Classroom Management (CRM)
Before I start, I cannot stress enough the importance of good CRM. If you don’t believe me, go to your academic manager or course tutor, tell them you don’t think CRM is important and see what reaction you get.
CRM is one of the most important skills any new teacher needs to learn. As a former academic manager responsible for training new teachers, I can tell you categorically that the route of most problems with newly qualified teachers stems from poor (or a total lack of) CRM.
Having good CRM skills doesn't mean you need to be a Victorian-esque disciplinarian who controls your class like a South American dictator. What it means is you can manage your students in such a way as to keep the lesson going in a positive direction.
If you are a new teacher about to embark on your first teaching position, I know what you are probably thinking, be it consciously or subconsciously;
"I won't need any CRM, my students will listen to me because I am interesting / fun / exciting etc"
You might be the world's most interesting, fun or exciting teacher, but you WILL need some CRM system or your classes will descend into chaos. CRM is a positive teaching habit to get into, as after a while it will become second nature and you can do more challenging things with your students.
Pointer 1 – Have a Clear, Distinctive Start to Your Class
Students need to know when the class has started. If there is no obvious start to the class, their pre-class behavior will encroach into the lesson. There are a number of different ways you can do this, and most teachers will have their own method. A good way is to give students a “Countdown to Silence”. In this method, the teacher (in a firm voice) will say something like “Class begins in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..” and then do a gesture with their hands and be silent, which the kids will follow, then you can start the class. Children in Chinese kindergartens are drilled to sit in a certain way, usually with their hands on their legs or with their arms out in front of them in a kind of crossed fashion. Other teachers will start with a "Hello!" song. Whatever works for you.
Pointer 2 - Don't Shout at Students!
First off, there is a difference between shouting and SHOUTING. No doubt, your primary responsibility will be teaching oral English so it's inevitable that your classes will get a little bit loud from time to time. Shouting (or more accurately, speaking loudly) to get students' attention is okay to a degree, especially during group work. Shouting at students in anger or as a punishment is ill-advised because once you've gone to that level; you have nowhere else to go. If you repeat, your students will become desensitized to it and will stop following your instructions completely.
Pointer 3 - Be Consistent!
Don't reward/penalise one student for doing something, and then not reward/penalise a different student two seconds later for doing the same thing. Kids will pick up on it and get a feeling of injustice. Be as fair and as consistent as possible. Also, use your CRM system in each and every class. Using it sporadically will make it significantly less effective.
Pointer 4 - Positive Reinforcement is More Effective Than Negative Consequences!
Consistently rewarding students for doing good work will work better than just penalising them when they do something wrong. Rewarding students not only gives them motivation, it will also help to build their confidence in their English, causing them to use it more and thus become better speakers, which will reflect on your teaching. You're happy, your students are happy, your school is happy and the parents are happy. Everyone wins!
Pointer 5 - Write it on Your Lesson Plan!
Once you start using a CRM system and are reaping the benefits, it's easy to forget about it. The kids are behaving and doing good work, why continue to use it? I don't think I need to tell you what will happen (but I will anyway). The kids will start slipping and when you go to rekindle the use of your CRM system, they won't care. Write when to use your CRM on your lesson plan. This way you won't forget and it will stay fresh in your students' minds.
The Happy Face System
If you are going to work at one of the chain training centres (such as EF) or a kindergarten, this will be a mainstay of your teaching life for early learners. When utilized correctly, it is very effective. Very, VERY effective! The concept is quite simple; each time a student does something positive, they are rewarded with a happy face. Each time they do something negative, a happy face is taken away (some teachers use stars instead of happy faces, but the system is the same). If you make the HFS the backbone of your class, students WILL care about their happy faces and WILL behavior and participate effectively in order to get them.
reward happy faces frequently, such as after each activity. Early learners have quite a low attention span, so each activity on average will usually last around 5 minutes. This gives students plenty of opportunities to earn lots of happy faces.
think of new ways to incorporate the HFS into your classes. For example, at the start of each class, ask each student a number of questions (such as "what's your name?", "how are you?" etc). After they have answered, reward them for each question they answered. Usually for early learners, you would help them so it would be very rare for you to not give them the maximum (if ever). Another idea is to try to incorporate recent language you have taught, it's a good way to review at the start of the class. Also, keep in mind your student interactions. There’s no rule stating that questions must be asked by you, you can have students ask each other questions and then reward happy faces. A good way to practice the question forms of the sentences you are teaching.
be creative with your happy faces. If a student does extra-special work, you need to show the student you recognize that. However, what happens if you want to highlight a shy students' extra effort, should you give them more happy faces than the rest of the class for doing the same task? If you do, the other students might feel you are being unfair. The way around this is to give the student in question a different happy face. I usually reward extra effort with a cat face. Using a different face will give students an added incentive without being unfair to the rest of the class. Adding hair, glasses, beards, cat ears etc works in the same way.
use parents. Remember when you were a kid, it was all fun and games when you were messing about and being naughty.... until your parents found out. Then the fun and games ended and you were in trouble. Same is true in China. At the end of each class, show each parent how well their child did in class this week. Not only will the parents appreciate the feedback, but if one student had been naughty in class it will spill over into their home life. Next class, you will usually see an improvement as they will learn that they can't get away with being naughty in class as their parents will find out. Also, if you have a student with behavioral problems, when they have a good class make sure to praise them in front of their parents.
be over-eager to remove happy faces. Give students a number of warnings before you take a happy face away. This gives students the opportunity to correct their behaviour. I recommend using a three-finger warning system. After the third transgression, "bye bye happy face...". It will also make a bigger impact as and when you do remove one, over-emphasizing the severity of their behaviour.
use happy faces as a points substitute. Your CRM system is used to encourage effort and behaviour, not how good a student is at a particular game or activity. This is especially true if your activity has a high degree of chance involved, rewarding happy faces for luck isn't fair. If you do an activity/game where students can get points, have a separate scoreboard.
rush through giving happy faces. If you take an extra few minutes rewarding students, they will care more about it and participate more effectively during activities. It's better to spend 5 minutes rewarding students and having them focus on the tasks you are doing than it is to spend 30 seconds rushing through it and having to constantly battle to get students' attention when you are trying to demo an activity.
The Team Points System (TPS)
Pretty much just a re-working of the Happy Face System, but with ticks instead of happy faces and done in teams instead of individuals. The HFS is a little childish for slightly older students, so the TPS is a better alternative. The great thing about doing this in teams is, if you get a student who doesn't care in a team with students who do, the students who care will use peer pressure to put the other students in check. Unlike early learners, older students will want some kind of prize at the end if their team has the most ticks. I would strongly advise against giving out confectionary as a prize. Students will become dependent on it and if one class you forget, they will stop caring about the ticks. Also, if you use confectionary it is more like you are bribing them than rewarding them.
If you work in a public school, the class sizes can get pretty large (around 50 students per class) so having an effective CRM system is vital. Below is a picture of the standard layout of a public school classroom. Teachers will usually allocated each aisle as a team, so 4 teams in total.
I've seen different teachers give different things as a reward, including;
- Signature. The teacher just signs their name or draws a simple picture in winning students' books. Sounds crazy, but Chinese students love things like this.
- Game. For the last few minutes of the class, let students play a game. Obviously, incorporate the language you are teaching into the game so in reality it is part of your lesson, but students won't realise that. They'll just be happy to be doing something more fun than writing.
- Extra Homework to the losing team/s. On paper, this sounds like a terrible idea but the teacher I saw doing this pulled it off really well, and it was really effective. His approach was very light-hearted and generated a lot of competition and banter between the teams. The losing team didn't get angry with the other team, only at the one student who cost them ticks for messing about at the start of the class. He soon stopped after his team got on his back and he was pretty good after that, and I'm sure he behaved better in the next class.
- Accruing Points. Especially true for public school. After each class, record which team won and at the end of the week/month/term see who is the overall winner. Maybe have a little awards ceremony and give out prizes.
The Do's and Don'ts are pretty much the same as for the HFS, but bear a couple of things in mind. If you have a draw at the end, you may want to devise a way to award a winner. If you do rock-paper-scissors or something like that, be wary of which students you choose. Don't force a student to be the one who plays as it can really upset the more timid ones. Ask for volunteers, that way it was their choice if they lose.
The Tick - Cross System (TCS)
The same as TPS, but done as a whole class. Ticks for positive actions, crosses for negative. At the end of the class, count them up and see whether the class 'wins' or 'loses'. Your reward/punishment is up to you.
At the start of a term/course devise a list of things students can and can't do, and agree on a list of rewards and punishments. Then if any students break the rules, you can't refer back to the contract. Students will remind you of their rewards, so don't worry about that.