Welcome to the third and final installment in our series on classroom management for teachers of teens. In previous posts, we established that a teacher should be the boss, while at the same time showing a human side. Ladies and gentlemen, the final ingredient in the recipe to effective classroom management is (drum roll…): be fun! But what do we mean by ‘be fun’? A clown? A performing monkey?
Let’s start with a common gripe from students: “Lessons are boring.” What they usually mean by this is that they are tired of doing the same things over and over again. Variety is the spice of life as the saying goes, and it applies to our lessons too.
Historically, grammar, reading and writing have received special attention, but English teaching has moved on and we are now also interested in including lots more speaking, making our classes communicative and teaching students skills they will need in real life. What’s clear is that we’ll need a balance between the skills, not only for our students’ learning, but for their enjoyment too. The same applies to bloom’s taxonomy: thankfully, the days of pure rote learning (remembering) are largely behind us and we’re getting our students to evaluate, analyse and create: pedagogically sound and much more fun to boot. We’ll need to vary how we set up our activities too: individual work is fine, but let’s also include pair work (changing the pairs) and tasks for students to do in groups.
Connect with students on their level
Variety in the type of media we include in our lessons is a must. If each and every one begins with ‘Morning class, open up your books to page x’ it won’t be long before groans become audible. It makes sense to include media that students relate to and use themselves outside class (for fun). The way teens consume music has changed (more listen to Spotify than FM radio), but their enthusiasm for music hasn’t. So let’s use songs in our lessons: what’s more, why not add variety to the way we use songs in class: as this post shows, there’s so much more than the traditional gap fill. Getting gripes about grammar from your students? Songs are a great way to show grammar in context.
As the massive success of Youtube vloggers shows, our teens consume a lot of video outside of class (once again, for fun, rather than because their teacher made them) and more and more of this is short-form video online as opposed to traditional TV programmes. Short videos can be watched repeatedly in a lesson and our students appreciate the extra visual clues that video brings with it. Here are some great ideas for using video in class.
Do our students spend their lessons sat down from start to finish? Incorporating physical movement has traditionally been used more in the primary classroom, but in my experience it’s very effective at secondary too and there are lots of ways to do it. Most ‘ask and answer these questions in pairs’ type tasks can easily be changed into a survey (give students a minimum number of people they need to speak to) or a speed-dating activity (you just need two rows of chairs). TPR activities can be popular in the teen class too. What about doing some speaking questions in threes, with one student asking the question, another miming the answer and the third ‘translating’ the mime (it’s fun…and you can practice reported speech!).
On your marks, get set, go!
Contests, rewards and incentives are another way of making our lessons more fun. Although we should look to include cooperative and collaborative tasks, a bit of friendly competition isn’t going to hurt our students and is a good way to engage them. Many activities can be done in teams, but a plenary quiz can be a nice way to finish off a lesson (what about using a digital quiz tool, such as kahoot to make it even more fun?).
To sum up, as with so many things, classroom management with teens is something of a balancing act. We need each of the three ingredients (being the boss, being human and being fun) in the right measure. Go over the top on the first and we might get our students to be quiet, but we’re going to have a job forming a good relationship with them and engendering in them a love of our subject. It’s important to be fun as we’ve shown, but we should be careful to ask ourselves what the learning outcomes of these fun activities we prepare are as well. But get the balance between the three ingredients right and we’re a long way towards achieving a class of engaged teenagers. Classroom management in three easy steps: NOT a work of fiction!
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