Tips & Strategies for ESL Kindergarten Classroom Management

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.

Struggling to keep your kindergarten ESL classroom under control? This lesson may be able to help. We will go over some ideas and strategies aimed at maintaining a cooperative and structured ESL kindergarten class.

ESL Classroom Management

Is it a fool moon? If you're an English as a second language (ESL) kindergarten teacher, you've probably asked yourself this question on more than one occasion. We have all had those days when students are crying and refusing to speak English, your planned activities have already been used up, and you still have hours left in the day. How do you reign in control when it seems like all hope is lost?

A big step in managing your class is being sure you understand your students. The more you understand your class, the better able you are to understand where a breakdown in management stems from and to avoid such breakdowns. And you can better plan activities and exercises that promote classroom management.

To help you avoid breakdowns in classroom management, we will discuss how you can set your classroom up for structure and cooperation. Some of these ideas come before you enter the classroom, while others involve work done with the students. After all, classroom management takes some patience and planning, but it can set your ESL students up for success.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Kindergartners generally do not have a very long attention span. So, it's important to spend time creating a detailed lesson plan that engages the class and maintains student attention. For instance, you don't want activities to wrap up too quickly or for students to become disengaged. Here are some ideas to be sure you enter the classroom with well-planned lessons:

  • Create clear content and language objectives that state what students will learn, what they will do during the lesson, and what language they will need in order to learn the topic.
  • Use clear step-by-step instructions for each activity along with time estimates for how long each one will take.
  • Plan methods of delivery (visual, oral, active). How will you deliver the content and engage the students?
  • Have vocabulary lists ready and activities for practice and implementation planned.
  • Plan for materials, supplementary resources, or extra activities you will need to execute the lesson.

Set Clear Rules

Students thrive on structure. Once you get into the classroom, you will need to establish clear rules for your students. Here are some effective and engaging ways to ensure your students clearly understand the classroom rules and consequences:

  • Use a rule picture chart to aid in comprehension. Keep it displayed and go over it every morning.
  • Pretend to break the rules, then have students play teacher by acting out how to correctly follow and enforce the rules.
  • Keep track of student behavior with a visual board or tracking system so students can see how well they are doing at all times.
  • Start a reward system that encourages students to follow the rules.

Assign Student Jobs

A great way to help maintain structure and classroom management is to have students take on special roles within the classroom. This allows students to develop academic and vocabulary skills while also developing a feeling of community, which builds on the connection students have with their classroom and peers. When students have roles and responsibilities, they will be more focused on contributing to the overall structure of the classroom. Here are some age appropriate job ideas:

  • Weather chart helper
  • Day-of-the-week chart helper
  • Line leader
  • Attendance helper
  • Teacher assistance (handing out/collecting class materials)
  • Lunch/snack count helper

Instructional Strategies

Let's now look at a few instructional strategies that will help you maintain your students' focus and cooperation.

Use Visuals

When you teach new concepts to your ESL kindergartners, you can use visuals to help aid in comprehension. Once the lesson is complete, keep flash cards with pictures and words displayed so students can refer to them as needed. Consider using:

  • Pictures
  • Puppets
  • Props
  • Flash cards
  • Posters
  • Manipulatives

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