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July 2, 2009

Handling Disruptive Students and Classes

In a meeting with other ALTs recently, we noted these ways to handle disruptive students during a classroom lesson:
  • Try to make the lesson content relevant to the students’ lives- remember to Engage, not Entertain.
  • Use reward systems, such as giving points or stickers, as a regular part of your teaching strategy. One teacher used a class evaluation system of 0, 1 or 2 stickers, given at the end of each class, and posted Around Australia posters in each class. The students themselves monitored the trouble making students, in an effort to get more stickers to be able to beat the other classes.
  • Make free activities as truely communicative as possible. Most students like to talk to their friends, but the content must be relevant and meaningful to them. Try leaving strategic blanks in Interview and other activities that allow students to control the content, yet allow you to control the structure.
  • Proximity- stand near the student during an activity.
  • Try sitting in the troublemakers seat when they move out of it, and tell them they will be the teacher.
  • For a regularly disruptive class, be ready to switch a freer activity to a sitting-and-writing activity. At the end of the class, ask them which activity they prefered. Ask if they know why the freer activity ended abruptly.
  • In an extreme case, make the student move his/her desk in front of the blackboard, facing the other students.

Some activities to use for disruptive classes. These focus on listening skills, an important component of language learning:
  • Dictation- Prepare a sentence, question or short conversation. Say 3 letters aloud at a time, repeating once (‘c-a-n’, ‘c-a-n’), and students write these into their notebooks. Read through the letters once more at the end of sentence/question AS YOUR WRITE THEM ON THE BLACKBOARD. Ask if any student can read the sentence. Write the correct sentence on the blackboard.
  • A Cloze listening activity- Prepare a speech. On a print, remove random words and add lines/underscores in their places on the print. As an option, you can write the missing words in non-sequential order in a border of the print. As you read the speech, students listen and write in the missing words.
  • A speech, in 3 parts- Prepare a speech with each sentence a numbered line. Translate the speech to the students’ native language, and prepare 2 posters: one with the translated lines in order, one with the lines out of order. When you read the speech the first time, have the mixed-order sentences posted on the blackboard (you’re lucky if you have a poster-printing machine to use!), or prepare a print for each student or pair of students. As you read the sentences, let the students choose the corresponding sentence from the blackboard/poster/print. Read the speech again a second time, this time with a poster/print of the translated sentences in the correct order. Last, read the speech a third time, this time without any translated support for the students. This activity works well for self-introductions.

Motivating Students

Internal motivation is the best. Every student will have their own best way to be motivated. Appeal to as many kinds of motivation as you can to reach as many students as you can. Remember- one size DOESN’T fit all!
  • engage, don’t entertain!
  • points/stickers as rewards (especially for younger students, up to JHS 2nd grade).
  • relevant content
  • be as communicative as possible
  • incorporate a variety of skills focus in your activities
  • bring in real-world music, video, print media. you might need to focus on materials for younger age levels of native speakers to make the content accessible to your students.
  • guarantee early success in your activities.
  • wear a crazy hat!

Ordering Activities Within a Lesson Plan

Here are some sequences to be mindful of when ordering activities within a lesson plan. One or several can be used in a single lesson plan.

  1. controlled practice
  2. accuracy testing
  3. free oral production
  1. non-affective/low-stress
  2. whole class
  3. small group
  4. pair
  5. individual
  6. higher speed/higher stress
  1. meaning-focus (comprehension)
  2. pattern-focus/vocabulary
  3. meaning-focus (production)
  1. listening input-meaning focus
  2. reading input-pattern & meaning
  3. writing output-accuracy checking
  4. oral output-communicative/meaning focus