Three Classroom Management Techniques Every New Language Teacher Must Master
Cini (2017) classroom management can be divided into seven key responsibilities: classroom design, rules, discipline, scheduling, organization, instructional technique, and communication. This paper will focus on new teachers in the context of college-level, foreign language learning classrooms.
Classroom Management 1: Scheduling
The first key responsibility a new language teacher should master is Scheduling or the art of staying “on time and on task” (Cini, 2017). A teacher communicates priorities in the classroom by how they start and finish a lesson. Dr. Bruce Bishop, a university-level choral director, starts his a capella course at 12:00 pm on the dot and finishes exactly at 12:50 pm, even if the choir is in the middle of a music piece. This produces three results: (1) his students are rarely, if ever, late, (2) his students know their time will never be wasted or taken advantage of, and (3) they rarely disrupt the group’s precious time. Dr. Bishop is a master of “tight transitions” (Great Schools, Partnership, para. 6) and wasted no time between working on a variety of music pieces in a single class period.
For a university language teacher, scheduling class time appropriately is vital for maintaining interest on the part of the students. One student taking part in a language learning research study, said, “[The teacher] does not take advantage of the class time...He wasted a lot of time...Then that’s the reason why we were not interested” (Rodriguez-Garcia, 2011, p. 77-78). In addition, scheduling class time appropriately is vital for maximum retention in language development. Rather than 50 minutes of lecture, university-level teachers can break down class time to focus on various elements of language learning. One language teacher and researcher, D. D. Davis, would start every class with a 15-minute conversation in Spanish and then students would give presentations on authentic written documents from Spanish-speaking countries. She found that students were “more engaged, motivated” (2009). Language learning also requires incubation periods; time in which ideas can “sink in” and not remain on the “surface level” of a student’s consciousness (Hines, Catalana, & Anderson, 2019). It is quite natural for new teachers to continuously inundate their students with new content or allow for wasted time between activities rather than deliberately and purposefully scheduling in incubation periods.
Classroom Management 2: Instructional Technique
The second key responsibility a new language teacher should master is Instructional Technique or the art of “conveying information” in a way that matches the needs and language goals of their students (Cini, 2017). Should an American Sign Language professor conduct the majority of their course in spoken English or in sign language? Should a Spanish 101 teacher in Texas prioritize learning how to communicate over grammatical intricacies? Should a Hungarian teacher utilize approaches such as grammar-based learning, realistic situational learning, StoryLearning, community-language learning, or the Silent Way? (Doggett, 1986 & Richards, 2021). Should a Tibetan teacher encourage students to practice speaking among themselves or invite members of the Tibetan community into their classroom to be role models? A challenge for new teachers is that they do not prioritize their goals in the classroom which results in chaos and complexity for their students.
Classroom Management 3: Organization
This leads to the third key responsibility a new language teacher should master: Organization. Organized teachers are essentialists; they “intentionally prioritize” their courses so that the stress of managing mandated tests, administrators, and parents does not (Carr, 2019). They communicate these priorities to their students and clearly explain their expectations so that students can “distinguish irrelevant information from essential details” (Cini, 2017) and “avoid off-task behavior” (Kratochwill, DeRoos, & Blair, n.d.). Clear expectations “is a powerful, preventative component of classroom organization” (Oliver & Reschly, 2007, p. 7) and thus reduces disciplinary issues as “approximately 80-85 percent of students will be able to meet classroom behavior expectations when given high-quality, universal instruction...on behavior” (Kratochwill,T.R., DeRoos, R., & Blair, S. (n.d.).
In conclusion, a language teacher who conscientiously schedules classroom time and has taken the time to select and prioritize an instructional technique is often the teacher who is organized. It is clear that new teachers who master these skills are successful in the classroom and nurture their students’ ability to learn a new language.
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