Young Learners can be both the highest highs and the lowest lows of your day; all depending on your mood, their mood, what they/you had for lunch, the weather, the list of possible variables is endless. One thing’s for sure, if you find yourself getting frustrated with some of these classes, you are NOT alone. Yes, YLs’ classes can be tiring but they can also bring you some of the most memorable moments of your career (in a good way), which is why it really is worth the time and effort to make these classes as effective and enjoyable as possible. You can do it!
Whilst by no means an exhaustive list, we bring you 10 of the best classroom management tips we have collated over the years to try and solve issues you may be facing in class, or perhaps some you are yet to face- in which case you’ll be well-prepared for (nearly) every eventuality.
- Make sure you always focus on the positive behaviour of the students in your class. In doing this the students will always try to fulfil your positive expectations of them and in doing do will reduce the amount of negative behaviour in the class. It also encourages students to be more positive towards each other and will promote a positive and supportive classroom environment.
- Use positive language instead of negative language. Try replacing language such as ‘If you don’t work hard, you won’t learn anything’ with ‘If you work a little harder, you’ll be able to understand much more and will find the class easier’. Giving students the opportunity to make positive changes to their learning comes partly from teacher interaction and the way in which we present their options.
- Spark students’ curiosity throughout class. Children are naturally curious creatures as they are trying to make sense of the world around them and we need to harness this curiosity in class. In doing so, you’ll find that it increases student engagement and encourages them to use their language in a more creative way. Why not use activities such as riddles or puzzles as a lead-in to the topic or target language of the lesson? Adding an element of mystery to the lesson will increase students’ interest and will make them use their language in a productive way without even realising it.
- Use call and response claps/chants. Raising your voice will get you nowhere, all you’re going to do is increase the overall volume of the class as students try and speak louder that you to be heard. Avoid this unnecessary display of anger in favour of training students to react to call and response chants or clapping to a beat. This little signal is something which has to be practised in class but is extremely effective in getting students’ attention after a more communicative activity, for example, or to refocus their attention. What about recognisable phrases such as ‘to infinity/and beyond’ or simple counting ‘123/look at me’.
- Use a traffic light red/amber/green card system in class to give students a visual cue as to their behaviour at that stage of the class. Place the cards on the board or behind the students on the wall so that they are visible at all times. The important thing about this system is that students have a chance to redeem themselves throughout the lesson. They are also able to see how they are getting on at a glance and can make the independent decision to change their card colour back to green when they are ready.
- With YLs it can often be difficult for teachers to communicate how they are feeling in class without using over-complicated words or reverting back to the students’ L1 to ensure the message is understood. Why not try using different emotion face cards and implement these as and when necessary throughout the class to show students how you are feeling. It’s particularly useful to get students to reflect on why you might be feeling like this. Use them for both positive and negative emotions and encourage students to express and react to others’ emotions as much as possible.
- When teaching YLs its essential never to underestimate the power of a strong routine so that students automatically know where they are in the class at all times. Younger learners find routines comforting and enjoy knowing what the teacher is going to ask of them next. After a few classes, you’ll realise that students are often better at remembering parts of the routine than the teacher and will automatically get themselves into the right place without the need for teacher intervention. Why not accidentally ‘forget’ parts of your set routine and ask the students to correct you, they love proving the teacher wrong!
- For the slightly older students, get them to create an activity schedule in which the students themselves prepare a fun language activity for the rest of the class. This gives students the opportunity to show off their talents or choose something they are really interested in for the rest of the students and encourages students to have a bit more autonomy in class and use their language in a freer context.
- Create and use a good behaviour checklist at the end of each class so that students can see what they have successfully done in class and what they need to do better for the next lesson. Anything which gets students to reflect on their own behaviour is a very positive classroom management tool. Using images on the checklist will aid understanding and will help students remember the different expectations in the classroom. You can also leave this on the wall as a reminder throughout the lesson and point to it if you see students pushing the boundaries a little in certain areas.
- Lastly, but most importantly, you must forgive and forget. Starting every class with a clean slate is essential when teaching Young Learners. They are at a point in their lives when each day is a new and exciting challenge and sometimes this can affect how they behave in class. Showing them that you are able to avoid any bad feelings and start afresh every lesson is a good opportunity for them to redeem themselves and learn to treat others with the same level of compassion.