First impressions are everything in the classroom. On the first day of class, students decide how they will interact with the teacher and behave in the class for the rest of the year. However, there is a fine line between being too strict and too lenient. A teacher should not become “friends” with his or her students. The students need to know who is in control of the class.
If the teacher and students are equal, then the students will not treat the teacher with respect and classroom management and behavior can deteriorate. In this situation, it is almost impossible to regain control of the class because the students will not respond to the teacher trying to be serious. It is best for the teacher to be respectful of the students, listen carefully to them, and try to remember their names and bits of information about them.
The first day of class is the appropriate time to introduce classroom procedures, rules, consequences, and rewards (see ESL Tips on right) in addition to the objectives, syllabus, and grading policy. Students will actively participate, speak English, ask questions, shout out answers, and come prepared to class if they know what to expect in the classroom and there is not any confusion about how they should behave. Students will learn that they can have fun in class as long as the rules are followed.
One method to encourage students to participate in the classroom is to record participation points at the end of each lesson. Prepare an Excel document with the names of each student in the class on the left and the number of each lesson on the right (see printables for an example). For each lesson, assign 10 possible points. During the lesson, record student participation.
For example, each student might start at seven points and earn points for asking good questions, speaking only English, volunteering to do a task, helping a friend, etc. Students lose points for speaking their native language, not paying attention, chatting with their friend while the teacher or another student is speaking, not bringing their textbook, or being late to class. At the end of class, students can ask the teacher about their participation for the lesson.
To encourage group participation, propose a reward or rewards during the term or semester based on the average participation score of the entire class. For example, if there is a holiday during the term or semester, then offer a party as a reward. If the average participation score for the entire class is an eight or higher for the first five lessons, then they can have a party. When students know that the participation of everyone is important, they may take their behavior more seriously. For example, if there are a few students misbehaving, other students in the class might take charge of the situation.
Clearly explain what is expected of the students through a well-defined classroom management plan, but remember to provide a comfortable learning environment. Provide some icebreakers or introduction activities for the students to get to know each other and the teacher. If the students feel comfortable with the teacher on the first day of class, they will respond more positively throughout the year.