Thoughts about Classroom Management

by Zhenya

My friend and colleague (teacher trainer) asked me to share any workshop session materials for teachers on Classroom Management (planning to run a course on a short notice in a new context and is in the process of learning more about the teachers and their needs). At first I thought that it is not possible to create a ‘general’ or ‘universal’ session (in fact, it is my belief about making a lesson or a session very contextual and personalized). I started to browse my hard drive for anything that might fit and found a session I was putting together as a new trainer back in 2006 (my participants were private language school teachers from Ukraine and Moldova, all with previous experience and MA in TESOL).

Below I am sharing brief steps from that session, with some thoughts and reflections. 

Task for teachers:

What is Classroom Management? (give a definition) What does it involve? (make a list)

Format: ‘Think – Pair – Share’

According to Wikipedia, Classroom Management is a term used by teachers to describe the process of ensuring that a class runs smoothly despite (possible) disruptive behavior by students, as well as the prevention of this disruptive behavior.

The answers that came up were written down on the board: rapport between teacher and students, grouping and re-grouping students, distance between the teacher and students, seating arrangement, praise and encouragement, language feedback and correction, attention to individual students, lesson pace, teacher’s flexibility, readiness to answer questions, discipline, physical aspects of the room (heating, lighting, ventilation, decoration, visual aids, technology etc.)

Idea on reflection: the above could have been divided into two categories – managing the class (the group) and managing the room. Am I simply using the chance to play with the word ‘ClassRoom’ here? or is there more than that?)

Bonus question: will your definition change if you turn Classroom Management into Classroom Culture? In what way?

I have not written what the teachers replied but I think I would expect to hear something about Culture being a wider term and that it includes Classroom Management (CM from now on). They might also say that using ‘Culture’ is more student-centered than ‘Management’. Sometimes CM is referred to as Classroom Discipline, by the way.

Task for teachers: in three groups, think about advantages and disadvantages of various interaction patterns (whole class work, pair work, group work)

Re-grouping, so that a new group had a member from each group ready to share what they talked about

Format: a jig-saw sharing

Material: a simple grid teachers create in their notebooks, or provided by the trainer.

ProsConsGroupWork

Feedback: What is your favorite way of working in with a group of students? Why do you prefer it?

Task for teachers: during the session so far, what interaction patterns have you experienced? (choose from the board) What other aspects have you noticed?

Possible answers: seating arrangement, jig-saw, monitoring, etc. – depends on the style of the trainer

 Idea on reflection: is this done for the sake of variety, or in a meaningful way? Can there be any other ways to vary the format? 

Task for teachers: what other ways of managing students can you think of?

Format: individual note-taking, then competition while collecting answers (teachers score a point for each answer)

 

In some teaching contexts it is often a student who is ‘blamed’ for possible CM problems during a lesson.

Elicit a couple of examples from teachers: a student who did not do his/her homework, student texting messages, etc.

As teachers, when facing such a situation, we can think about available options and list them, make a decision based on what is our priority at that moment, what is important and meaningful for a lesson and/or students, and make a decision to act in this or that way. (This idea comes from Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching)

Task for teachers: work in two groups and create a set of (6-8) cards with ‘typical’ CM problems caused by students for the other groups to use.

The cards are then exchanged between the groups, and teachers take them in turns and brainstorm several possible options, or solutions based on which actions that can be made

Format: Do-It-Yourself type of tasks

Idea on reflection: As before, I am wondering if any purpose could be created for organizing the ‘game’ here?

Task for teachers: standing in two circles, inner and outer, share the best solutions you came up with (and which you are most likely planning to try out in your own lessons)

Format: Fluency Circles, or Concentration Circles

Feedback: Did you hear any solutions you really liked? Completely disagreed with? Share.

 

This time, let’s think about the opposite situation: can teachers ‘spoil’ a smooth lesson by their lack of CM skills? Teachers each receive a card with a possible ‘problem area’ and mingle around talking to two-three other teachers and asking

  1. whether or not they sometimes do that in class

  2. whether or not they saw other teachers do that in class

  3. possible strategies to ‘fight’ these habits

 

Cards for teachers

  • large ‘teacher talk’ portion

  • echo-ing (repeating what students said)

  • completing sentences for students

  • lengthy wordy instructions

  • saying what action is being done (‘running commentary’)

  • over- or under-helping (organizing, etc.)

  • going with the fastest students

  • going with the slowest students

  • monitoring too much/too little

Feedback: have you come up with any possible solutions? What are you planning to try out in your own lessons?

 

Wrapping up the session

Format: either open class discussion, or quiet written journal time and then sharing in pairs

  • Would you add or change anything in the working definition of CM from the beginning of our session?

  • What are you personally taking with you after this session?

Over to you: do you think this can be a ‘universal’ Classroom Management session? What potential pitfalls do you see? What would you plan differently, and why?

Useful links

Two blog posts by Mike Griffin (don’t miss the links!) – Classroom Management Party and Large Class Management 

chapter from Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching available for reading online