“I shall not today attempt further to define… [it], but I know it when I see it.”
US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wasn’t talking about classroom management when he said this, but, concerning the second half of his statement at least, he might as well have. Indeed, we’ve all been in classes that were well managed, and classes that were badly managed. We can easily recognize its huge impact on both students and teachers, teaching and learning, and so we know how important it is. Unlike Justice Potter, we therefore owe it to ourselves, as EFL practitioners, to better understand it—so we can figure out how to get better at it.
Classroom Management and Rapport—What’s the Difference?
Taken at its simplest, rapport is basically the relationship between teacher and students insofar as it has an impact on teaching and learning. It is a key component in classroom (including online classroom) teaching, as it can powerfully influence the affective filter, motivation, and student involvement. There are as many ways to establish good rapport with students as there are teachers—and just as many ways to instore bad rapport as well, and as with every relationship, it depends on all parties involved.
There are many ways to improve rapport with students, simple things, such as a smile, asking about a student’s hobby, or praise. Perhaps the most effective tool in our arsenal, though, when it comes to improving rapport is good classroom management. When things run smoothly, after all, students’ trust in their teacher and their confidence immediately go up. Conversely, of course, when good rapport has created a feeling of trust and confidence, it just as immediately improves the teacher’s ability to manage the classroom.
Skills, Planning and Techniques
What is certain is that classroom management improves as a result of the teacher doing things—and so we can conclude that classroom management is a skill. And if classroom management is a skill, then like all skills it can be broken down into sub-skills.
Below are what we believe are some of the five top classroom management (sub)skills for a well-managed classroom:
Language grading—using spoken and written language that is appropriate to the skill level of your students.
Clear instructions—making sure that students know what to do.
Using the board—whether a whiteboard, IWB, or a shared screen on Zoom.
Maintaining context—teaching the lesson like it’s a single cohesive story.
Pesonalizing tasks and materials—conveying to students that the lesson is specifically for and about them.
In our upcoming series of posts, we’ll focus on them each in turn. We’ll look at how we can plan for these classroom management skills—in other words, include awareness of these skills in the planning process. We shall also describe techniques—also known as “tricks” that you can start using immediately the next time you teach an English lesson.