Being an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher comes with its own set of problems when it comes to classroom management. Unlike in a classroom where all the children speak English and understand everything you say, teaching EFL often means a large percentage of the children don’t understand what you’re saying when you speak. This alone can cause classroom management problems, particularly if you don’t get manage to control your classroom when you first start teaching them. Classroom management with EFL kids is possible though. It just means you have to apply techniques you may not use with native English speakers.
Lay Down the Rules, With Translation – When I first start to teach a new EFL class in Thailand where I live, during the first class I go through all the rules. When I’ve finished explaining the rules in English, I then have a Thai teacher explain them again in Thai. That way, if there’s ever disagreement with a child saying they didn’t know we had that rule as they don’t understand English, they don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s also been explained to them in Thai.
Classroom management with children learning EFL can be as simple as giving them no excuse to say “I didn’t understand”.
Have Children Sign a Copy of the Rules – Once I’ve explained the classroom rules to my new EFL students, I hand the children a copy of the rules, written in both English and Thai. Each child has to read through them (reinforcing the rules in their heads again!) and then must sign the paper to say they understand. Thus, when a child breaks the rules (which they do!) I can point to the paper and say “You agreed to follow these. What happened?”
This is also a good defense with parents, who will say their child didn’t know that rule, in an effort to defend them. In many Asian countries, parents expect the teacher to have good classroom management but then try to blame it on ‘not understanding’ when their child misbehaves. With a set of rules in hand signed by their child, that’s not possible.
Start New Every Class – Don’t ever hold a grudge with a child. Just because they misbehaved yesterday, it doesn’t mean they will today. Let bygones by bygones and don’t keep reminding them how badly behaved they were before. This simply creates resentment and makes it a lot less likely that child will follow classroom rules. Why should they? You’ve already made up your mind about them.
Find Out What’s Wrong Before Punishing – Some teachers dole out punishment without trying to figure out who’s at fault and why. Find out what the problem is and who did what before you punish any child. That way the kids who don’t understand English are less likely to be blamed for something they did because of their limitations in English. It also means better classroom management for you when you don’t punish the wrong child.
Make the Class Fun – If you can make the class fun, you can already preempt many potential classroom management problems. If the kids are engaged and having fun, they’re less likely to misbehave and you’re less likely to have to deal with problems. Plus, when you make learning English fun, your children usually learn faster.
Don’t Buy Into Power Struggles – Some children will set up a situation where they attempt to have a power struggle with the teacher, particularly if they’re one of the kids having difficulties in English. Showing off to their friends can give the child a high and, if not nipped in the bud, can make teaching a nightmare. Deal with the child outside the classroom away from their friends, when their bravado will quickly dissipate and they’ll realize they’ve lost.
These are just a few of the ways to have good classroom management in a classroom full of children learning EFL. Even though many kids won’t speak much English, if you can deal with potential problems quickly and easily you’ll end up with really fun classes, where the kids learn and you’ll have a blast.