An old adage holds that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – this was never truer than when discussing management and control of your classroom.
The biggest headaches come after you have lost control – usually manifesting itself as shouting, fighting, arguing, crying and total disinterest in you and anything you have to say. It can seem like you are invisible – not even in the room for all intents and purposes. And in reality, you have left the room. Much better to stop the pandemonium before it gets this far. There is a world of difference between a “lively class” and one that is out of control.
When the first rumblings start it is usually evidenced by a couple of students immersed in what appears to be a serious discussion in their native language. Watch for this.
Before long other students join the conversation and the volume increases. You can try raising your voice to get the focus back on you and your lesson, but quite often this falls flat. One proven method is to stand quietly and watch the goings on – eventually someone will notice that you are sternly looking at them and inform the others. They usually settle down and someone will apologize. A quiet voice is quite effective at this point, this forces them to listen carefully and keep their own noise down, A quiet voice when mayhem is rampant is paramount – do not join the fray by yelling. If you find you can’t get them settled – get a teaching assistant – most schools have them but often they do not come into the classroom unless requested.
If you are reluctant to enlist aid – threaten to phone their mothers – none of them want that, and it is astounding how quickly order returns to your classroom.
As far as prevention – a little common sense goes a long way – number one – don’t allow one or two students to dominate, make sure everyone participates. Typically your better students are the ones who will be answering questions and participating in discussion, and the tendency for most teachers is to let them talk. And that is fine as far as it goes, but do not forget the quiet ones, ignoring them just serves to marginalize them and before long you have two or more sub-classes underway – and you won’t be in control of any of them.
Engage everyone – walk around asking your questions – comment on their work – give praise where praise is due – especially with your quieter students – encourage them and watch for frustration – usually a sign that they haven’t understood.
Keep them interested – give them some variety – especially in longer classes – i.e. classes over one hour. The younger your students are, the more frequent you should change your teaching focus in order to keep their interest. Don’t spend two hours teaching grammar because they need the practice and you like doing it. You are not doing them any favors, and you are just inviting pandemonium.