“I normally put on make-up but I got an eye infection that day and went to school without make-up. One of my students came to me and asked: ‘Teacher, why aren’t you wearing your glasses today?’”
This is a little anecdote from a colleague who doesn’t wear glasses. Somehow her little student perceived her eye make-up as glasses:-)
I love teaching young learners… They see the world differently. They come into the classroom with naive ideas about everything and they are a source of positive energy and creativity.
However, this positive energy might well be used physically and turn into a nightmare for a teacher:-)
I remember feeling extremely desperate after my first lesson with a group of 6-year-olds. There were only twenty of them and I would prefer to have hundreds of adult students instead.
It didn’t take me long to understand that 60% of teaching young learners is classroom management.
Once a psychologist on a TV program said “Everybody wants to have a big house but no one wants a house without walls.” It’s so true! If you set clear rules and expectations, they feel safer and then learning comes easily.
In order to gain and maintain positive classroom management, you need to use some techniques and establish routines in your classroom. I would like to share with you ten ideas that I used in my classes and that I believe work well. This year, I don’t have any classes so this post is a good chance for me to remember my little students.
None of the ideas are originally mine but unfortunately I might not be able to give credit to the owner of the idea because it’s been long time since I read them somewhere (probably on ETP, a resource book or a web site) and modified according to my classes.
*Some of these ideas are based on reward systems which has been a big debate for years and people feel very strongly one way or another. I think every classroom has its own chemistry and you should do what works for you.
1. Marbles In The Jar
When I searched the Internet, I found out that my “marbles in the jar” idea was already very famous. I guess I read it on ETP and adapted it for my 10-year-old students. It works very well for classroom behaviour and participation.
I had a bag full of marbles and there was a jar in every classroom. (Glass jars might be dangerous in the classroom, if you are not planning to assign a student to protect it from the other students during the breaks:-) The students were getting very excited even when they heard the sound of the marbles. Here is how it works:
Fill the jar with a couple of marbles when the whole class does something well or fully participate in the lesson. (At the beginning, you should inform them about the criteria for getting marbles.) When the jar is filled, you can do a fun activity or watch a film. You can count the marbles together for practising numbers. At the beginning, they can be obsessive about the marbles and do not think anything else but then it becomes a natural part of the lesson. This system might not work for a very long time. It worked well in my classes for one semester. The second term, I made a fresh start and introduced something different.
Max is a fluffy puppet that I used for minimizing the use of Turkish in the classroom.
I believe that moderate use of mother tongue has advantages but it is also necessary to ensure that students make effort to use English in the classroom.
I wrote a blog post when Max started to visit my classes. You can click the title to read it. “Here comes Max!”
3. 5-minute Teacher Talk
I got this idea from a colleague. At the beginning of every lesson, she waits for her students to settle down (it is especially fun(!) to watch them settle down after a PE lesson.) and starts the lesson by telling or reading them something for 5 minutes. This can be a story, a joke, a memory or some interesting news. This part of the lesson is task-free and the students only listen to the teacher. Afterwards, there can be a class discussion depending on the topic. This ‘teacher talk’ period at the beginning of the lesson helps them calm down and get ready for the lesson. If you provide some interesting content, it is very good for further discussions and increases the motivation level.
4. Student Helpers
Make your students feel important. This will help you build a positive relationship with your students which leads to better teaching and learning. Know their strengths and let them help you. If a student is good at using computers, ask him to turn on/off the computer, check if the speakers are working, find the web site that you want to show the class, etc.
You can also ask your students to pass out and/or collect worksheets, homework assignments, etc. or help you design bulletin boards.
Make sure that these duties do not belong to only one student for a long time. Give them responsibilities on a rotating basis.
5. Jazz Chants
I love jazz chants! Starting the lesson with a jazz chant livens up the classroom as well as making language memorable. I recommend Carolyn Graham’s Jazz Chants book to get ideas. You can also create your own jazz chants. Listen to Carolyn Graham to find out more.
I’d like to share the rest of the ideas in another blog post, otherwise it will be a long long post. In the next part, you will find some Web 2.0 related ideas as well.