Effective Classroom Management Begins Before We Step Into The Classroom

By - Lilian Montalvão*

Every Young Learner teacher knows that effective classroom management is an essential part of our job. We may plan the most amazing classes, including a range of hands-on activities, games, and the like, but, without effective classroom management, none of those will work as planned. Lesson aims will go out the window, stress levels will rise, and frustration will take over. Have you been there? I certainly have.

After struggling with classroom management for quite some time, I became obsessed with the topic. I began reading books about it, watching videos on YouTube, listening to podcasts, and following educators who talked about it on social media. I tried a range of different tricks and strategies. And they worked. Well, at least for some time. But nothing seemed to prove effective in the long term, though.

It wasn’t until I took a course to become a Positive Discipline educator that the pieces of the puzzle finally seemed to fit together in my mind. I suddenly realized I needed a classroom management SYSTEM and not a bunch of isolated tricks, strategies, and techniques. Why? Because when it comes to teaching Young Learners, every single aspect of the teaching and learning process has an impact on classroom management.

So, I have developed the concept of classroom management as a system because its success depends on a combination of four elements:

  • An understanding of the profile and development of Young Learners;
  • A positive learning environment and relationships;
  • Effective lesson planning;
  • A positive and consistent approach to deal with challenging behaviours.

I’d like to dive deeper into number 3 now. Lesson planning is one of the most powerful elements in this system and one that is often taken for granted. However, when done effectively, it prevents a range of struggles even before we step into the classroom. Would you rather prevent trouble or deal with it during class every 5 minutes?

Here are some practical tips on how to use lesson planning as an ally for effective classroom management.

  • Plan lessons that connect with learners’ interests and developmental needs. When our lessons do not connect with their interests, motivation drops. When we do not provide them with the appropriate level of challenge (neither too high nor too low), motivation drops. The two most common results of low motivation are: disruptive behaviour or lack of participation and disengagement.
  • Take children’s short attention span into account. Plan activities that are short enough for learners to be able to fully focus. If our timing is unrealistic, they will possibly feel tired or bored and that is likely to manifest in their behaviour.
  • Plan for a balance between cognitively engaging activities and high-energy, physically engaging activities - that is, settlers and stirrers. This balance will make it a lot easier to cope with children's short attention span and will contribute to their engagement and motivation. Engaged and motivated children are not very likely to act disruptively.

Considering lesson planning as an ally for classroom management can really transform the way we structure our lessons, fostering learners’ motivation, preventing a range of struggles, and enabling lessons to flow more smoothly. It’ll also allow you time and energy to focus on the other three elements of the system.

*Lilian Montalvão has been dedicated to Young Learner English teaching for almost 20 years in different educational settings. She is currently a materials writer and teacher educator. She holds a Master's in Education, she has specialized in Early Years Education, and holds an English Language Teaching Degree. She is also a certified Positive Discipline Educator. She is currently a guest professor at Curso de Aperfeiçoamento em Educação Bilíngue (professional development course on bilingual education) at the Federal University of Minas Gerais and a collaborator with Active English for Kids, a teacher education company specialized in Young Learner teaching. You can contact her on IG @educationmatters.lm or at