Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Power of Routine PART 2- Classroom Management Tricks that Work with Young Learners

The Power of Routine Part 2: Classroom Management Tricks that Work with Young Learners.

Quiet, please

Reprimanding the students who misbehave is essential but it isn’t motivational. You may say one name a hundred times during the lesson and nothing happens. You do it automatically, the child may not even notice, there is no improvement and there are no consequences.

 *    I-know-when-to-be-quiet kite works on the basis of the rule Catch Them Being Good. Prepare with your students a colourful kite and write there “I know when to be quiet”. Make a long tail of that kite and decorate it with paper bows, each with a student’s name. During the lesson look for students whose behaviour is exceptional. Instead of just saying “well done” appreciate them by decorating their bow with a sticker or a marker stamp. Make sure students know the moment when they are  rewarded. Such a kite helps you to monitor the overall class behaviour, it is also a visual sign for parents how their child behaves during English lessons.

 *    Wooden clothes pegs might help you to manage your class noise level. Prepare a large circle divided into three parts: green – “I am quiet”, yellow – “Please, be quiet”, red – “You are too loud” and hang it in a visible place in the classroom. Take a black marker and write students’ names on the clothes peg. Start by placing all the pegs on the green area and then during the lesson reprimand the noisy students and place their pegs first on yellow and then, if there is no improvement, on red parts of the circle. Write down all the names of the students whose pegs remain on the red area when the lesson finishes. Think of appropriate consequences if the situation repeats, for example a note to parents or a minus at the end of the notebook.

 *    Defeat the creature is a technique to make everyone quiet without saying “be quiet” all the time. On the board draw a monster or a strange creature resembling a caterpillar with a head and five body parts. Explain the rules: if the class work quietly, you will secretly erase one body part but if they are rowdy you will add a body part. If all the body parts are erased and only the body is left then the class can choose an activity they would like to do at the beginning of the next lesson.

Choosing students

I teach over 60 students aged 6 to 10. It’s a lot but I know there are teachers who teach many more. All these children want special treatment and appreciation for their efforts and my memory isn’t good enough for all that. Sometimes I need one student to help me distribute a copy of an exercise and they all look at me imploringly. I choose one person and half of them are always disappointed and ask “Can it be me next time?” and I just say “Yes”, and during the next lesson I am not able to remember who it should be. And nothing is worse than broken promises.

These are a few hints that may help you deal with that problem:

 *    Use counting rhymes such as

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,

Catch a tiger by the toe.

If he hollers let him go,

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

Bubblegum, bubblegum,

In a dish,

How many pieces,

Do you wish?

Mickey mouse built a house.

How many bricks did he use?

The child who you point when saying “use” or “wish” in the two last rhymes says a number. Then count in any direction or count every second person. This eliminates a situation when students try to calculate to be chosen.

 *    Prepare one set of popsicle sticks or wooden spatulas (used by doctors to examine the throat) for every class you teach. Write students’ names on them and place them in a plastic cup or a jar. Whenever you need one person just take a popsicle stick out of the cup. To make it fair set apart the popsicle sticks of children who have already been chosen. It gives everyone a chance to be picked by the teacher.
 *    Who will clean the board? Who will distribute photocopied exercises? Who will sit next to the teacher in the circle? Picking one student means hurting five others. Class jobs chart eliminates such dilemmas. Think of all the jobs that are important for you during the lesson such as:

- Circle Buddy (two students who sit next to the teacher in the circle)

- Team Leader (two or three students who will be the leaders of the teams in a game)

- Paper Passer (distributes the photocopies)

- Board Eraser (cleans the board)

- Assistant (does the job of someone who is absent)

- On Holiday (has no job)

It’s best to have as many jobs as there are students in the class. One job such as a Circle Buddy should be always done by two students. Prepare a big poster with little paper pockets for each job. Then cut out the outlines of people  (you can find them on the Internet) and on each one write a student’s name. Place student’s templates in the job chart’s pockets and rotate them every week.

 *    Picking somebody from the reward board works both as a motivator for better behaviour and as a help in choosing students. Prepare a big sign “Reward board” and hang it always in the same part of the board. When you notice a student working well write their name there. You might add the same student’s name a few times during one lesson. Later when you need a student for a special task just pick one name from that list.

Homework checking

Checking homework is time consuming no matter if you read at home 25 essays or just have a quick look at students’ workbooks during the lesson. Nevertheless, I believe in assigning homework and even more in checking it.

 *    If I give homework it must be done. If they forget to do it they should show it to me during the next lesson. Simple? But not in practice. How to remember who hasn’t done it previously? Write notes and then lose them? To avoid problems with homework checking try this: Each student has their own name written on the popsicle stick (a different set than for choosing students, can be marked with a different colour) and there are three plastic cups labelled: Homework, I’ve done homework and I haven’t done homework. At the beginning all the names are in the “homework” cup, then students at the beginning of the lesson place their popsicle stick in the proper cup depending whether or not they have done their homework. Those who are absent are left in the “homework” cup. Start the next lesson with the outstanding homework and then proceed with the new homework checking. If someone hasn’t done the same homework twice write a short note for parents or information in their notebooks “Please do your homework!”.

 *    Squeezing between the desks to have a look at the workbooks is complicated and you lose eye contact with the whole class. Sit at the teacher’s desk and ask students to come to you, stand in a line and wait with their notebooks or workbooks. Call them row by row as it  eliminates long queues. Plan what the rest should do at that time. They might open the book and read or look at a picture story, they might revise words in pairs by naming pictures which hang on the board, they might listen to a story or a song from the previous lesson.

Secret worker, secret walker, secret singer

To make sure everyone cares and does their best I choose a secret worker – one person for a week. I never tell my class who it is. I only say I will observe this student all the time and if s/he works well s/he will get a ‘certificate of secret worker’ at the end of the week.  You can find great ready-made certificates such as award ribbons at or

I also use other secret helpers such as ‘secret singer’ – when we sing a song I pick one person and observe him/ her singing. I am also responsible for taking my students downstairs after the end of lessons. It’s extremely hard for me to manage them walking in pairs, quietly without jumping or pushing. So every time I do that I say that I choose a secret walker and will watch that person going downstairs. They never know who it is so they all try to walk slowly and quietly. At the end I reveal the secret walker who scores a plus for his/her team if s/he walked calmly.


 *   Place an empty jar in a visible place in the classroom and have a bag full of glass marbles ready. When you see your students work hard place a marble in the jar. A full jar means a special prize for the whole class. My third graders are collecting marbles and when their jar is full we will make a film or a photo story with Lego bricks. They just can’t wait to do it!

 *    Instead of marbles you may fill up the jar with sweets. When it’s full you can eat them all together.

 *    At the beginning of the week write the word SURPRISE on the board if you see kids misbehave during the class, walk to the board and without a word erase the first letter. If their behaviour improves add the letter again. If the class has the whole word at the end of the week they get a surprise at the first lesson in the new week, for example we play a game. Similarly, write the letter B on the board and when they work well or are quiet add letters to make BRAVO. If they get the whole word on one lesson or in one week they can choose a game to play.

 *    Hang a one-meter long piece of string in the class. On one side of the string attach a picture of a hedgehog with a clothes peg. On the other side attach a blown-up red balloon and a picture of an apple. Inside the balloon place a surprise – a piece of paper with the class favourite activity. Lesson after lesson, if the students behave and work well, the hedgehog moves closer to the apple. When it finally reaches it, pop the balloon to see what prize is waiting for us.

 *    To appreciate students’ efforts to speak English during the lesson, prepare a picture of an apple tree full of apples. If you notice a student trying to ask you or a friend about something in English write their name on one of the apples. The moment the tree is full of apples with names organise an English party in the class with  cake and quizzes. Don’t forget to praise the children whose names appear most often on the tree. You might even send a note to the parents appreciating their child’s efforts.

 *    If you notice a praiseworthy behaviour, write that student’s name on a small piece of paper and place it a box. At the end of the week pick one slip of paper from that box. The name of the chosen student will hang on the special place of board for the whole week.

Classroom management doesn’t have to be boring, it might be entertaining, motivating and enjoyable. But it requires time so be prepared that you won’t change everything in one lesson. You won’t also be able to improve your students’ behaviour if you fail to be consistent. However, if you devote some of your time, energy and patience to establishing routines miracles will happen!


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