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Teaching English Tips to Stay in Control of a Large Class
Teaching English with games is becoming standard through out
ESL classrooms of the world. And this is good news, because
children love to learn through games, and become much more
motivated students as a result. However games often make
children excited, and if you have a large class you need a
few things up your sleeve to bring the class into line
immediately if things get a little over-heated.
Here are some tips and ideas to help you contain your
pupils' enthusiasm and manage your large class. There are
three sections. Essential basics, useful tips, and
1. Some essential basics to manage a large class
Together with your pupils define the rules in the first
lesson, and post them on the classroom wall for reference.
Knowing WHY a rule is in place makes it easier to keep. You
must establish the rules on day one and stick to them!
Be consistent in applying your rules. If you are arbitrary
about how you dish out your rewards or 'consequences', or
punishments you will undermine the rules themselves.
Praise good behavior to generate love and self-esteem.
Whatever you do, avoid being like so many parents who spend
their whole time telling their children, "don't do
this", and "don't do that". By focusing on
the positive in order to draw more attention to it you
apply the universal law of "you attract what you focus
If you are working in a school know the law and rules of
your institution before you go into the classroom for the
first time, and work in harmony with the school.
Start out strict and fair - and stay that way! Being
strict is not about looking stern and being bossy. It is
about making sure the rules are kept, in a firm but fair
way. You can still be a really fun, loving teacher and be
strict with your class at the same time.
2. Useful Tips
Don't break your own rules by raising your voice to be
heard. Instead talk quietly or stop and wait. Your class
should know that for every minute you are kept waiting they
will receive extra English homework, or whatever consequence
you have designated.
Children love the sound of their own name more than
anything else. So use an individual's name for praise and
avoid using it when telling someone off.
Create teams and deduct or reward behavior points to a
team's score during a game. Your class will respond
naturally by using peer pressure to keep the naughty
children from misbehaving.
Empower your children with choices. For example, ask a
naughty child, "Do you want me to speak to your
Dad?" By asking a question you give the child the
power to choose, whereas if you use a threat such as,
"I'll call your Dad if you don't behave", you
take the initiative away and seem tyrannical.
You can also say things like, "you can either play the
game properly or you can sit in the corner". The child
will probably choose to play the game properly, and you make
them responsible for their behaviour.
Prevention is better than cure, so try giving boisterous
children an important task BEFORE they start to play up.
They may respond well to the responsibility.
It is important, especially with a large class, to hand
things out quickly or use a system to have this done, such
as giving the well-behaved children the task as a reward.
Sing a song together or do some counting or a quick game to
occupy the class while materials are handed out.
Play a mystery game and, before you start your fun game say
that during the activity you will be watching the whole
class for 3 well-behaved children who will be rewarded.
Only play games where you know you can keep a handle on the
situation. For example there is no point playing a
boisterous game with a lot of movement if you have more
than around 20 children. With large classes, including
classes of up to 60 children, you need special games where
the children have limited movement - such as standing up or
making gestures but while remaining in their seats. You can
sign up to receive free games in the resource box below, and
some of the free games given out are suitable for very large
Start an English song the children know and love – they
will all join in with you and at the end you’ll have their
Clap out a pattern which the class must clap back, or start
a rhyme they know with actions.
Use quiet cues such as heads down or lights off. Vary these
with other fun quiet cues such as "Give me
five".1--on your bottom, legs crossed; 2--hands folded
in your lap; 3--face the speaker; 4--eyes and ears open;
You teach this repeatedly in the first lessons and after a
few weeks, you only have to say "Give me
five:1,2,3,4,5", and the children will do it.
You can also use the Magic 1 2 3 idea. When a child does
not comply start counting 1, 2,…The child knows that if you
get to 3 there will be some sort of consequence, such as
missing out on the next game. If you use this and you reach
3, you must follow through with an appropriate consequence
To summarise, establish the rules and consequences for good
and bad behavior, apply them consistently, set a good
example, use peer pressure and points, and use attention
grabbing cues such as favorite songs, English rhymes with
actions and countdowns. Above all play suitable games where
you know you can keep in control of your class.
You can be firm and fun at the same time, and if you cannot
manage your class, you should realize that, although it
sounds harsh to say it, you are wasting their time.
Shelley Vernon has helped 1000s of teachers be an
inspiration to their pupils and achieve results 2x as fast.
Improve the effectiveness of your lessons by up to 80%.
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