Tips for good classroom management

As an ESL teacher, all of us at some point have experienced that dreadful day when nothing seems to go right in the classroom. The little cute bundles of joy turn into little hooligans running around creating nuisance. You may have a bunch of troublemakers who take over and you find it difficult to teach or get anything done.

Remember you are the boss in your classroom. You have to be the leader…it’s your classroom. Some of you may be reading this and thinking, ‘easier said, then done’. Not really. It is simple.

As a teacher you should earn the love and respect of your students. If the students like you and respect you they will naturally want to follow you. They will behave and pay attention because they want to please you and not because they are scared of getting punished or because they want to receive the candy or chocolate you promised at the end of class if they behave themselves. Trust me: bribing doesn’t work and neither does harsh punishment.Effective classroom management

So, what should you do to gain back the control of your class? Here are a few tips that can help you. Some of these tips are useful not just for kiddy classes but for adults as well.

  1. Be firm and consistent: Many ESL teachers treat the classroom like a popularity contest. This is true in private hakwons and public schools. You are teamed with a Korean teacher who the students may feel more comfortable with or you may be trying to fill the void left by their last native teacher…maybe you are getting sick and tired of their lamenting about how good the previous teacher was and how much they miss him/her….the reasons may be varied and you may be tempted to win them over by bribing them with candies or games…DON’T DO IT. You have to be firm…don’t give in. It maybe hard but remember this is akin to ‘birthing pain’. It’s not easy but the end result is beautiful.

Secondly, you have to be consistent. Be clear in establishing your rules from day one and consistent in applying them. Also, be consistent with your punishments and praises. You are someone they can trust and come to for help. Consistency is the only way to build that trust.

  1. Genuinely Care about your students: Students know when you are being fake and when you are genuine. It helps build trust and a good long-lasting relationship between you and your students if you really make an effort to get to know them as individuals in and outside the classroom. Single out a few students each day and talk to them about their interests. Compliment students on important achievements in and outside the classroom. Greet each student by name. Basically, take time out to really get to know your students.

  1. Create an engaging and interactive lesson and check for understanding: It is very important to have an engaging lesson which is not only fun but challenges your students to learn. Students want to learn, understand the purpose of what they are learning and have fun while learning it. Many schools in Korea want the teacher to follow the pre-prepared lessons. While this can be limiting, from my own first-hand experience I can say that it takes a little bit of innovation and thinking outside the box to make it more interesting and interactive. Also, always check for understanding. Make sure that your students can follow the lesson and understand the materials provided. Many times the students may not understand the lesson fully but are too shy or embarrassed to ask. Sometimes the lesson maybe easy for certain students. Either case bored students mean trouble. So watch out! Ask students various questions related to the lesson to make sure they understand. If a student is too shy, take them aside and ask them privately.

  1. Encourage your students: As humans we all look for affirmation. Students young or old are no different. We all know younger kids love it when the teacher praises them, gives them a sticker or a candy, draws a little star or a smiley face next to their work. But believe-it-or-not adults students appreciate praise and compliments from the teacher just as much. They may not react the same way as a younger student might but nonetheless a simple praise from you will go a long way to encourage and motivate your students in ways you can’t

  1. Spice it up!: ‘Variety is the spice of life’ is not just a’s true. Make your teaching style interesting and varied. Use different activities, games, role-plays etc. Do something different. Using multi-media is a good way to jazz up your teaching style. Remember if your students are having fun they are more likely to pay attention.

  1. Be polite but assertive: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegarThis as a general rules goes a long way. A smile and being polite will get you more result than being too strict. If you loose control, yell or suddenly put students down, it not only makes you look bad but your students will get confused and won’t respect you. Keeping a calm and controlled demeanor is important anywhere but more so in Korea. If you ‘loose face’ you ‘loose respect’.


There are many techniques and strategies for good classroom management. Eventually as you gain more experience you will develop your own strategies that fits you. In the meantime, these tips will help you get started on the right path.

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