and the students in order to promote a good learning environment. In basic terms, this is done by having strategies to reward good behaviour or success in learning and also to discipline unruly students. Why is it important to practice and care about classroom management? The answer is simple. It improves your teaching, increases your job satisfaction and makes your life easier.

How to do it

Installing good classroom management in your lessons is a lot easier said than done- especially when you’re having ‘one of those days’. Having said that, it’s surprising what difference a few small adjustments to your approach can make. Your techniques to deal with good and bad behaviour in class will depend largely on the age group you are dealing with. What doesn’t change is the principle that students need to be given incentives to be productive and punishments/ sanctions for being counter-productive. Here are some things that you can do to put this into practice:

  • Mix up the seating plan: don’t have disruptive students sitting together. Separate them into a boy, girl, boy, girl arrangement.
  • Individual points: make the students compete, throughout the lesson, to earn the most points for good behaviour, correct answers and any other desirable behaviour. Write the names of your students on the far right or left of the board; write the points in tally chart format. Be sure not to be overly generous and to make sure that you do take points off for bad behaviour! Count up the points at the end of class and announce a winner. Remember not to be too nice as children will often try to take advantage.
  • Teams: at the very start of the lesson split the class into two teams. Give them a chance to make funny team names to get them interested. As with individual points systems, reward students for any desirable behaviour and good effort they exhibit during the class. The advantage of this system is that the students will police their team mates’ bad behaviour and the fear of letting their team down is often powerful enough to keep them in line with classroom rules.
  • Forfeits: make them aware at the start of class that if they exhibit certain forms of bad behaviour they will be made to do something embarrassing or boring. This can include, singing/dancing for 10 seconds, saying “I’m sorry teacher” 5 times, writing a word multiple times or doing 20 star jumps; anything you think will deter them from doing it again. Be firm and don’t let anyone off once you’ve started handing out the forfeits.
  • The Naughty Chair: at the start of class take a spare chair and place it facing the wall at the front of the room. Tell your students that this is the ‘naughty chair’, with the help of your teaching assistant if possible. When a student is bad give them a warning, if they do it again put them on the naughty chair for 5 minutes. This works on many levels and is particularly useful in calming hyperactive kids down.
  • Sit with the teacher: embarrass the overly talkative child that isn’t listening to your instructions by making them sit next to you at the front of class. This should keep most kids quiet.
  • Sad faces: On a section of the board draw a sad face. When students behave badly, write their names underneath it. If they can’t read their name, have your teaching assistant explain it or simply point and say it to them. Inform them that if their name is still under the sad face at the end of class you will be telling their parents but if they behave well from then on their name will later be removed from the list.
  • Sit out: Simply make badly behaved students sit out of games or fun activities. Implement it during a game which the class go wild for to get the maximum effect.
  • Alphabet writing: Self-explanatory, if they are badly behaved make them write the alphabet or a word/phrase 5-10 times on a piece of paper before they can join back in with the class.
  • Classroom Police Officer: Start the class by telling the students there are a few simple rules to follow. Keep it simple, for example; 1. Listen to teacher 2. No native language use in class 3. Have fun but don’t go too far. Elect a classroom police officer to keep an eye on the other students. Equip them with the phrases “Listen to the teacher!”, “No Chinese/Thai/Korean/Japanese/Spanish etc!” and “Be quiet!” Prompt them to do their job when they slack off, make sure you choose the officer wisely. Sometimes choosing the most disruptive and loud students can make them warm towards you and their energies can be channelled to work in your favour.
  • Meet the boss: most young children will be scared by the idea of having to go to the head teacher’s office or having the boss come into the class in order to remove them. Use it to your advantage even if you are making empty threats.
  • Go to another classroom: this technique works very well in most circumstances. If a student is severely disruptive take them to another class and either have them say ‘I’m very sorry for being badly behaved’ or have them sit in the corner for a while. Whether you are putting a younger student in with a class of older students or vice versa this mild humiliation is an effective method.
  • Stay behind: when students do something disruptive or undesirable, put their names on the board and keep a running tally of how many minutes they have to stay behind after class.
  • Jail: use your desk and/or some chairs to construct a ‘jail’ in the corner of the classroom. Tell your students that if they misbehave they will go to jail for 5 minutes. This technique is great for kindergartens.