Classroom ideas

Keep ’em in line!

One of the first things I was taught when I faced a classroom of Young Learners was that they needed a system: one that would be appealing enough to get them to stick to the class rules, and would motivate them throughout the year. I made an absolute mess of this in my first year, but I think with time, practice, patience and a bit of creativity, I’ve reached a point where I’m confident enough to reward good behaviour consistently and manage poor behaviour equally so. At the risk of sounding like Monica from Friends, “rules control the fun”!

Here are some of the ways I’ve used in my own classes. All of them involve a positive end, middle ground, and a negative end. The aim is for students to end the lesson with their name tag in the treasure chest (or in the happy cloud, in an example you’ll see if you scroll down). Start the lesson with the students’ name tags off the cline. Check that they have their homework, books, and are generally ready to get going, then move their names into the treasure chest. As the lesson goes on, if a student misbehaves, elicit what was unacceptable, then move their name tag to the pirate. This shows them that they’ve had a warning, and it’s in their power to make up for this before the lesson ends. Equally, if the student continues to misbehave, their tag moves into the shark. It is possible for the student to move back up to the pirate, and maybe even to the treasure chest before the end of the lesson, but this will obviously require more work.

The shark – pirate – treasure template I used with 10-11 year-olds.

At the end of the lesson, students whose name tags were in the treasure chest received a sticker or rubber stamp on a sticker board I gave them at the start of the year. Students whose name was in the pirate received nothing, but I would ask them to reflect on what they did to end up there. Students whose name was in the shark would receive a “red mark” on my register – 3 red marks for any one student would lead to a phone call or meeting with their parents. I would also ask the students to tell me what warranted their name ending up in the shark, and it’s usually a good exercise so that the students realise a) that you’re on to them if they misbehave and b) that they have to take responsibility for how they misbehave.

The sad cloud – cloud – happy cloud template I used with a class of 8 year-olds

Once COVID-19 struck and we started working from home, I was keen not to let standards slip, and maintained the shark-pirate-treasure cline thanks to a software called ActivInspire, which I LOVE. I also realised that I wasn’t just limited to one template. Why stick to pirates and sharks when I could screenshot shields of their favourite footballs teams… and their arch-rivals? The local football team where I currently work is Real Sociedad (San Sebastián), and the rivalry between Real fans and Athletic de Bilbao fans is quite comical (if you don’t take football too seriously, that is), so I made an alternative cline for the footie fans in my groups:

Athletic de Bilbao – Zarautz – Real Sociedad for the football fans!

What 3 things could you put on your cline to keep your learners in line? Let me know in the comments box!

3 thoughts on “Keep ’em in line!”

  1. Love your new website Claire, can’t wait to watch it grow. My favorite cline runs vertically where learners can join me in a magical journey in a hot air balloon. Inappropriate behaviour may lead to losing a place in the balloon.


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