Saint-Didier primary school

Class management




In my capacity as a teacher trainer, I often visit classes. Based on my observations, I have drawn up the table below containing some of the problems I observe, some of which are very common. The novice teacher is aware of problems but does not know how to handle them. Thus, I have provided my solutions alongside the problems. These solutions are not the only ones but they offer the distinct advantage of being tried-and-tested.

I want to emphasise that no-one is to blame for these problems. The fault lies with the lack of basic training in class management.

Remi Casteres




Likely causes,



You say: "I must have repeated the same thing ten times, yet there are still pupils who do not know what they have to do!"

You repeat the same thing ten times.

The children decide that:

1. it's boring listening to you;

2. it's pointless listening to you, because, you will repeat it anyway.

1. Do not repeat what you have already said.

2. Ask if there are any questions.

3. Make sure that the pupils have understood your instructions (not with a cursory "Does everyone understand? OK." )

One way is, rather than asking the children to repeat your instructions, ask them to interpret them, "Aristide, what do you have to do?" This type of question prevents the children from listening passively.

4. Enable children to return to the instructions if they are not sure, for example by writing them on the board.

You give instructions to the children and, 20 minutes later, you notice that some of them are doing something else.

You did not ensure that the children had understood your instructions.

Be systematic in checking that instructions have been understood. The time gained is far in excess of the initial 5 minutes lost.

The check for understanding of instructions was superficial.

The cursory "Does everyone understand?" is best resigned to the teaching waste bin. Incidentally,  it is impossible for a pupil to reply yes on behalf of others.

When you notice that a child has not understood the instructions, explain them to him/her again.

While you are repeating instructions to a child, the other children are not doing anything .

The key point is to involve all the children, in a way that forces them to think about what you tell them.


1. You ask another pupil (B) to explain what A has to do. Pupil B may have volunteered to do so or was chosen at random.

2. This is not enough: you then ask A what the instructions are.

3. If A replies correctly, then the activity can begin.

4. If A still doesn't know: another pupil (C) is asked to explain to A more clearly.

It is impossible for a child to carry out a task correctly if he does not know what he has to do.

The pupils do not carry out the task you have given them.

You are preventing them from working by continually talking.

Leave the children alone while they perform the task that you have given them.

The instructions were inconsistent.

Do not improvise.

Write down what you are going to say.

While preparing for the lesson, imagine how you would react if you were a pupil.

It is impossible for your instructions to be carried out (e.g. the children are asked to find the screening times of a film from a cinema programme but the particular film is not showing that week).

Anticipate what will happen in class.

You hate the fact that the children do not listen to one another.

You repeat what they say.


At the Teacher Training Institute, you were told to repeat what children tell you, so that they hear the correct version of what they said.

Do not repeat what the children say. This is easier said than done and it requires a lot of composure. Time is required for this to be effective.

You place yourself at centre stage. Every verbal exchange must pass through you. You do not allow any direct exchanges between the pupils.

Think about the role that you have defined for yourself, and about the status that you assign to the children.


Generally, unlike with the other causes, teachers are not aware of this one.

Your pupils do not speak loud enough for others to hear them.

You repeat or rephrase everything they say.

Stop repeating or rephrasing. The children's words will become more important.

You complain that it is too noisy in the class.

You shout.

Adjust the volume of your voice: loud enough when you speak to the whole class, quiet when you speak to a small group, and in a whisper when you speak to one pupil. The children's behaviour will tend to reflect your's.

You talk at the same volume with one pupil or the whole class.

You talk continually.

Make a video-recording. When you play it back, you will understand what you have to change.

A lot of the pupils are bored or are messing about...

They have nothing to do.

You had anticipated that all the pupils would work at the same pace, and this is never the case. You should plan another (individual) activity for children who finish before others.

Make some changes so that you do less and the children do more. For example, in science lessons, the children should be actively involved, rather than simply watching you.

The lessons are too long.

Make the lessons shorter.

For any given lesson, vary both the activities (oral, experimenting, drawing, writing...) and the modalities (individual, small group, class...)

Alternate class activities with individual activities, oral work with written work.

The purpose of the activity is not clear to the pupils.
(For example, I asked some children who had been given a writing task: "Why and for whom are you writing?" Their answers were varied: "For the usual teacher." "For ourselves." "I don't know actually." "So that we know what to do if aliens visited earth." "I don't know, the teachers told us to." "To show it to others.")

Tell the pupils why and for whom they are performing the task you have set them. Ensure that they have understood.

...especially during the correction period.

The correction period is too long.

Accept that you will not address all aspects of the problem.

There is no stake.

Make the activity appeal to the children, for example, by introducing an element of competition to sustain the children's attention, e.g. one point for each correct answer. (This is not a grade since the children award the points to themselves.)

The children become bored very quickly when you give them a problem to solve, They get on with the physical part, but are reluctant when it comes to thinking or writing about the problem.

You presented the problem from your point of view only. Make the problem very important for the children.

You can appeal to the children's love of a challenge (to solve a mystery) or competition (to find the best answer).

You feel useless or lazy when you stop talking.

At university and then at the Teacher Training Institute, the common characteristic of all of your lecturers was their ability to talk at length. You model yourself on this behaviour.

As soon as you can, start observing one or two children discreetly. Do this over time, noting down your observations.


It is they who will teach you how to do your job.


This page has been translated from French by Andreas Theodorou.





Your opinion


Last Update :05/09/05