By Mukhammadkhon Soliev
It’s not by chance that we talk about ‘classroom management’. Good teachers have to be good managers, and if they are teaching a foreign language, they need particularly effective management skills for learners to be as productive as they possibly can be. Good teachers, like managers, are involved in three stages of work: planning, supervision and evaluation.
A lot of classroom management is ‘invisible’ because it is the result of the planning that goes on before the lesson. If you watch a well-planned lesson, you may not actually see much ‘management’ happening. A good teacher, like a good manager, looks ahead and thinks about everything: the learners, the available resources and how the lesson will be organised. A good classroom manager plans carefully, knowing that the success of a lesson often depends on the decisions taken before the lesson about:
The learners. To manage teaching and learning successfully you, the teacher, always need to think about three questions: What do my learners already know? What do they need to be able to do (or do better)? How do they prefer to learn?
The resources. Whether you are using the simplest classroom materials (such as a set of flashcards) or the most technologically advanced equipment (such as an interactive whiteboard), you need to be in control of your resources. This means being well prepared, checking that you have everything you need (audio or video equipment, materials, photocopies, etc.) and making sure that everything works. Then you need to check for any possible problems!
The lesson plan. A good lesson plan should be like a map, showing you where you are going and how to get there. Use the plan to remind you about things you need to remember during the lesson. For example, make a note of the timing you expect for different stages of the lesson. Write down any prompts, instructions or explanations that you might otherwise forget. Make notes about the organisation of activities in the lesson.
In the classroom, the teacher–manager is responsible for directing the lesson, organising tasks and activities and monitoring the learners. As a result, you need to be aware of the following during the lesson:
The environment. Before you begin the lesson, you need to think about the physical space you’re working in. Will learners be able to see and hear everything? Will you and they be able to move around safely when necessary? Will you need to change anything during the lesson (for example, the organisation of the furniture)? Review this during the lesson. Is your plan working? If not, make changes as you are teaching.
The resources. One of the teacher’s basic classroom skills is the management of resources. It will give you and your learners confidence if you know exactly what you need and when you need it, and it will help avoid giving the impression of being disorganised.
Patterns of interaction. Decisions about how learners work (individually, in pairs, in small groups, as a whole class) will have been made at the planning stage. These decisions will depend on the nature of the activity, the stage of the lesson and the need for plenty of variety in the lesson. If you are putting learners into pairs or groups, you will also need to think about group dynamics: which learners are likely to work well together? And which learners may not get on well with each other? Again, when you are teaching your lesson, check how well your planned interaction patterns are working in practice. If they don’t seem to be as successful as you would like, make changes during the lesson.
Your instructions. A key to ensuring that the lesson goes as planned is the teacher’s skill in giving instructions. This is one of the most important aspects of effective classroom management. Make your instructions clear and unambiguous, graded slightly lower than the language level of the group. Plan and, if necessary, write down your instructions so as to avoid any possible confusion, and check (in the same way as you check understanding of new vocabulary) to make sure that your learners have understood what they need to do.
Flexibility. Classroom management is not only about control: during the lesson, the good classroom manager needs to remain flexible. Listen to your learners and be prepared to move away from your plan or even to cut stages out if necessary. To put it very simply, if in doubt, teach the learners and not the lesson plan!
Voice and body language. The way you use your body and voice as a teacher is also an important part of classroom management. There are moments in a lesson when it is important for learners to listen attentively, so you need to use your voice in a way that will make them listen. You also need to develop a repertoire of gestures that learners will recognise and understand, and to be aware of the effect of your physical position in the classroom and of the way you move around the room.
Good classroom managers need to evaluate each lesson to see what they can learn from it. Reviewing what you have done and what happened as a result will help you to make decisions about what to do and how to do it in your next lesson. The process of evaluation involves going back to your plan and asking yourself what worked well and what could be improved in the future. For example, you can ask yourself about:
The learners. Were there any activities that would work better with different patterns of interaction? Were the learners working in the best way that they could? Should they work with different partners or in different groups in the next lesson?
The environment and the resources. Did the arrangement of the classroom work as you wanted it to? Were the resources appropriate? Were there any problems that you could avoid by using different resources or by using the same things in different ways?
- Were your instructions effective? Did learners always understand what they had to do? Do you need to simplify your instructions, or give them in a different way?
- Did your use of voice and body language help to make things clearer for the learners? Are there ways in which you could speak or move or use gesture that would be more helpful?
- Did you stick to your lesson plan, or were there moments when you departed from it? On reflection, did you make the right decisions? If you were faced with a similar decision in another lesson, would you do the same thing?
To sum up, a good classroom manager is responsible for planning and supervising what happens in the classroom (the lesson), for dealing with the people working in the classroom (the learners) and for evaluating the work of the person responsible for the lesson (the teacher) with a view to improving future lessons.