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This unit discusses the different factors that influence the management of a class. It is a topic that I have been looking forward to studying as I recently started teaching a bigger group of students than I have previously taught.
Important points that a teacher should consider when teaching, whatever the size of the class, are the right usage of eye contact, gestures, voice and students’ names.
It is also important to know how to group students depending on the type activity. Class size and classroom furniture also play a role in this. The most common ways to group students are:
- Whole-class grouping which can create a sense of belonging and allows all the students to interact with the rest of the class. It is especially suitable when the teacher needs to be in control and is quick and easy to organize. On the other hand, it reduces the students’ opportunity to speak and students might not want to participate in front of the whole class
- Students working on their own means the teacher will be able to respond to individual needs of the students. It is less stressful for students compared to participating in front of the whole class. Student might also become more self-reliant. It however restricts student interaction.
- Pair work is quick to organize and greatly increases the students’ talking time and student to student interaction. It provided students with the opportunity to share ideas and thoughts with their partner and a safe environment to try them out. Stronger students could support weaker students as well. Some disadvantages are that it could be rather noisy, students might refer back to mother language to communicate and students might have to work with a partner they don’t like.
- Group work can also greatly increase the students’ talking time and student to student interaction, but it could take longer to organize. An advantage compared to pair work is that personal problems are less problematic in a group than in pairs. It can also be very noisy just like with pair work. A point to watch out for is that one or more stronger students do not dominate the more passive members of the group. It could also slow down the activity.
It’s best to use a variety of grouping styles. It is important to always in cooperate some pair work and group work whenever possible to increase student talking time
Another important point is classroom arrangement. The arrangement will depend on the space and the type of furniture available, the age, nationality and personality of the students. In my case because the class room size and type of furniture I can only use the horseshoe and separate table arrangements even though I teach a large group of students (over 25) The orderly rows would have helped me to increase discipline and keep eye contact with all my students in such a big group. However, the horse shoe and separate table arrangements make the classroom atmosphere more relaxed and informal and it is easy to do a lot of pair and group work.
Next, as a teacher we can sit, stand or walk around. Depending on the kind of activity, I personally almost always use all of these during one single class.
During language presentation and when giving instruction I usually stand to make sure I can make sure all students pay attention and can see me. During controlled practice, worksheet time and when checking the students progress I usually walk around to monitor the students and help when students ask for it. I try not to intrude too much as to not disrupt the students’ workflow.
When teachers write on the board we can’t avoid sometimes turning our back to the class, but there are ways to minimalize this. A new option to do this for me was to invite students to write on the board for me.
We must furthermore evenly divide the individual attention we offer students to remain fair, not just on the strongest or weakest students and include all students equally in any activity. If students do not want to or cannot contribute it won’t help to force them. It is better to ask them a question we know they will likely be able to answer correctly and praising them when they respond.
The balance between teacher talking time (TTT) and student talking time (STT) depends largely on the type of activities we use. TTT is a vital component as it provides a source of natural and correct English specifically focusing on the students’ ability. However, we should avoid unnecessary TTT as this will limit the opportunity for STTT. This also means we should give effective instructions by using simple language, being consistent, using visual clues and checking instructions (never by asking “Do you understand?” as this does not actually check if the students understand). When our instructions are effective we limit TTT as the students can then get on with the task/activity immediately without further explanation.
Finally, this unit looks at classroom discipline and how to maintain it. The degree to which we have to maintain discipline depends on a number of factors:
- age of students
- the students’ motivation
- do the students want to be there
- class size
- respect between the students and teacher
- principles and atmosphere of the school
There are many reasons for problem behavior, not all within the teacher’s control. We can try and prevent some problems from arising for example by being consistent and fair, not letting personal feelings influence the treatment of students, making threats we cannot or do not want to carry out, never losing our temper, making lessons varied and interesting, etc.
When problem behavior does arise we should act immediately, keep calm, focus on the behavior and not on the student, we could change the classroom dynamic, use the knowledge of our colleagues, keep the problem student behind after class and reprimand him or her in private and keep to the school’s disciplinary code. Finally there is something like too much discipline and rules which will work counterproductive.