In the second language classroom, it is necessary to have a
system that promotes language learning, supports the various curricula,
and meets the specific needs of language learners. In a higher education
learning environment, classroom management techniques can not only
promote conducive language learning but also create meaningful learning
experiences. Classroom management techniques are pragmatic approaches
that include “rules of behavior, routine, established procedures, room
organization and layout, student job assignments and organization of
learners into teams” (Marshall, 2002, p. 71). The techniques presented
here are based on my own teaching experience and on the experience of
other educators, and they emphasize the roles of educators, learners,
and lessons. These three key components integrate with one another for
optimal classroom management and learning.
Educators of second language learners, especially of those
learners who have just entered the United States, need to establish a
supportive and encouraging learning environment which will allow for
meaningful student engagement (Scrivener, 2014; Slavin, 2012). You can
create such an environment through establishing rapport, clear
communication, and routine procedures.
Rapport can develop through the experiences shared by the
educator and learner. It is “the relationship in a classroom:
student-teacher and student-student [which] is not primarily
technique-driven, but grows naturally when people like each other and
get on together” (Scrivener, 2014, p. 40). Furthermore, and as stated by
Scrivener (2014), rapport consist of four elements: being authentic,
showing respect, being a good listener, and having a good sense of humor
(p. 40). Even though educators hold a position of authority, it is
critical for us to be authentic and approachable. We also need to show
that we will work hard for our students because we care about them
(Glasser, 1990). This can be done in a variety of ways: welcoming
greetings, establishing structured and unstructured learning, and
establishing clear rules and expectations.
Rapport needs to be established in the first class meeting for
it to grow. The educator must present an inviting and safe learning
environment, one in which he or she knows the students’ names, home
countries, interests, goals, and even fears. Getting-to-know-you
activities, such as Find
Someone Who?, Hobbies-
Truths and a Lie, Word
Association, and Twenty
Questions establish respect and recognition of your students
and their cultures. As a teacher, it is important to be as equally open
and honest with your students as you expect them to be with you. They
will be curious about where you are from, what your name means, what
interests you may have, and even why you chose to teach. These students
need to trust you because you are their best advocate in their new
educational environment, and you should do your best to see learning
from their perspectives and points of view. Additionally, it is
important to note that “like the authoritative parent, teachers need to
balance nurturing with setting clear limits…setting high standards of
responsibility, encouraging independence…and giving guidance without
controlling” (Cummings, 2000). This means being a responsible and
relatable educator who is culturally sensitive, genuine, and committed.
Along with building rapport among your learners, communicating
clearly and concisely is a must. Listen to a recording of yourself. What
do you notice? Any idiosyncrasies? Any part of it that surprises you
and/or pleases you, such as your tone, pace, or message? Are there any
surprises or shocking revelations? Considering the answers to these
questions will permit reflection and possible change in how you
communicate. Out of trepidation or reverence, language learners may not
inform you if you are talking too fast, if your tone is slightly
abrasive, or if your volume is too soft. Often, we do not consider such
factors until they are brought to our attention.
Once you have reflected on how you speak to your language
learners, the next step is to examine how you listen to them. In respect
to listening, there are three ways a teacher can listen effectively:
conversationally, analytically, and supportively. When communicating
with your language learners, your focus should be on analytical and
supportive listening as conversational listening is casual, does not
require focused attention, often does not have a clear purpose, and may
include high-jacking attempts (Scrivener 2014 p.44).
In analytical listening, our goal is to help the student; you
are paying close attention to the language—noticing the grammar,
vocabulary, and pronunciation being used. From your analysis, you will
provide feedback. Although this type of listening is essential to
language development, it cannot be the only type of listening you engage
in with your language learner.
In supportive listening, you are fully engaged and your focus
is on the message and not on the syntax or pronunciation. You are
committed to listening without interrupting and your goal is to
empathize and withhold judgment (Scrivener, 2014, p. 44). Often,
international students are far from home and need assistance that may be
unrelated to their lessons, and they will look to you for such help. In
these cases, it is important that all your students know you have
designated a specified time for them during which you’ll be an available
and nonjudgmental listener.
Time management is a necessary component of classroom
management. Effective use of time will avert most disciplinary matters
(Slavin 2012). Connected with the effective use of time is preparation,
both that of the instructor and of the students. The educator must
present the rules and expectations of the course on the first day of
class and show how these principles will ensure that learning takes
place. It is not only the presentation but also the application that
will ensure effective management.
Moreover, it is necessary for the educator to “model good
organizational skills; reflecting expected” behavior” (Marshall, 2002,
p. 74). Within this model, “the instructor arrives on time and comes
prepared with an instructional plan that is communicated to the
learners” (Marshall, 2002, p. 74). This may involve posting the agenda
for the class meetings every day, having clear “do’s and don’ts,” and
abiding by a system that is routine and uncomplicated.
Learners’ social and language needs are critical factors when
considering classroom management. Effective classroom management
approaches deter problems because they allow students to be on task,
motivated, challenged, and engaged (Glasser, 1990; Slavin, 2012;
Scrivener, 2014). Determining the right levels of teacher control,
increasing motivation, and utilizing group work will lead toward
fulfilling learners’ language needs.
Language educators need to examine their use of control in the
classroom. Scrivener (2014) provides the following: “Is it possible that
over-organizing by the teacher takes away or reduces the student’s own
ability or willingness to make decisions, self-evaluate and organize?”
(p. 53) It is natural for educators to command learning situations for
which they spend time preparing, organizing, presenting, guiding, and
monitoring. With low-level language learners, this is expected, and such
a context requires a highly controlled learning environment with clear
steps, directions, and outcomes. Yet, for more advanced learners, it’s
worth experimenting with lowering the teacher control. Less teacher
intervention may provide more opportunities for students to ask
questions, communicate with fellow classmates, rely on intuition, take
risks, and make discoveries.
“Humans are naturally motivated to learn” (Scrivener, 2014, p.
117). Furthermore, according to Glasser (1990), “students are the ones
who make the ultimate judgment about how important [learning] is to
them” (p. 41). It behooves us to discover why a student is in our class
in order for us to champion his or her personal learning needs. Hence,
it is our responsibility to show that learning and performing a
particular task is “as much or more to their benefit as it is” to ours
(Glasser, 1990, p. 41).
Creating an environment in which group work can succeed must
take place on the first class meeting. At this time, students should be
given the opportunity to introduce themselves and share their goals and
interests. It is through sharing that amity and trust are first
established. Learners, no longer strangers to one another, will be more
likely to lower their affective filter and learn. Correspondingly,
“learning together as a member of a small learning team is much more
needs satisfying especially to the needs for power and belonging than
learning individually” (Glasser, 1990). Moreover, groups may be created
by personal choice; randomly; or based on mixed language backgrounds,
ability levels, or gender (Marshall, 2002, p. 85). Group assignments may
include completion of information gap activities and word puzzles,
participating in marketplace activities, writing skits, designing
models, and interpreting graphs. Through these group activities,
educators connect with language learners and establish comfort,
security, and traditions (Cummings, 2000).
An interesting lesson is an integral part of creating a
well-managed teaching environment(Scrivener, 2014; Slavin, 2012).
Engaging and enjoyable lessons promote favorable learning experiences
when they are well managed.
A lesson must create a setting where students become
responsible language learners who take ownership of their learning and
overall success in the classroom. A well-designed lesson promotes
“punctuality, responsiveness, accountability, and initiative” (Marshall,
2002, p. 71). These characteristics reflect “the culture of the United
States but may or may not coincide with a learners’ understanding of
appropriate behavior that they bring from their countries of origin.
(Marshall, 2002, p. 71).
Fundamental to every lesson is awareness of duties and
responsibilities. Awareness can be achieved through weekly checklists,
homework charts, and assignment notebooks (Marshall, 2002, p. 75). This is then followed by acknowledging
rules and procedures, working within a system, taking ownership of
learning, practicing organizational skills, and identifying and
remedying difficulties (Marshall, 2002, p. 80).
The techniques presented here are a composite of experiences
from the author and educators in the field of education. These
management techniques strive to provide positive giving and receiving of
information for both learners and educators.
Cummings, C. (2000). Winning strategies for classroom management. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Glasser, W. (1990). Quality school: Managing students without coercion. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
Marshall, B. (2002). Preparing for success: A guide
for teaching adult English language learners. Washington, DC:
Center for Applied Linguistics.
Scrivener, P. (2014). Classroom management
techniques. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University
Slavin, R. (2012). Good teaching is good classroom management. Better: Evidence-based Education, 5(1), 4–5.
Retrieved from http://www.bestevidence.org/word/good_instruction.pdf.
Assistant Professor Rita Naughton teaches writing,
reading, and grammar to international students in both the Intensive
English Language Program and the Undergraduate Bridge Program at
Southern New Hampshire University. Her scholarly interests include
academic research writing, metacognitive learning strategies, classroom
management strategies, ESL writing workshop programs, and exploring
university bridge programs for international students.