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Review ~ Classroom Management Techniques

A useful guide to managing a class while being yourself in the classroom, useful even for experienced teachers.
Reviewed for Teflnet by James Taylor
Classroom Management Techniques

Classroom Management Techniques

One of my most informative early experiences as a teacher happened while I was doing my Cambridge CELTA course. Until this time, I’d happily been carrying on, teaching the way I thought was best, in my own quiet way. But then on the course I met all these teachers who could stand in front of a classroom and hold their attention, whose charisma and natural show(wo)manship immediately seem to lift the students’ mood and make them more engaged.

I could only stand back in awe, because as a naturally introverted person there was no way I could do that. I didn’t have access to these skills, and I never would. And that led me to think that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this teaching game. Maybe there was no space for someone reserved like me, and teaching belonged those who could treat the classroom as their stage.

Over time, and with the good fortune to have some wise mentors and excellent feedback on my teaching, I was able to see that that really wasn’t the case. I realised, that while some of those teachers I saw on my course were excellent, some of them weren’t. What I wish had happened then is that someone had given me a copy of Jim Scrivener’s Classroom Management Techniques and told me to read Chapter 2.1.

In this chapter, entitled “Being Yourself”, Scrivener takes a look at how a teacher can find an authentic classroom persona. He begins by explaining the writing of Carl Rogers, the US educational psychologist, who suggested that the single most important teacher characteristic was authenticity. Through the teacher being their real self with the students, she can create rapport, trust and respect which is fundamental in building a successful classroom.

This is then followed by Scrivener effectively dismantling the very teaching persona which caused my own lack of self-confidence. He states that the idea of the teacher as a performer “leaves me rather depressed. I don’t want to spend my life acting the role of the teacher. I want to be able to make contact with learners, human to human.” He then gives five practical “steps to authenticity” which will aid the teacher in becoming comfortable in their own skin, before taking a brief look at dealing with personal doubts. He then finally offers three sets of questions for the reader to consider and reflect upon.

This description of this short chapter is emblematic of the whole book, which is part of CUP’s vast Handbooks for Language Teachers series. The book concentrates on the various techniques of classroom management, and is divided into seven chapters, each covering a different aspect of language teaching and how classroom management can be utilised. The tone of the book is established by the opening sentence which states that “classroom management is the way you manage your students’ learning by organising and controlling what happens in your classroom… Or the way that you consciously decide not to organise and control. Or the way that you delegate or relinquish such control from the learners.”

This skilful set up presents us with the traditional view of classroom management, before flipping that perception and reminding us that it is also about what we don’t do. This encapsulates what the book offers the teacher: a contemporary guide to classroom management in the modern communicative classroom. That’s not to say that the book endorses any particular methodology. Instead it positions itself as a support to whichever teaching philosophy the reader signs up to, although there can be little doubt that Scrivener is endorsing a communicative and learner-centred classroom.

Every chapter is divided up into smaller sub-categories and takes a very practical and useful look at the day-to-day factors that teachers need to consider during their lessons. It really focuses on the small details that really matter, with sections highlighting voice tone, gestures, learning names, students putting up their hands, and handouts. It also tackles some of the bigger issues, including mixed level classes, a learner-centred approach, giving feedback, and discipline. It also puts a focus on reflection, by encouraging readers to think about their own practices after every topic, and research, by outlining how the teacher can compare one approach with another.

The book is a very useful reminder for educators with any number of years of experience, and I think it’s essential reading for new and trainee teachers. At this formative stage of their development, Scrivener’s book offers reassurance, advice, practical solutions and the chance to reflect upon their own practice. I just wish it had been around when I was training.

Reviewed by James Taylor for TEFL.NET May 2013
James Taylor has taught English as a foreign language to adults in Brazil, South Korea, Belgium and Costa Rica. He is the current President and a co-founder of BELTA, the Belgian English Language Teachers Association. He can also be found moderating #ELTchat, a twice-weekly discussion on Twitter with teachers from around the world, presenting the #ELTchat podcast, mentoring teachers for iTDi, and blogging. His website is theteacherjames.com.

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