Many definitions of classroom management usually highlight ‘Student Behaviour’ as the key element in the classroom that needs to be managed. However, ‘Student Behaviour’, is an output caused by a set of inputs. We may be aware of some of the inputs like interest level of the student, his/her learning style, his/her relationship with the teacher, and so on. However, we may be ignorant of other inputs that lead students to demonstrate undesirable behaviours.
Let us now observe this painting.
We can see how an artist has made use of different colours and various strokes, but we may be puzzled with the message or the meaning that the artist wishes to convey. We may be able to guess the meaning based on the length of our imagination, but we are unsure, rather UNCLEAR. Similarly, your students in the classroom are UNCLEAR about a few concepts. As a result, the need to manage them and their behaviours arises.It is therefore essential for teachers to gain clarity, and understand when their pupils are unable to grasp a concept.
Let us examine the classroom situation given below for further insight.
Situation – “Often when Mrs. X’s class is about to embark on an activity, it occurs to her that all the whispers and puzzled faces mean that they have no clue of what is to be done in the activity.”
Yes, you are right! The answer is – Your INSTRUCTIONS are unclear. So, are you clear about what is unclear?
While taking my lessons in the classroom, I could identify the effects of poor instructions and the need to follow the TEN COMMANDMENTS.
Effects of Poor Instructions
If your students are not clear with the instructions during an activity, you would notice the following reactions:
- They would appear perplexed and would start enquiring from their neighbours. Consequently, you have a distracted, disconnected and dazed set of students in your classroom, and we call this behaviour UNDESIRABLE. (Suggest some other word rather than Undesirable)
- They might lose confidence and faith in you. This could be a catastrophic loss for you.
- You would be required to repeat the instructions, which would cause you to fall back on schedule.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Follow the TEN COMMANDMENTS of effective instructions to ensure effective classroom management.
- Plan your instructions as you plan your lesson.
- Practice providing instructions before you enter your classroom. This will help you in identifying the gaps if any. For example, while practicing you may find that the instructions are not in the correct sequence. You can change the sequence accordingly. You will also be able to anticipate the responses of students.
- Stand in front of the class while giving instructions.
- Get your students’ attention. You may use a prop (a bell) or non-verbal cues, show a stimulating picture, write a question on the board, draw a dot on the board and keep drawing over it till it becomes bigger in size, countdown, and so on, to grab their attention.
- Arrange your students, for example, in pairs or groups, before giving the instructions.
- Give instructions related to the activity. Ensure that the instructions are given according to the ability of the students. Avoid providing too many instructions at once, to a slow learner.
- Ask Instruction Checking Questions (ICQs) to check the understanding of the students.
- The ICQs should be closed questions. For example, you instruct the students to perform the activity in pairs; the answer to an ICQ “Do you have to perform this activity individually or in pairs?” will confirm their understanding.
- Do not ask students to explain what they have to do in the task. Avoid asking questions like “Tell me what you have to do”.
- Avoid asking “Do you understand?” as the obvious answer in unison is ‘Yes’.
- Do ask “Do you have any questions”?
- Check by giving the opposite instructions. For example, “I think you have to perform this activity individually, am I right?”
- Use unfinished sentences and let the students complete the sentences. For example, “You are required to perform this activity in __________”?
- Demonstrate the task if required.
- Signpost material (handouts, worksheets, etc.), if any.
- Distribute material after giving all the instructions. When students receive a handout, they start reading it. This human reaction is inevitable. As a result, they miss other important instructions.
Your instructions are steps that your students climb, to discover the unknown. These steps should not be slippery, bent or damaged.