Behavior management is a necessary evil when teaching. In China, it’s especially important. Many Chinese children don’t take you as seriously as they take their Chinese teachers, because you don’t speak or look like locals. You need to step up your management skills if you want your classes to run smoothly.
It’s important to know how to discipline Chinese students, but it’s equally as important to master positive reinforcement.
Here are four simple reward systems. If you are consistent in your behavior management style, kids will know exactly how you expect them to behave.
1. Create teams and keep points
I cannot recommend this tactic enough.
Divide your classroom into four or five teams, most likely divided by rows. You can simply call them Groups 1 through 4. I chose to give them animal names: Teams Lion, Crocodile, Eagle, Kraken, and Stag. Each group had its own little dance move, too!
Next, track how many points each team earns. When a student answers a question correctly, award their team a point. This method makes children want to answer questions. Don’t take away points for wrong answers, though! That only discourages them.
If an entire team is quiet and pays attention, award them a point. If someone on a team misbehaves, erase a point from the board. The entire team berates them, and that usually keeps them in line for the rest of the class period.
I’ve never seen six-year-olds as competitive as my Thursday afternoon Team Kraken versus Team Crocodile.
2. Give stickers
Kids love having a tangible reward when their team wins. My students were competitive enough that I didn’t need a reward like stickers. However, some other teachers I knew had trouble keeping kids interested in the rivalry. If that’s the case, give everyone on the winning team stickers at the end of class as incentive.
If you don’t have teams, you can prompt the head student to give each child a sticker when they answer a question correctly. I knew several Chinese teachers who used this approach for young grades.
Stickers aren’t your only option. Feel free to use similar rewards, such as stamps.
3. Let them watch a video
My friend rewarded students at the end of class by showing them a fun Youku video. He allowed each class three demerits per period. If the class as a whole was misbehaving, he gave them one demerit.
If the class got three demerits, the students didn’t get to watch the video at the end of class. The kids got so attached to the fun videos that they were heartbroken if they didn’t get that reward! The anticipation of a video helped them behave.
Try not to dedicate too much class time to watching these videos. You don’t want them to cut into your teaching time! Try to find fun videos that are under five minutes long.
4. Let them sing a song
Children love to sing songs, especially in primary school!
You can use the demerit system this way, too. If the kids are good throughout class and don’t get three demerits, reward them by singing one of their favorite songs with them.
I gave my children three class rules, and we reviewed them every day at the beginning of class. This review definitely wasn’t the most exciting part of class time. As a reward for their participation and good behavior during this time, I let them sing a song or two afterward, before we started the lesson. Suddenly, they were very good when it was time to go over class rules!