ESL Discussion: How do you control and discipline your students?

You know when you have one of those days where everyone decides to play up? Well, that happened to me last week. It was Tuesday and something happened in all three of my classes; leaving me wondering why I bother to put so much effort in my classes. Sound familiar? 

Luckily when I saw those three classes on the Thursday it was a different story, but if I hadn’t taken action then I might had gone even more mental than I already am after a year doing the DELTA.

How do you discipline?
Photo by grotuk
1st class

What happened?
A bunch of energetic 7-8 year olds. 6 hadn’t studied for the mini exam, the other 6 hadn’t done their homework, and throughout the class about 3 dropped the entire contents of their pencil cases on the floor. Not to mention the occasional name calling (not to me).

How did I deal with it?
I wasn’t a happy bunny, and at the end of the class I told them they weren’t my favourite class anymore. “When I get home my wife asks me about you lot,” I said in Spanish, “and I always say how good you are in class, but not today. My wife won’t be happy.” One student looked as if she was going to cry.

What was the outcome?
Thursdays’ class was much better. Everyone did their homework, they were much more responsive, and at the end of the class three asked if they were my favourite class again. “Of course you are,” I said. “You guys were excellent today.” Let’s see how long it lasts.
Photo by gummypiglet
2nd class

What happened?
Another young learners’ class: aged nine and ten. It was the homework again. Seven of the eleven hadn’t bothered to do a quick five minute activity. The pressure was building up.

How did I deal with it?
“Get your notebooks out,” I said when I’d done a quick check of their activity books. “Copy this,” I added, writing I will do my homework because it is important for the exams x 30. A couple of the kids who’d done their homework moaned. “Blame your colleagues,” I said. “You all know the rules about homework.”

What was the outcome?
Next lesson everyone had done the lines, and their homework. Apart from one kid who is probably still writing out his extra 20 lines right now. Good old fashioned lines always do the trick.

3rd class

What happened?
This was a class of 12-13 year olds. It started well; everyone had done their homework. The lesson went fine, until the last fifteen minutes when we were practising for their oral exam. I just spent ages briefing them on the exam and helping them with their pronunciation. I sat eager with my pencil to pick up on any pronunciation issues. However, most of the class thought I wasn’t listening and they started to speak in Spanish. I gave them a chance to speak in English, but they didn’t. At the end of the class they could see I was bubbling, but I just said goodbye and showed them the door.

How did I deal with it?
When they turned up on Thursday and saw that the door was shut they could sense I was mad. “When you come in,” I said, opening the door, “sit down, no Spanish, and you have 20 minutes to do what I have written on the board.” From my tone they could tell I was annoyed. On the board I had written: Why are you hear? 100 words – to present to the class (and maybe the director).

What was the outcome?
This is only the third time I’ve done this in my teaching career and it always works wonders. All of the students realised they had done wrong and explained why they were there: “because I shouldn’t speak in Spanish,” “because my parents are paying money for me to learn English,” “because English is important for my future,” “because Barry teaches us how to pronounce the words and we need to listen to get a good oral mark.”

The director didn’t come in, but they got the picture, and the rest of the lesson was excellent. I don’t think they’ve ever spoken so much English before.

So here are my top ways of disciplining younger learners and teenagers.

Nothing like a good stare...
Photo by Imapix
The Stare
There’s nothing like a good strong stare to stop a class from being disruptive.

This works well with the one above. Standing silent at the front, occasionally looking at your watch or tapping your pen on the board is a great way to get the class quiet and to pay attention.

You’re not my favourites any more
As seen above. I try not to say this with every class, and it doesn’t work every week either.

Good old fashioned lines are a great way to waste students’ time at home after they waste yours. Sometimes I rip the lines up and throw them in the bin in front of them; depends how I feel!

Red and Yellow card
I’ve used this system for the last few years and it works well. You decide your own rules with the students about what is considered to be a red or yellow card. I use it for homework, too much Spanish, naughty behaviour, and swearing. Two yellows are a red, and three reds in one term results in a phone call to parents. I’ve never had to call a parent.

Whole class homework
If I’m having problems getting one or two kids to do the homework then I say: “Right, if one person doesn’t do their homework next class, then everyone gets double.” Peer pressure is a great way to shake up a couple of boisterous / lazy ones.

Wait outside
Students hate being sent out. I know I used to. I try to send out a couple of kids in the first two weeks of term, just to show them who’s boss, and then when it’s necessary to have a chat with a student.

Why are you here?
I do this as a last resort. It works well and you get to see that most students really care about their studies and their future. It’s a great way of giving the class a wakeup call now and then so they think about why they are learning English, and the fact they are privileged to be able to, especially in Spain at the moment.

So those are my top ways to discipline and control a class. What do you do? Any good tips then leave them below. Thanks.

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