Classroom Management Help and Instant Attention Getters

classroom management problems
26 Feb Shelley Vernon 15 Comments

ESL and TEFL teachers often do not receive the class management training that their primary school colleagues benefit from. Without preparation, it can be a shock to take on a classroom of energetic children.


Here are some tips and ideas to help you contain your pupils' enthusiasm to a manageable level.


This blog is divided into three sections
1. The basics
2. Handy tips
3. Instant attention getters.


1. The Basics


a. Have your pupils define the rules in the first lesson, and post them on the wall for reference. Knowing WHY a rule is in place makes it easier to keep. You must establish the rules on day one and stick to them!

b. Be consistent in applying your rules. If you are arbitrary when dishing out rewards or 'consequences', you will undermine the rules themselves.

c. Praise good behavior to generate love and self-esteem. Avoid "don't do this" and "don't do that". Instead, focus on the positive in order to draw more attention to it you apply the universal law of "you attract what you focus on". For example, instead of "don't eat in the classroom" try "put that apple away please."

d. If you are working in a school know the law and rules of your institution before your first class.


classroom management naughty kid in classroom

2. Handy Tips


a. There is nothing so sweet as the sound of one's own name. So use an individual's name for praise and avoid using it when ticking someone off.

b. Use questions rather than threats. For example, ask a naughty student, "Do you want me to speak to your Dad?" By asking them the question you give them the power to choose, whereas if you threaten them with "I will call your Dad if you do not behave", you take the initiative away and seem tyrannical.

c. Prevention is better than cure, so give boisterous students an important task BEFORE they start to play up. They may respond well to the responsibility.

d. Set an example and don't break your own rules by shouting louder than the class! Stop talking, wait, or talk so quietly students are obliged to hush themselves to hear you. You might note the time on the board and for every minute that you wait, students have extra homework. That will quieten them down fast!

e. Hand things out quickly or use a system to have things handed out, such as giving the well-behaved students the task as a reward. Sing a song together or do some counting to occupy the class while materials are handed out. I give tips throughout my books on how to handle specific situations.

3. Instant Attention Getters


a. Play a mystery game and say that during the activity you will be watching for 3 well-behaved students who will be rewarded.

b. Create teams and use peer pressure to encourage good behavior. Deduct, or reward, behavior points to a team's score during a game.

c. Start a song the children know and love – they will all join in with you and at the end, you'll have their attention.

d. Clap a rhythm. Those listening repeat it. Keep going until everyone is joining in.

e. Use cues for silence. These might be heads down or switching off the lights. Vary these with other fun quiet cues such as "Give me five". 1--on your bottom, legs crossed; 2--hands folded in your lap; 3--face the speaker; 4--eyes and ears open; 5--mouths closed. Teach these cues over the first few lessons until you only have to say "Give me five: 1,2,3,4,5", and they do.

f. For children aged 6 to 12 think up a fun 1 to 5 with actions such as clap your hands, turn around, sit down, eyes front, finger on lips". Adapt this idea depending on the space you have in your class.

g. Use the Magic 1 2 3 idea. When a child does not comply start counting 1, 2,… The child knows that if you get to 3 there will be some sort of consequence, such as missing out on the next game. If you use this and you reach 3, you must follow through with an appropriate consequence consistently.

To summarize:

1. Establish the rules and consequences for good and bad behavior

2. Be consistent

3. Be a good example yourself

4. Use peer pressure

5. Use attention-grabbers such as countdowns, favorite songs and rhymes with actions.


You can be firm and fun at the same time, and if you cannot manage your class, you should realize that, although it sounds harsh to say it, you are wasting their time.


I hope you enjoyed the tips above. For more classroom management tips see these two blog posts:

Ask me any questions in the comments box below. I'm here to help.


Kind regards

Shelley Ann Vernon

P.S. You have 60 days to test out the book of games and see if they work for you!


Hello there, I hope you enjoyed the tips. Do share you own tips or comment. Ask me any questions, I'm here to help!
Tank you Shelley! Very helpful tips!
Thanks, good tops, but only for young children. I, for example, work with 16-year-old teenagers and sometimes they become too naughty, start commenting each others behaviour aloud, etc.
Thanks a lot
Thank you for the tips! I use them all.. I work with the Chinese students and the matter is that they all have English names, because their Chinese names are difficult even to pronounce! And unfortunately not all of them know their English names, too! Sometimes I need to pronounce it three or more times to be heard... So I use stand up - sit down method, some songs and exercises with younger students. And of course, my lessons should be diverse and interesting to attract their attention!
Thank you Shelley for everything useful that you share!
I like this web site so much, bookmarked.
Hi, I've tried many things to quiet down my 6 year old English class, and today I came home frustrated . One of the problems is that I just teach them 2 hours a week and I don't have the power of changing their marks or anything. So, they don't care and they are very noisy group. Two of them throw themselves on the floor, scream whenever they want... a mess and I started using stickers as a reward , but with this two is not working. The point is that I think that one of them can't avoid it, because he can't even look at my eyes for more than 2 seconds. Well, I'm a bit desperate and feel useless...
Hello Karin, Thanks for your comment. Do you take this class after school? If you do then it's normal for it to be noisy, and children can still learn. I used to teach after school. It was exhausting for me, but the children did learn. We used running vocabulary games and plenty of other games with movement. We did choreography to songs and played Simon Says with verbs and vocabulary (not just body parts). And we put on a short play each term that we showed parents. How many children do you have in this noisy group? If you have a small group, do a play each term like I did. If you have a big group stick to games with movement. Play also the silent games, and make being silent a part of the game. Any listening game (like those in my books) can be played in total silence. Make teams. Anyone making a noise loses a point for their team. Also, do try the instant attention getters in the blog post above. Now for the special students, they do perhaps have learning difficulties. I recommend two things: 1. Watch this inspirational movie on YouTube (it's free). Give them love and attention. They probably feel desperate about their lack of ability to learn. The Marva Collins True Story. 2. Read a couple of books on recognizing and coping with ADHD, autism and learning disorders. I typed 'teaching handicapped children' into Amazon and saw some titles that look readable - after all you don't want the science behind it, but how to handle it. Driven to Distraction was one, Raising Lions, And do watch that Marva Collins movie! All the best Shelley
Thank you so much for your reply. Yes, English lessons after school. They are just 8 students, but it's a very complicated group. The point is that I use the school class and I'm supposed not to move anything, and the environment is not the best for movement games. I also have to follow a book and the units are scheduled into a program. I I don't know if the will be able to perform a play, but I'll try it. Their English level is very low and they don't usually understand anything... I'll watch the movie, thanks!!
Dear Karin, After school groups are always energetic, the kids have been cooped up all day and the last thing they need is more study. However it can be done. For movement, since you can't have them running about jumping on flashcards and so on, have them move at their desks, for example: pointing left and right instead of jumping left and right, (Jump the Line game), Simon Says - but with vocabulary not just body parts, Relay Race, passing objects around the classroom while seated, across the rows, stand in the aisles of the classroom and move on the spot, 3 kids come to the front to act something, then freeze and the others guess what they are acting...and so on. There are lots of ways to use movement, and you have my games books for kids, so check it out - you'll see plenty of ideas in the variants for each game.
PS Re the plays, the level is for absolute beginners, so these plays and skits for kids will be ideal for your group of 8. That said you do need to be able to have the kids walk around the classroom. You can still do it with kids in the aisles and some at the front. The themes of the 30 skits follow all the typical vocabulary topics for beginners so there's bound to be one that fits with your curriculum. If you'd like me to send you the language overview, drop me an email and I'll send it over. info AT
But Karin, try the free one first - to see if you like using skits - the kids it is on this blog:
Stephen Jeyaraj contributed this comment : Teach your game to a minimum number of children who are able to understand. These kids then communicate simply with other children who are slower to understand. Also it helps, when your ideas are conveyed with gestures and expressions. And if you allow your pupils to explain the game to their peers in the native language, it's always successful. Try, you will see great success.
thank you Shelley. very heipful.


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