Effective ESL Classroom Management: Techniques & Strategies

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

To create an effective learning environment for your ESL students, you first need to establish classroom management. This lesson covers techniques you can use to successfully manage your ESL class.

How It All Begins

When you enter an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom for the first time, you will notice how quickly things can go off the rails if classroom management practices are not in place. Classroom management refers to the manner in which teachers create and maintain appropriate behavior of students within a class or school setting. If classroom management is missing, students will find it difficult to attain their academic and language objectives.

In this lesson, we will go over different classroom management techniques that will help you create an effective ESL learning environment for your students.

Build a Classroom Community

You will want to begin by creating an environment that promotes accountability and belonging. To do this, you need to create a classroom community where students learn to respect, value, and support one another. An ESL classroom community should encourage mistakes. Allow students to see you make mistakes, and cheer students on for trying; no one should ever be ridiculed or mocked for errors made when learning a second language.

Some techniques for developing a classroom community are:

  • Have students create guidelines together so they know what behavior is allowed in the classroom.
  • Let them be part of the decision making process; this reinforces the notion that their opinions, ideas, and input is valued.
  • Make sure you also follow the guidelines put in place; lead by example and display the behavior you wish to see.
  • When followed, the guidelines should help everyone feel safe, respected, and supported.

Develop a Structured Routine

Fundamental to a successful classroom community is to make sure students know what is expected of them. Having a structured routine in place will ensure students know what they are supposed to be doing, and when they are supposed to be doing it. A structured routine eliminates frazzled transitions, constant questioning over what is coming next, and worries about what supplies need to be prepared.

Here are some tips for setting up a classroom routine:

  • Create a classroom routine with times and images; keep it displayed at all times.
  • Let students know when a transition is about to take place, and what that transition will be.
  • Allow students to help call out the routine each morning, so they know what is planned.
  • Inform students right away when changes to the routine have to be made.

Ask for Feedback

Once you have your classroom routine in place, be aware of what is, or is not, working for your students by providing opportunities for feedback. Listen to your students, and take their feedback into consideration. Never make assumptions about why a student may be acting out; rather, find out what might be causing the issue. Further, maintain communication with families so you are always aware of any additional needs, transitions, or important issues that may change the student's behavior or dynamic.

Here are some ideas when asking for feedback:

  • Keep a communication journal with students or email messaging system with parents.
  • Listen to students and ask them what you can do to help them.
  • Be open about the importance of sharing struggles and needs so you are aware of any issues that may be affecting the class.
  • Discuss and make changes based upon student feedback to see if class management improvements can be made.

Use Reward Systems

Rewards for following the classroom routine responsibly can help your classroom management. Regardless of age or grade level, students love recognition for a job well done. Develop a reward system with ESL students so they have something to work toward. Knowing there is a reward, even if it is just a sticker or a free pass from homework, will motivate students to stay on track and manage their behavior.

Some tips for implementing a successful reward system include:

  • Display the reward tracking system for all to see and follow.
  • Do not take away achievements once they are earned. Lapses in behavior should not undo previous hard work.
  • Celebrate a student's positive behaviors, even when the reward is small.
  • Use achievements for motivation by acknowledging progress after students get off track.

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