Yesterday afternoon I went to a session at the COFLT-WAFLT Fall Conference on classroom management in the target language.

A huge part of middle school classroom is proactive management. If I don’t do it in the target language, I’m missing out on two huge opportunities. One – it’s an authentic need for communication. We’re teacher and students in a classroom trying to follow rules. Two – repetition! Since I’m in a PBIS school, I have plenty of opportunities to repeatedly talk about responsible, respectful and safe behavior.

The two big takeaways from the session were – be proactive and plan with the 4 Rs in mind.

Classroom management should take place in the target language. I don’t want to send the message that I use English for super important information, and therefore, information given in Spanish is less important.

  • Be proactive, not reactive. Rather than respond to undesired behavior, be proactive. Set learners up to successfully demonstrate desired behaviors.
  • Use teacher voice – authoritative yet compassionate with appropriate volume. Does everyone need to hear or just one person? Everybody: Don’t yell or talk over people. One person: Soft whisper sometimes works. Sometimes a firmly delivered key word or phrase works, like “Stop” or “Put your hand down”. No volume – sometimes gestures are as effective as words, like touching someone’s paper to remind them to start writing.
  • Conduct the first day of class in the target language. Don’t go over the syllabus in English. Give learners a chance to experience what a typical day will be like.
  • Move around the room. Walking over to where the undesired behavior is taking place is sometimes enough for learners to self-correct the behavior.
  • Model the desired behavior – like using the target language. Sometimes a rejoinder in the target language is enough to prompt learners to stop using English.
  • Collaborative problem solving. The learners, not the teacher, should propose solutions to problems. Of course, the teacher can guide and facilitate as needed.
  • Praise desired behavior and give lots of positive feedback. At the end of the day, positive feedback should be 3-5 times greater than negative feedback. Positive feedback is easy to bank. “Hello, Sue. I’m so happy to see you” is positive feedback. Giving a chile for promptly starting the warm-up is positive feedback.

Proactive classroom management involves the 4 Rs: relationships, rigor, relevance and realness.

  • Relationships. Take the time to get to know learners. If I want them to be willing to take risks in the target language, then I need to build trust as well as create a safe learning environment.
  • Rigor. Is it the right challenge level? Content that is not challenging enough or too challenging will prompt undesired behavior.
  • Relevance. Is this something the learners care about?
  • Realness. Don’t be fake. Is everyone able to be their real selves?

My goals

In 50 minute class periods, I will use the target language appropriate for the level for, on average, at least 45 minutes each class.

  • Establish meaning. Write the word in the TL and L1 on the board or show a picture or gesture.
  • Frequent comprehension checks. Make sure learners understand what they’re hearing or reading.
  • During guided reading activities, ask 1) customized questions, 2) comprehension questions, 3) inference questions, and 4) cultural and comparison questions.