Fun ESL Classroom Games and Discipline - an Unhappy Marriage?

ESL and TEFL teachers often do not have the class management training that their primary school colleagues benefit from. Without preparation it can be somewhat of a shock to take on a classroom of energetic children.  This is further exacerbated when teachers start to use ESL classroom games, which can make the children quite excited.


Here are some tips and ideas to help you contain your pupils' enthusiasm to a manageable level.  You can use esl classroom games and keep your pupils under control, but you need a few tricks!  The tips are divided into:


1. Basic ground rules for the ESL classroom
2. Handy tips
3. Instant attention getters


1. Basic Ground Rules for the ESL classroom


  • Have your pupils define the classroom rules in the first lesson, and post them on the classroom 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!
  • Be consistent in applying your rules. If you are arbitrary about how you dish out your rewards or 'consequences', you will undermine the rules themselves.
  • Praise good behavior to generate love and self-esteem. Whatever you do, avoid being like so many parents who spend their whole time telling their children, "don't do this", and "don't do that".By focusing on the positive in order to draw more attention to it you apply the universal law of "you attract what you focus on".
  • If you are working in a school know the law and rules of your institution before you go into the classroom.


2. Handy Tips


  • 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.
  • Create teams and use peer pressure to encourage good behavior. Deduct or reward behavior points to a team's score during a game.
  • Don't break your own rules by raising your voice to be heard. Instead talk quietly or stop and wait. Your pupils should know that for every minute you are kept waiting they will receive extra homework, or whatever consequence you have designated.
  • I would 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'll call your Dad if you don't behave", you take the initiative away and seem tyrannical.
  • Prevention is better than cure, so try giving boisterous students an important task BEFORE they start to play up. They may respond well to the responsibility.
  • 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 togetheror do some counting to occupy the class while materials are handed out. There are many other things you can do but there is not the space to list them all here.


3. Instant Attention Getters


  • Play a mystery game and, before you start your fun esl game say that during the activity you will be watching out for 3 well-behaved students who will be rewarded.
  • Start a song the children know and love – they will all join in with you and at the end you’ll have their attention.
  • Clap out a pattern which they must clap back, or start a rhyme they know with actions.
  • Use quiet cues such as heads down or lights off. 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.
  • You teach this repeatedly in the first lessons and after a few weeks, you only have to say "Give me five:1,2,3,4,5", and they do.
  • You can also 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 summarise


Establish the rules and consequences for good and bad behavior, apply them consistently, set a good example, use peer pressure and points, and use attention grabbing cues such as favorite songs, rhymes with actions and countdowns. 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 have to confess my classes are the best since I have your great ideas.  Children do not behave badly and shout as they used to. They speak English with a happy face and also shy children try to do so. I am veeery happy.'  Yohana Perez Garcia, Spain


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelley Vernon promotes learning through fun esl games and encouragement.  Make your job easy and fun and receive the free games now from esl classroom games for children