Where to begin… Behaviour management in itself is simple. It is about setting limits and assuring that everyone complies to those limits so that the teaching-learning process can go ahead as smoothly as possible, but as we all know, it is easier said than done. Here we are going to talk about various areas of behaviour and some strategies that can help us along the way. There are two areas that I wish to talk about: The role of the teacher and that of the student. In the classroom it is much easier if the majority of the class work as a cohesive unit but as we all know, it is not always the case. It is for the teacher to set the limits and ensure that they are understood by the student, but as I have said before, it is easier in theory than in practice. There are various influences that come into play, especially in the ESL classroom. In this post we will discuss the influences that can cause problems in ESL teaching.

Link to video: Behaviour Management


As teachers we need to set limits (or rules if you prefer) in the classroom. This is to be sure that everyone works together as a unit and the class can go on as planned. The teacher needs to first COMMUNICATE THE CLASS RULES to their students, but we need to make sure that they are understood. Make them visual and give examples. We also need to think about how to give this very important message, should we be giving it in the student’s first language? If the classroom rules are not understood fully we cannot really blame our students for breaking them. I use the first class as an icebreaker, all the activities should be focussed on showing how you wish to organize the class and what you expect of the students, be firm but fair and know when to be flexible (though this may come at a later date and is a difficult thing to judge). Students generally understand limits well if they understand the consequences of their actions, set them out early on and it will stand you in good stead throughout the year. It is better to be positive and focus on the things that the students are doing well than to focus on what they are not doing well. Use other students as examples and reward their efforts, the rest of the class will generally follow suit. I always say that you need to make it ´cool to behave´. Rewards do not always need to be material but can come in the form of privileges, praise or options (which game we can play on the last day). The teacher needs to organise the class well so that students know what they need to do and where they need to be. A good ay to do this is with music, a great song available on youtube is ´the tidy up song – Dave Moran Youtube song as it give the students a time limit and tells them exactly what they should be doing, later the children will associate the song to the action.


Classroom contract PDF: HERE



Secondly, we need to ensure that the RULES ARE AGREED by all the parties involved, for example, if the teacher decides to give two hours of homework a day and the students do not agree with the reasoning behind this, they are far less likely to comply. I usually set out a classroom contract with my students in the first class with older students (8-16) where we agree the rules, in the process I give the class options and we vote, for example, how often the teacher will set homework, once of twice a week. Students will generally fo for the minimum but that is what I wanted anyway. With younger learners it needs to be visual, I generally have the student’s name on the board and when they comply with a give instruction I reward them in some way, shape or form (e.g. a point on the house point chart) and if they do not their is a consequence.

And lastly, I want to talk about FAIRNESS and equality in the classroom. Teachers need to make sure that rules are fair and achievable. If students see inequality in the classroom, and I mean ´one rule for some and a different one of others´, they will also have difficulty in keeping track of how to behave, it is important to be consistent and to keep your promises. In ESL many classes are sporadic or the teacher is only with each class for a couple of hours a week. It is essential that you appear to be organised and in control of the class, students will pick up on the fact that you don’t have a plan very quickly and it can be a costly error.

Teaching tip: CLASSROOM CONTRACT. With my students we always start with the classroom contract, this is a document signed by all members of the class and agreed by voting. It is a tick list where we agree to certain limits that all students should follow so as to be fair. Even the teacher must comply. Examples of classroom contract points Food in class

Ο     Students mustn’t eat in class at any time

Ο     Students can chew chewing gum in class but never when doing a speaking       activity and they must throw it in the bin as they leave.

Ο     Students can eat sweets in class on special events such as birthdays, christmas or halloween.

Suggested further reading: Classroom Management: Creating a Successful Learning Community (Wiley/Jossey-Bass Education) by Paul Burden (2002-06-14) Classroom Management: The First Step to Effective Teaching by Johnny Coogan M.ED. (2015-07-16) Classroom Management: Models, Applications and Cases by M. Lee Manning (2012-01-01)

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