Written by Jim Scrivener, who has authored other popular ELT titles such as “Learning Teaching” and “Teaching English Grammar”, “Classroom Management Techniques” is one of the latest from the Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series. The book itself is over 300 pages and is divided into seven chapters related to English language teaching with each chapter focusing on individual aspects of teaching: The classroom, The teacher, The learners, Key teacher interventions, Facilitating interaction, Establishing and maintaining appropriate behaviour and Lessons. The book is intended for teachers of varying experiences, native as well as non-native teachers, those that are teaching young learners as well as adults, those teaching monolingual or multilingual classes as well as those teachers that are experienced or newly qualified. Scrivener (2012) highlights that the book is expected to be referred rather than “to read from cover to cover” (p.4) but there are numerous cross-references where the reader can read more about particular areas in another chapter and this in itself suggests that some thought has gone into the structure of the book. Nevertheless, the first chapter focuses on the setting of the classroom.
The first chapter looks at the space where most teaching and learning takes place where there are various suggestions to best organise and exploit its potential. There are nine suggestions that prompt thought and reflection on the organisation of the classroom with thought on classroom layouts, setting up the classroom with seating and tables for specific activities as well as varying the position of the teacher in the classroom. Each of the nine ideas suggested for reflection are ideally written with an aim, brief background reading and questions for reflection. Furthermore, the pictures within the chapter are invaluable to capture an essence for organising the classroom and offer practical ideas for readers. For example, the differing seating arrangement is accompanied by a picture. Scrivener also offers techniques to develop awareness of the classroom with ideas such as putting yourself in the shoes of the learners as well as organising the decoration of the classroom.
The following chapter focuses on the teacher and, as above, tries to develop reader awareness of the subject, offers practical ideas to develop for lessons and questions educator behaviour. Within this chapter, there are ten units, with the first units setting the scene with an example of developing authenticity. Other aspects introduced within the chapter include establishing rapport, listening to learner production of language as well as gestures and facial expressions, which, as in the previous chapter, offers some wonderful illustrations of possible expressions which could be incorporated in the classroom. Personally I was able to develop some expressions and incorporate these in lessons with some success.
If you are like me when teaching a new class, I find myself with butterflies in my stomach, worrying how the learners will develop as well as whether I will get on well with the learners. Scrivener attempts to defuse potential problems arising when teaching a new class within chapter three, with some techniques to develop greater learner and teacher (and vice versa) rapport such as strategies to learn names (with some wonderful suggestions such as name cards, developing learner posters or learner profiles on the internet as well as creating a room map to name just a few), get to know you (GTKY) activities, as well as teaching mixed-levels. As with the other chapters, there are questions for teachers to reflect upon as well as some wonderful illustrations. Finally, there is some explanation of learner style and Scrivener questions the suitability of stereotyping with learners with the thought provoking read within the chapter.
Key teacher interventions
The following chapter, which is related to teacher authenticity (introduced and related to chapter one), attempts to develop reader awareness of possible teacher intervention within the classroom. Scrivener describes teacher interventions as those things in which the teacher does or say particular things (p.119). The chapter is supported by fourteen units which develops awareness of potentially positive interventions and include various tips such as being supportive, giving instructions, elicitation techniques as well as checking understanding and potential learning. Within this chapter, there are limited illustrations and the reader can notice that the majority of the suggestions are more thought provoking. However, I should mention that the ideas put forward are not solely theoretical but they also balance practical ideas as well. I find this chapter is more suited for experienced teachers and provides continual reflection and there are some practical ideas that I will be incorporating in future language lessons.
Transactional functions of language includes the execution and delivery of predicted language within particular circumstances: booking a ticket at the cinema, posting a letter at the Post Office, ordering a train ticket, etc. The language which is expected by both parties in these situations are used to transact particular functions, for example: “Can I a first class stamp?”, “Two adults for the seven o’clock showing of Skyfall”, “A return to London please”, etc. Obviously, interaction is unpredictable and develops greater fluency in English and it is always challenging for any teacher to develop a learner’s confidence in interaction. However, Scrivener dedicates fourteen units towards ideas to incorporate in the language classroom. These units include ideas such as creating the right conditions learner to learner (as well as learner to teacher) interaction, using cues to prompt language production. researching interaction during the lesson, training learners to listen to each other as well as ideas to assist the quieter learners to interact in pairs or groups. The chapter develops interest for those teachers that are interested in a ‘conversation-driven’ approach to language acquisition and Dogme ELT, and I am keen to incorporate some interactional ideas in future lessons. The final unit in this chapter, Scrivener develops ideas to improve interaction outside of the classroom and I am keen to see more development in this area as learners have continuous access to the internet through using smartphones or tablets.
Establishing and maintaining appropriate behaviour
Chapter six, which is rather smaller compared to the other chapters with only three units, seeks to support teachers within a secondary school context but much of the ideas can be developed and incorporated in other classroom contexts such as young learners and teenagers. Some of the techniques include rewarding positive behaviour, dealing with small disruptions as well as dealing with more severe disruptions. Nevertheless, Scrivener highlights an interesting point about ex-army personnel retraining to become teachers so as to instill discipline within the classroom. Obviously, it is also highlighted that being a teacher is very different to being in the Armed Forces. Having served three years in the Royal Air Force, I personally find it difficult to incorporate any training techniques acquired form my time in the forces and I would rather not shout or bully learners into good behaviour. However, Scrivener does highlight various levels of poor behaviour such as coming late to class, cheating in tests or missing school without permission and offers some ideas to incorporate in such situations. I believe that this section is highly recommended for any director of studies or other managers in the language school.
The final chapter Scrivener decides to analyse lessons and it is split into ten other units. Each unit focus on individual stages of a lesson with the first unit predictably looking at starting lessons. Other units include the use of the board, timing and pace within the classroom, preparing improved handouts as well as low-tech resources. I am very interested in the use of low-tech resources in the classroom due to the emphasis of a ‘materials-light’ focus with Dogme ELT and this particular unit would be invaluable for any budding or practicing dogmeticians. However, much of this information can be read in reference towards other books dedicated to lesson planning, staging and the delivery of lessons. For example, some of the ideas suggested for the use of technology in the classroom include the organisation of the computer(s) in the classroom into particular areas: islands, standard computer rows, computers around the edge of the classroom, etc. Much of this can be read in greater detail with other books dedicated to technology in the classroom. Notwithstanding, the illustrations within this chapter are invaluable for the reader and offer some further ideas on how to develop the lesson and classroom.
In conclusion, the book is a wonderful complement to the already large collection of English language teaching books. It is practical and encourages readers to develop greater understanding of classroom management techniques through the viewing of many different aspects: the learners, the teacher, the classroom, etc. One thing that is sorely missed is an accompanying CD which could have been included with the book. The CD could have included teacher or student handouts from the book which would have supplemented the various chapters. For example, with each of the units a corresponding PDF worksheet could have been created, such as a worksheet that supports the analysis of learner interaction or name card templates. However, the book is highly regarded and should be in available in any school library so that teachers are able to improve their knowledge of classroom management through the numerous techniques.