Classroom discipline – A case study

lively kids with teacher in the classroom

A newly qualified ESL teacher sent me an email asking for help with classroom discipline. I have written this as a case study to learn from this common situation. Would you mind writing in the comments section if you have any questions?

Problems with discipline in the classroom

‘I am currently teaching in Italy, where I’ve just started teaching 14 hours per week in various nursery schools (50-minute lessons with each group, ranging from 10-25 children) and smaller groups in local schools of primary-school-age children.

An Italian teacher present in my nursery groups has been maintaining discipline. However, she strikes me as quite threatening and punitive. That said, I only have experience working with children as a nanny, so I’m not sure of procedures in schools.’


Firstly even if the Italian teacher appears draconian to you, be grateful that they keep order in your class!

It’s one thing being a nanny or having one or two kids, but it’s quite another having a class of 20 kids. Oh boy, if you aren’t firm with them, they will eat you for breakfast. Consequently, the problem with that is you won’t be able to teach them anything because they won’t be listening. So instead, they will be messing around, being noisy, and you’ll pass off as not being able to do your job. As a result, the class will not learn anything!

Discipline tips

Start strict, too strict, and you can always be more lenient. But if you start too lenient, you can lose the respect of the pupils. One doesn’t have to yell to be strict, but you should be firm and mean business and tell kids off who don’t behave. Follow all my discipline tips because they work. For more specific guidance on discipline please browse this post: kindergarten classroom management. In addition, using one of my fun games books will help keep a focused classroom since children will be enjoying your lessons more, and hence will be less likely to behave destructively.

The teacher’s feedback

I am pleased to say that the nursery teacher tried my tips and was successful. Here is her response to me:
‘Many thanks for your helpful tips in response to my email earlier this year about discipline problems. I feel things are improving, and I am now more confident about insisting on excellent behaviour all the time. If only I had found your materials before I started, as I’m sure it would’ve been easier to start strict and then ease up a little!’ Kristina Maki, ESL teacher in Italy.’

2 thoughts on “Classroom discipline – A case study”

  1. Thank you, Shelley. I’ve been reading through your blogs and your tips and boy am I grateful to the friend who recommended you. I’ve enjoyed reading your replies to questions and comments to your subscribers and followers. They are indeed useful. I’ve been only teaching/tutoring teens but the point that you made about starting strict, too strict is applicable to any age group, I believe. I have always started lenient and to be honest, it’s difficult to be strict afterward because they just don’t take you seriously. Thank you again for these tips.

    1. Dear Tania, Thanks so much for your helpful comment. Yes, respect is crucial and it doesn’t come from trying to be chummy, although if students like you, they are more likely to behave and respect you, so it’s quite an art to get the balance ! By the way, one of the worst groups of people to teach (that I found anyway) are teachers LOL ! All the best, Shelley

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