Teaching at primary level can cause many teachers, particularly those who have trained to teach adults, a variety of problems and generate a range of worries.
Unfortunately, it is common for teachers to be asked by their institution to teach young learners even though they don’t have specific training. Those first lessons with the class, which might even be in a different institution to your regular work, can seem daunting. In this article I provide some advice on how to deal with starting work with primary level students and I give ten top classroom management tips.
Before you begin to teach
- Find out who your pupils are
- Find out if the children are complete beginners in English or have already learnt a little.
- Are there any bilingual children in the class? If so, use them as your helpers.
- Do any of the children speak another language?
- You will find that the children will be highly motivated and excited about learning a foreign language. Your main aim is to maintain this initial motivation and sustain their curiosity and interest so that they develop a real desire to learn the language, even if you don’t feel they are learning very fast. You need to be realistic and so do the children about how much they can learn in the relatively short time you will spend with them.
- It is quite normal for children to take some time before they actually start producing much language as they will need time to familiarise themselves with you and assimilate the language before they feel ready and confident enough to produce any.
- Be patient and don’t be afraid of repeating things again and again – children need and enjoy lots of opportunities to hear the language. Just remember to be natural.
- How many pupils are in your primary class?
- What can you and can you not do in the classroom, for example, move furniture around?
- How long are your lessons? 45 minutes, one hour?
- Are you allowed to display children’s work on the classroom walls?
- Can you create an English corner?
- What resources does the school have that you can use?
- How many photocopies are you allowed to make?
- Can you take the children into the playground?
- Can you use a computer? etc., etc.
Top five classroom management tips for successful teaching
- Plan what you are going to do in advance step by step and have clear aims so you and your pupils know exactly where you are going throughout a lesson. This is the only way you will be able to control up to 30 children in one class – and they will be the first to know if you haven’t prepared and respond by becoming disruptive.
- Start your year by being firm and be consistent in your own actions and behaviour – children expect a disciplined, structured classroom environment and respond well to routines. Check with the school what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and make it clear to the pupils that you expect the same behaviour.
- Learn your pupils’ names and address them directly.
- Be mobile and walk round the class.
- Have a clear signal for stopping activities or when you want children to be quiet. Get silence and wait for their full attention before you start speaking and give clear instructions or demonstrations. Make sure children understand what they have to do.