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Managing Bad Behavior in Young ESL Classes
Admin - Dec 22 2015
Misbehaving students is a common thing in just about any class, including those composed of ESL learners. Misbehavior can take many forms: students asked repeatedly with inane questions unrelated to the lesson; highly talkative students continuing to chat with seatmates even when the teacher is speaking or someone else in the class is reciting; school bullies poking the students near them.
Even very competent language educators who plan and prepare well for each class encounter episodes of misbehavior, sometimes of the show-stopping variety. Given this fact, what can ESL teachers do when faced with the type of student misbehavior that disrupts an otherwise stimulating and productive learning activity?
Identifying signs of misbehavior
The first thing to do is to be aware of the different signs of bad behavior. In degree of severity from borderline bad behavior to worst, the signs to look out for include the following:
Talking, laughing and making gestures or noises at inappropriate times
Wearing inappropriate clothes or jewelry
Exhibiting rebellious, sullen or bored expressions
Staring out of the window
Doodling when the teacher is speaking or during activities
Impolite language and gestures
Stubbornly using their native language when they should be using English
Not doing their homework
Not following instructions
Cheating in games, quizzes and activities
Saying things or making gestures that personally hurt classmates or teachers
Cursing and swearing
Addressing Bad Behavior
Upon encountering misbehavior, deal with the occurrence as soon as you can. This is very important because young students need to know at the very start that bad behavior will not be tolerated and will trigger a corresponding sanction or punishment.
Be careful, however, when meting out punishments. Punishments that are too weak or too strong will send a wrong signal, something that will likely transform the initial case of bad behavior into something worse. Here are some specific steps or punishments ESL educators can employ when encountering different types of bad behavior:
Verbal or nonverbal disapproval
Deducting points in their academic grades
Relocation of the misbehaving child into an isolated place in the room
Disqualification of the misbehaving child’s team or group from the current activity
Disallowing the misbehaving student from participating in a fun activity by getting him or her do a seatwork
Ordering the student to stand in a corner
Encouraging group disapproval by halting a fun game and giving a quiz instead.
Written warnings to be sent to parents or guardians
Involvement of the principal and/or parents for serious cases of bad behavior
Rewarding Good Behavior
In contrast, good behavior should be showcased and accorded with appropriate rewards to help encourage students to behave well. Remember to be consistent and fair when identifying good and bad behavior and giving corresponding rewards or punishment. This will reinforce the notion among young learners that their actions or non-actions will trigger a consequence. Hopefully, well-earned rewards will be enough to drive students to maintain their good behavior. If this proves inadequate, then the fear of punishment or aversion to group disapproval will help deter future misbehavior.
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