You can have shiny lesson plans, prepared for every minute, stickers for rewards or the best books to teach from if you don’t have rules to follow you class could easily fall apart.
Welcome to the world of ESL teachers. You made it and you go into the first classes with a lot of enthusiasm, you have your lesson well prepared and a big smile on your face. Then you come out of the class, a little bit confused, surely exhausted and you might not understand what went wrong. If it never happened to you then this article is not for you. If you recognize yourself above then keep reading, I can assure that you are not alone.
If you want to keep your ESL students on track, you need to establish some classroom rules in one of your first classes. Think about an essential agreement you and your students all agree on. Call it rules, agreement or anything that makes it attractive for them to work on and follow during your year together.
You can build your first and second lesson around an activity that helps you in the following classes.
You ask your young learners what they would and what they wouldn't like in class. You can discuss and let them suggest the classroom rules. What sort of things help them learn and have fun at the same time, what bothers them or distracts them from learning, concentrating, enjoying the lessons.
Prepare some cards or download photo examples from the internet to show them right and wrong behaviour in the classroom. Let them sort pictures on the board under a green tick or a red cross to distinguish patterns and give them ideas to set up their own classroom rules.
After you introduced vocabulary and behaviour patterns let them work in little groups (4-6 children in a group) to make their own rules of the table with pictures they draw and comment on them later.
Give them the whole hour to develop their ideas about rules that all of them agree on. Let them draw nice pictures as they are going to decorate your classroom all year round. Don’t think it is a waste of time. As you will have the rules written or drawn, you can always point to them when students need to have a reminder which might happen quite often. Even if you are one of the lucky ones and you have the best kids in the world, you will still need to encourage them occasionally to follow the classroom rules they set up previously.
So when you have the rules, talk about them the next class, ask if everybody agrees on the rules and if not why not and how could it be changed or modified. You can also ask them what happens with the students who break those newly created rules. Let them think about it and decide between them. This will work better than if you just tell them what to do. Trust your ESL students, they are going to come up with interesting, sometimes very funny ideas. Once I had one of them drawing don’t drop the ruler and the other one don’t run with scissors. It might sound funny or strange but think about it, they had the idea from somewhere...
To finalize this activity, have the rules and pictures drawn by students about the rules stuck on a big card paper. Make every one of your kids sign it at the bottom as an agreement. There you go. Rules are set for a year. This is something you start with and it helps you a lot during the year. You have a constant reminder and it helps to control the group behaviour without any problem.
Is it not the beginning of the year? You struggle with your students? It’s never too late to start a new routine and make your life easier. Do it now! It works. Get back to me, comment and ask if you have any questions, I’m happy to help.
Good luck with your little ones!