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One of the most potent struggles teachers have, all over the world, is that of classroom management. There is so much information floating around about rules and routines, what works and what doesn’t. It’s hard for those who are used to rote teaching and discipline to decipher what might work for them. Especially for those for whom English is not their first language, it can be difficult to decide what is going to work.

The website, wholebrainteaching.com introduces a set of rules and routines that are so simple and easy to follow they are basically fail proof. For myself, since I barely go into the same class more than a couple times, the 5 rules have been like magic in forming a classroom management system that I can use in classes that I may go into once and never again. For the teachers who use it regularly, I review the rules for approximately one minute and then move on with the lesson.

I have a printed set of the rules on cardstock that have lasted me the whole year. I always have them with me. I teach the rules to new classes by first stating the rule, having the kids state the rule while doing the TPR action, giving good examples of following the rule, bad examples and then good examples again. Then the kids say the rule again and do the action. It goes something like this:

Rule #1: follow directions quickly (have students follow directions and emphasize, “Quickly! Quickly!”). I say things like, “Teacher says take out your pencil. Do it quickly!”

Rule #2: Raise your hand for permission to speak. I do the typical, “Teacher!! Teacher!!!!” and ask the kids if that is (show my thumbs up) good or (thumbs down) not good. They usually catch on quickly. Then I give a good example.

Rule # 3: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat. I give examples of getting out of the seat and running around the class as bad examples. They usually find it pretty funny. Then I show good examples and model language for asking permission.

Rule #4: Make smart choices. This is one of my favorite rules to give bad examples for. It’s the most abstract of the rules, so it is important to give concrete examples. I sit in a chair and tip it backwards and ask (thumbs up) smart or (thumbs down) not smart. Then I pretend to pick my nose and ask the same thing. I pretend to get in a fight with one of the kids and ask again. Then I show good examples (reading quietly, writing quietly, raising my hand, etc.) Kids catch on quickly.

Rule #5: Keep your dear teacher happy. I put on a cheesy smile and ask, “Is your teacher happy?” They say, “Yes!” then I do various sad and angry faces and ask the same thing. “No!” They say. Then I explain the scoreboard (will explain more in the next post) and tell them as long as the teacher is happy then they will get happy faces on the scoreboard. If teacher is not happy, they will get sad faces.

This all seems like a lot, but the first time teaching it will only take about 10 minutes in an ESL classroom. The many miming actions and the simple language makes it very easy to teach, and easy for them to follow.

Enforcing the rules:

It is extremely important to enforce the rules. When a student is not following one of the rules, remind them of it by asking, “What is rule # ___”? At first ask them to give you a good example of the rule. In the future you will just have to ask the question and they will get it. In time, the classmates will “spot check” their friends. The key is to enforce them every time.