Classroom inspiration – Building Community in a Multi-Language Classroom

Two days into my new job at an international school and I’m already doing my homework looking at how other teachers manage the mix of students that can be found in classes that don’t share a native language.

I stumbled across this video and it’s the first one that I actually watched in its entirety and I found it really interesting.

Worth a watch – this teacher knows what she’s doing.

Some Observations of the Thai Classroom #4 – The Know-it-all.


The Know-it-all can come in two breeds; the cute and enthusiastic or the ‘you are not worthy of my knowledge’ type.  I guess you can tell which one is more annoying to have in your class.

Ask any question, pose any lexical conundrum to the class, and this student will shout out the answer before their classmates have had the chance to comprehend what is being asked of them.  “Raise your hands, please”; the teacher tries to maintain some level of control over the Know-it-all’s outbursts, only to find that they are the only kid to sit, straining their arm above their head, fingers waggling in excited anticipation of being correct, once again.

Fellow students groan at their never ending knowledge.  Teachers try their hardest to direct questions away from them.  “Anyone other than [insert name of Know-it-all] like to give it a go? … No?”  Their position as lead in answering questions and always being the first to finish is firmly set in place.  It becomes the teacher’s objective to not only congratulate the clever child, but to keep them grounded and try to let the other students try for themselves.

Maybe they are naturally good at languages.  Maybe they are extremely studious.  Perhaps their parents can’t afford to put them on a higher level of academic programme.  Private lessons on evenings and weekends often have a part to play.

Extra work is brought to class by the teacher, their key objective of occupy the Know-it-all put into action.  A premature “Teacher, finished!” is met with yet another worksheet, each increasing in difficulty.  Maybe this one will be the one to break the know it all.

The teacher lives for the day when the Know-it-all is stumped by something.  Not that we like to see the students fail, but just for them to be challenged by something and for their classmates to see that the Know-it-all can sometimes get stuck too – they really are human after all.

Do you have a Know-it-all in one of your classes?  How do you keep them occupied and control their ever-raising hand?

This is part of a series of ‘Some Observations of the Thai Classroom’ posts.  See below for my previous entries.

Some Observations of the Thai Classroom #1 – The Buffalo Boy

Some Observations of the Thai Classroom #2 – Keen Bean

Some Observations of the Thai Classroom #3 – The Monkey Boys


Some Observations of the Thai Classroom #3 – the Monkey Boys

Image source: me!
Image source: me!

Characterised by their behaviour, the Monkey Boys operate in a herd formation, claiming the territory of the back left of the classroom.

It’s not difficult to spot a Monkey Boy.  When the class is asked to take out their notebooks and pens, a distinct patch of students will remain book-less and pen-less.  “Mai mee teacher, mai mee…” (I don’t have it, teacher…).  Scraps of paper are pulled from back pockets and uncrumpled to make a start at taking notes.  They will probably manage the date.

Monkey Boys like to monkey around.  A lot of the time it’s fun, even for the teacher.  You can play on it, grabbing them as they swing past to use them for an example conversation or to demonstrate something.  They enjoy high energy games although they often don’t quite grasp the actual concept of the competition.  Occasionally the monkeying around can go too far, and you have to reprimand them – but the cheeky grin on their faces makes it hard to follow through with any discipline.

Monkey Boys like to disrupt their more studious counterparts, throwing plastic bottles at the back of Keen Bean girls’ heads or stealing pencils.  Playground stuff.  They also like to try and lure the Buffalo Boy into their antics, convincing him to do things while they watch on in glee.

Back in the UK these are the boys that I would be working with as a youth worker.  These are the boys who would be given behavioural assessments, the school searching for an explanatory reason for their monkeying around be it dyslexia, ADHD, or some disorder on some spectrum that would allow the school to separate them from the mainstream education.  They would be placed in what is usually named something like ‘the hub’ where they can be offered a watered down curriculum padded out with life skills and trips to the fire station.  But not in Thailand.  These boys are simply left to their own devices in the back left of the classroom.  With 45 other students to take care of, sometimes it is much easier for everyone to leave them to monkey around while the lesson continues at the front of the class.  At least they inject some energy into the classroom!