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SOS: How do you handle really naughty students? 
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Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 7:38 pm
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Location: Inner Mongolia, China
Post SOS: How do you handle really naughty students?
Hi everyone! I've been teaching English in China for like three years now and always loved it and had fun until now, because I'm finding it hard to keep control of one my classes.

Basically this class is a mixed-age one, with children from 10 to 12 and with different English levels. The big ones are lovely and often take part in keeping the younger ones under control but one of the youngest ones is as wild as he can get, always bothering the others, shouting, fighting...sometimes he can go as far as to take my notes from my hands or mimic me to amuse the others.

I've tried with sitting him right next to me - which helped until i went to assist the other Ss, threatening him with calling his mother or send him to the office but nothing has worked so far.

I believe that motivation is stronger than discipline, so i always encourage him to try and give him my best smile when he’s done something right, but the second after he's just back to bother around.

Besides, I've noticed two of the other Ss started to ignore me sometimes and talk so I really want to stop this asap :cry:

Any tips to handle this kind of behavior?

Thanks for your time :)

PS: I don't think it's a matter of boredom as I try to make the learning fun using games, videos, cartoons etc in every lesson :roll:


Sat May 29, 2010 8:47 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
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That's a tough situation. My general advice is to find out what you can leverage to get the students to sit down, behave and learn. What sort of power do have? grades, detention, missing school excursions/events, extra homework, exclusion from school club activities, classroom chores, ejection from the class? Those aren't necessarily motivating but you can use those to back some other motivational technique, something with both rewards and consequences. Or if anything show the students that some of these items (school events, sports clubs, ...) are rewards for studying hard/doing a good job, and failure to do their part means loss of some of these rewards.

There's peer pressure that can keep misbehaving students in line. Make your rewards a class reward. So, if everyone behaves to whatever level you decide, you'll have a sports day outside or movie day. Then the other students will monitor the one misbehaving. You can start the week off with 5 stars and each time there is a disruption, you erase a star, and each time they do really well on something, you add a star.

The other thing I have to add is I wouldn't threaten. Follow through with any promise of action. It's a rule or a promise. If it's broken, then there are consequences. I try to keep everything very black and white. It's not personal. Any punishment (like a phone call or conference with the parents) is the result of breaking the rule.

Unfortunately, you may need to be a little stern. However, once the positive learning environment is set, it has momentum to stay that way. When I have a class that gets tough to manage, it stays that way if nothing changes on my side. Once I redirect the energy and get the class in a good direction, it tends to stay that way. Then you can space out your rewards, every month or 2 months instead of once a week for example.

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Mon May 31, 2010 8:00 am
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Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 7:38 pm
Posts: 3
Location: Inner Mongolia, China
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Hi,

I don't really have much power in this class as it's just one of those one hour a week, no need to mark or give certificates at the end etc. - but I refuse to just go there, do whatever and leave because I find it very insulting.

I'm going to try the stars-and-reward technique and setting some rules to keep it, as you say, black and white. It's true that the students would see more the consequences of breaking a rule through missing something than through threatening with talking to their parents.

I'm worried though about me having to be stern because I'm such a clown....

But I'll try this, see how it goes. Thanks a million times for your advice!

And I also want to thank you for sharing your excellent website, which I find extremely useful and inspiring - cheers!!

:smt031 :D


Mon May 31, 2010 11:39 am
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Joined: Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:11 am
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Location: Vallenar, Chile
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i agree with all that mark wrote. i use many of those sames techniques within my classrooms and it helps control how the class runs. i use a version of the stars/ reward as well. My students have a class chart, and if they behave well as a group during a class, I mark a star. Once they recieve 5 stars, I either bring it a treat or give extra free time. I make sure to bring it up the next class if they did not recieve a star, and normally ask why they believe they did not deserve it.

as for individual students, this is always a challenge, but possible. I have countless students who misbehave in one of the schools I work in (many factors go in to how they act) so my advice is to get to know you student FIRST. one i developed an understanding of they student, put effort into talking with them, they develop a respect for you and notice your concern for them. This will help. I have seen many of my students respond more willingly to my directions when I have put in effort to know them. You may have a child you recieves less than desired attention at home and is creating problems in your class to fill that void.

I agree with Mark and the rewards/consequences. Always follow through. The students have breaks between classes, so I tell them if they take my time during class, i take theirs. They will stay in with me for a certain amount of time as a consequence to behavior.

this is just some input, i hope you find it useful!

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Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:49 am
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Joined: Tue Apr 13, 2010 8:21 pm
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Location: Warner Robins, Ga
Post How to handle naughty students
Hi, Is it possible to enlist an adult volunteer to sit beside this student or to be able to remove him from class participation when he gets rowdy? Watching the other students have fun while he is only allowed to listen often starts to reduce this behavior. He is welcome to join the group again when he has completed a set number of minutes or seconds (depending on the age), of calm. The volunteer is there only to enforce this, so that you can continue teaching. You simply point to him (or any other student causing disruption) and the volunteer is powered to act. The volunteer is not to be an enjoyable person-- more a solemn quiet enforcer. This should be explained as much as possible to the students either in L1 or in English depending on their level. No notice should be given to his return to the group, but try to catch him in good behavior, point it out and reward the whole group for it. This may not be feasible, but it works well in children's church.

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Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:22 am
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Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 7:38 pm
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Location: Inner Mongolia, China
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Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm not particularly into having another teacher in my class but my boss decided to come and keep an eye on them, and it actually worked pretty well because she just had to keep this naughty boy under control, the rest were all paying attention.

Then we played one of Mark's brilliant games, "The paper game", where I took the chance to talk and play with them one by one, get closer to them as jrosehansen suggested :)
They loved the game and practiced a lot their English.
Besides, they didn’t argue at all and nobody started a fight, which was pretty amazing tbh.

So far so good, let's see tomorrow. I'm going to give them a little prize for their past performance and to introduce the 5 stars technique.

I've just taught them once since I posted here for help but I can already see some improvement so, again, thanks a bunch for your help :)


Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:04 pm
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Joined: Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:45 pm
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Location: London
Post Re: SOS: How do you handle really naughty students?
When a child snatches notes out of your hand and totally ignores you and carries on as this child is carrying on you have lost it with that child. This is not simple naughtiness it is now out of your hands. It now involves the whole class because the class is being disrupted by one child. And of course if it continues other kids are likely to follow suit because they have now lost respect for you. It's now down to the head teacher and the parents, not you. I would emphasise to the head that it is now becoming impossible to teach the rest of the class because of this one child. Is he prepared to accept that? If he is prepared to accept it and suggests it is your problem I would tell him that the parents of the other children should know their children's lessons are jeopodized. If he still won't help get another job, and tell the other parents in any event. You are not there to be bullied or pushed around, you are a professional.


Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:12 pm
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Joined: Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:10 pm
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I'm afraid the biggest trouble in China is many parents send the kids to school as a baby-sitting service and many schools treat it as a money making venture. Very few really care if the kids learn or not. I have given up in a few schools like that but only after trying many things. Once in an older range I penalized the good students by making them stand and let the bad one sit. The good ones soon sorted that kid out. Also, sometimes I have found the really naughty kids are just letting you know the work is too hard or easy. I would suggest trying to give that child harder questions and see what happens and if still no change try much easier ones. Sometimes it has worked where I give an "encouragement" award to a disruptive students and they see they can finally get some recognition /reward and they try harder to behave. But sorry to say many times I have found it is a matter that the Chinese parents feel they "lose face" if they admit their child has a learning problem or suffers things like ADHD etc and they blame everyone else and the schools pretend the student is 'normal' instead of moving them to special education units. Lastly there have been times when a student comes from a broken home and just need a 'father figure' as I have found to happen in another school. Good luck with this problem. Where in China are you? I am Shanghai and Hangzhou.


Sat Oct 30, 2010 10:26 am
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