Boisterous Boys and Bored Girls

I had a recent reminder of the power behind this blog’s simple motto: We’re better when we work together.

To get some guidance in preparing for an upcoming webinar about working with large, small, and mixed-ability classes (part of OUP’s Let’s Share project), I put a request out on my facebook page. The webinar is only an hour long, and I want to be sure I touch on the topics that matter most to teachers. I really hate wasting anyone’s time 🙂

asking advice on facebook

Well, I expected teachers to share their challenges with teaching these different types of classes. What I hadn’t expect (but should have, knowing teachers) was the generosity of teachers in offering advice for the problems teachers shared.

That gave me an idea. A teacher friend sent me the following video from a challenging class. You’ll recognize the situation, I think. It’s at the beginning of class. (Note: if you can’t access videos on YouTube, here’s the same video on Vimeo)

Rather than just sharing my own limited advice, I thought I’d once again appeal to the greater wisdom and experience of  our combined teaching village. We all know that even great teachers have challenging students, and classes.

Have you ever had a group like this, where the group energy works to disrupt rather than enhance class? Of course, it could just as easily be bored boys waiting for girls to finish running around so class could begin, especially in a mixed-age class.

How would you deal with this class? Please share your suggestions in comments. Even though one teacher shared the video, I’m sure that a lot of teachers will appreciate your advice!

I’ve done my best to make this anonymous, to protect both teacher and student privacy. If you happen to recognize students or the classroom, please do not mention any particulars in comments. I want to keep this blog a safe place to share, and it takes a brave teacher to share things that aren’t working well.



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8 Responses

  1. Budi azhari Lubis says:

    Dear Barb,

    I recognize this situation before and I used to get stressful with this. I finally came into a conclusion that they did that because they simply loved to play and they didn’t know we’ve started the class or I , the teacher, wasn’t that expected (because we didn’t do a fun activity). At the beginning we need to do something as a hint/ sign that we start the class. we can various activities Singing a song (dance along), Doing a simple magic trick, a warmer (TPR) game. Seat arrangement also helps with these boy students. Prepare an extra activity for fast finisher.

  2. Barbara says:

    Thanks, Budi. I think it can be really helpful to have a clear signal that class is ready to start. In Japan, students in public schools stand and bow to the teacher at the beginning and end of class. How do students in Indonesia show that they’re ready for class to begin?

    I’m curious about your comment regarding seating arrangement? How would you set up the seats to encourage a calmer start to class?

  3. Melissa says:

    I’ve had a couple of classes like this, and there are a few techniques that have helped bring and keep the students under control. It takes time and patience, but it works for me.

    First, students need to know and understand classroom rules. What is and is not acceptable behaviour should be made clear, and the rules should be consistent each and every class (and not, for example, dependent on the teacher’s mood that day). There should be explicit consequences for breaking the rules, and students should be aware of them. At first, while students are still unfamiliar with the rules and rule-breaking consequences, they can be quizzed at or near the beginning of each class. For example (and I used this set of rules with great success in a class of three-year-olds):

    T: Okay, does everyone remember the three rules?
    S: Yes!!! (hopefully!)
    T: What’s rule number 1?
    S: Don’t run!
    T: Very good. What’s rule number 2?
    S: Don’t push!
    T: Excellent! What’s rule number 3?
    S: Please listen!
    T: Very good! You guys are so smart! What happens if you break a rule?
    S: We get a time out./We can’t play games.
    T: That’s right. So, Can you follow all the rules?
    S: YES!!!

    My classes are weekly, so rule reminders are essential for difficult or new classes.

    I also find that positive reinforcement works very well. If everyone follows the rules and behaves well, then the class is rewarded with a game or a ‘fun’ activity. But, enforcing consequences is also important, so if anyone breaks the rules no one gets to play a game (for example). This type of consequence creates peer pressure to be well-behaved, and very quickly students start reminding each other of the rules and stopping bad behaviour before the teacher has to step in.

    Two key rules for this system:
    1. ALWAYS make good on a threat. If you tell the class that if anyone runs in the classroom there won’t be a game and someone runs, then there cannot be a game. (You’ll only have to do this once or twice. Once the students understand that you’ll follow through, there will be a drastic change in behaviour.)
    2. Save the reward for the end or near the end of the class. The promise of a reward is very useful, but once the reward has been given, the incentive is gone. But, make sure you don’t run out of time. Promising a reward and not delivering is very counterproductive, and will undermine the students’ trust in you.

    At the beginning, I use a warning system – kids get one chance with a reminder of the consequence of their behaviour, and of the reward for good behaviour. If they repeat the bad behaviour, the consequence is implemented.

    I’ve turned classes that look like the video above into productive, happy groups with whom I can laugh and play while we study. The change can be remarkable.

    Also, as the person above commented, having a clear start to the lesson is useful. For young children, I use a ‘Hello’ song, and for school-aged kids I use roll call.

    Two other small tips: try to treat all the kids equally – don’t think of the rowdy kids as ‘bad’, and once the behaviour has been dealt with, don’t keep bringing it up – wipe the slate clean, and get ready for round two.

    I look forward to reading about other teachers’ experiences in dealing with this kind of group!

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks, Melissa! I appreciate the time you took to write in such detail. Your suggestions are easy to understand. I think your last tip, about not thinking of rowdy kids as “bad” and giving them a fresh chance each class, is very important. Too often, it’s easy to pigeonhole students, and then they have no space in which to change. Especially dangerous when they’re young, and have so much change ahead 🙂

  4. Anne says:

    I taught kindergarten for six years and, slow learner that I am, it took me ages to realize that the students were acting up because they were waiting for me to tell them not to. When I tried the strategy of just waiting for them to sit down and calm down, they’d take it as permission to keep going crazy. In the end, I’d get frustrated and start scolding them. I finally learned that I needed to improve my “teacher look”. I also learned that a simple call and response got them sorted in no time. In Korean, the kindergarten teachers call “seonseangnim” (“teacher”) and the students answer “bopshida” (“look”). My current call is “Thumbs up” and they answer “mouths shut”. It only takes a couple days for them to get it down and it works forever (and it also practices a difficult sound ‘th’). I think it was a relief to them as well to have a strategy that meant no one got yelled at and class could start with all hands on deck.

  5. Nina says:

    I had a similar experience handling a class like this, they were 1st graders of elementary school, I was quite frustrated at the beginning. Every time they started running around the class and wrestling with their friends, as the class was very noisy, I had to shout to call their names to ask them to sit back nicely. But as one kid had sat down the others started to play wild again, so it was quite tiring calling out their names again and again to get them to listen and do the activity. Even when we had a game in class it could hardly ever work the way I expected. I knew I had to do something.

    Then I tried to use the green, yellow and red card rule where they could get 1 green card at the end of the class time if they could behave nicely during the session and if later they could collect 5 green cards from 5 meetings they would get a chocolate in return. The yellow card acted as a reminder or warning when they started to get out of the track and finally the red card was used when they wouldn’t listen anymore. This red card would reduce the number of the green cards they already had, it was worth 2 green cards.
    Before I applied the rule I talked to them first and got them to understand why I should do it, that is to make the most out of their learning time to be more effective and fruitful. They understood, besides, they were competing to be the one to get the 5 green cards first.

    The class is now far more controllable and they seem to enjoy the atmosphere as well. The activities I had prepared before class could run well and until now none of them has ever gotten the red card. Moreover, they now start to remind each other not to even get any yellow cards, when anyone in the class seems to start doing the old tricks, they would say “Hey, don’t do that or you’ll get a yellow card!”

    Lucky me, now I don’t have to shout again, I have the automatic reminders 🙂

  6. Budi azhari Lubis says:

    I agree with Melissa, agreeing on the class rules is a must, we must involve everyone to set the class rules and have agreement. ask students to sign it so there is responsibility to obey the rules.
    In formal schools, class begins by saluting the teacher and praying, but we don’t do this in our course (sounds really formal). so I begin with grasping their attention saying “Let’s play a game.” they usually will sit on their chairs waiting for the game. Rewarding a sticker to behaved students can be an option. If in my minimal resource school, I simply write 5 stars on the board. I ‘ll say if they behave well I’ll add the star if not, I’ll erase the star
    Seat arrangement can be also an option, I mean how we put desk or chairs. we can put the ” extraodinary” students within a group of more behaved students.

  1. February 21, 2013

    […] teaching Village we can read and learn from other teachers too through the post comments on ‘Boisterous Boys and Bored Girls“ and also through Barbara’s Facebook page.         […]