One of the most difficult elements of working as a teacher is in classroom management. It’s all well and good having a great understanding of your subject, but if you can’t control the room then you will have a very hard time imparting your wisdom. Teachers need to be disciplined, organised and focused; in order to maintain control of an extremely combustible environment. In this blog, we’ll provide you with some top tips on how to manage the classroom.
How To Manage The Classroom
Tip 1: Seating Your Students
The first thing to consider when dealing with a new class, is where they intend to sit them. This will vary depending on the type of work that you will be doing, but optimally, you want to place students in a position where they can engage in pair or group work. By creating close physical proximity, you create an environment where students are more likely and willing to speak to each other. A good example of how not to do this would be to put a row of students in one line. Typically, in these lines (when it comes to working in groups) there are always 1 or 2 unfortunate students at the end of the line who are left out and don’t learn/get to contribute as much. Short, multiple rows are far more conducive to a good environment than long. Of course, you could always try the circle or semi-circle approach. This is great for interaction, but many people complain that they feel intimidated by ‘the space in the middle’ or the fact that everyone in the class can be watching them at any one moment. This is an important way of learning how to manage the classroom
Tip 2: Eye Contact
Communication is one of the fundamental assets of classroom management, and an essential element of this is eye contact. By maintaining eye contact with different members of the group, you will increase focus and ensure that everyone feels involved in the lesson. This doesn’t mean you need to make eye contact with every single person, but make sure you are making a conscious effort to look at the students who might be in an isolated position within the room – for example at the back.
Tip 3: Speak Clearly
Even more so than eye contact, the way you speak defines your communication ability. As a teacher, your voice is your greatest weapon, so use it. You must be able to speak loudly, clearly and authoritatively, in order for your students to hear you properly. One of the biggest problems that new teachers have is that they are scared to raise their voice, and thus students have to strain to hear them. This leads to a loss of concentration, which in turn leads to misbehaviour in the classroom. The way you speak also correlates with the manner in which you deliver information too. When putting your point across, it’s vital that you can do so in a clear manner. Remember your audience. You might well have a PHD in the subject, but your students don’t, and you need to tailor the information you are giving and the way it is put across. Conversely, if you speak too simplistically, students will recognise this and react badly. The key is to find a balance between speaking slowly and clearly, but still delivering the appropriate information in an intelligent manner. This extends to knowing WHEN to speak too. If you simply keep talking at students, without listening to them or even acknowledging that it’s a fundamental requirement for them to listen, then they will simply tune out and won’t learn anything. Speaking clearly will really help you learn how to manage the classroom.
Tip 4: Giving Instructions
Following on from the previous point, giving instructions is important too. One of the most common problems that teachers face is that their discussion based activities aren’t going to plan. The reason for this is usually because they haven’t laid out their instructions properly. Whether they are too complicated or just not clear, if you don’t spell it out for your students then don’t expect them to get it. With this in mind, here are 3 general pointers for giving instructions to your class:
- Don’t overcomplicate things. Keep your instructions as concise and simple as possible. Remember that not everyone in your class will have fantastic listening skills, and therefore might be severely put off by really complex instructions.
- Don’t be vague. Numerous studies have shown that classes work better when the teacher provides the students with a clear goal or purpose, and a specific task to work with. Essentially, if you leave instructions too open for interpretation, you are asking for misbehaviour.
- Gain confirmation. A great way to clarify that people have understood the instructions is simply to ask them. Once you’ve given out the instructions, look around the room. Are there any students looking slightly baffled or lost? Ask them to relay what they understand they have to do to the class. If they are wrong, correct them. In doing so, you’ll provide everyone with guidance on what they should be doing.
Tip 5: Using the board
Our final tip on how to manage the classroom relates to one of the most popular and polarising classroom tools – the board. The white (or black) board remains the most popular way for teachers to send visual messages to their classrooms, and is even more prominent in some cases than you yourself as the teacher. With this in mind, here are some top tips on how to use the board to your advantage:
- Your handwriting matters. Okay, not everyone has perfect handwriting, but it needs to be legible and large enough to read. If people at the back can’t read it properly then there is a problem. Remember that the board is for everyone, not just a few visually superior students.
- Don’t overuse the board. This is a common mistake. Some teachers spend so much time writing on the board during the lesson that it actually detracts from the lesson itself. If you need to write long sentences on the board then do so before the lesson actually starts. The more time spent teaching, and not writing, the better.
- Turn around! Following on from the last point, there are a huge number of teachers who become almost married to the board. That is to say, their communication levels drop and class interest wanes, because the teacher spends more time interacting with the board than with the class itself. Make sure that you turn around frequently, to ensure the class understand and engage with the subject.
- Board doesn’t mean bored. The blackboard is a fantastic way of entertaining your students, it doesn’t have to be a monotonous tool. Draw pictures, illustrate your arguments, create a lighter atmosphere in the class. The board can be used to make students laugh, as well as learn.