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The 3 tools you need to master classroom management

Updated: Jan 18

The 3 tools you need to master classroom management
Teachers need to think about how to set up, conduct and give feedback on classroom act for students

Every lesson is essentially a sequence of activities. Activities come in all shapes and sizes, but ideally, they are student-centred, and they'll involve the students working on something alone, in pairs or in groups.

So how does a teacher manage activities in a student-centred classroom?


Before an activity starts, a teacher needs to tell students what to do, i.e. they need to give instructions. Good instructions make a lesson flow very smoothly. Poor instructions cause confusion and can even undermine students' faith in their teacher. So what are good instructions?

  • Instructions should be worded clearly and planned in advance - making them up on the spot is unlikely to lead to an effective task

  • Make sure your instructions are graded appropriately i.e. that the language you use isn't above the students' level

  • Good instructions often include a model or demonstration so students can see/hear what they're supposed to do

  • Remember to break instructions down stage-by-stage and not to give all of your instructions for a multi-stage activity in one go

  • Check if students understand instructions, maybe by eliciting an example from one of them to see that they know what to do


During an activity, the students are working, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing for the teacher to do. The teacher needs to watch and listen to what students are doing. This is what we usually call monitoring. Why do we monitor students?

  • We can see which students are doing well and who is struggling

  • We can see which elements of a task students are finding hard

  • We can make sure that the students understand what is expected of them and that they're all on task

  • We can be visible and available to students if they have a question

  • We can take notes of the language we hear the students using (or see them writing) and we can use that for feedback afterwards


After students have finished, we need to do feedback. There are lots of ways of categorising feedback, but here are three types you might use:

(A) Content feedback - this is where we react to the content of what the students have said (or written). We can ask students to share some of their answers with the whole class, especially anything that's particularly funny or memorable.

(B) Answer checking/confirmation - this is when we check the students' answers to a practice task or skills exercise - it could involve written feedback using the board or a handout, or a discussion of the answers with students calling out answers.

(C) Language feedback - this is when the teacher works with language that they heard (or read) students using, for example by going through errors at the whiteboard.

And that's it - a good classroom manager needs to do those three things well - Instructions before a task, monitoring during a task and feedback after a task. This is what I call the IMF cycle and is one of the best places to start when you're working on your classroom management skills.

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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