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Managing Behaviour

Securing good behaviour in the classroom can be a worry for new or less experienced teachers, but all teachers will, at some point, come across challenging behaviour.  This post, by Deputy Head James Siddle,  provides some useful and timely advice on how to be proactive in securing an orderly and purposeful learning environment.

7. You establish what you establish.

Setting your expectations for student behaviour, making them clear, being consistent and dealing with poor behaviour when it appears are crucial in establishing your authority within the classroom. If you allow students to talk over you, you have established that as acceptable behaviour, so that’s what they’ll do!

6. Planning for Good behaviour

Taking account of behaviour in lesson planning is crucial.  We all know that the devil makes work for idle hands, so it must be up to us to ensure that our lesson provides few or no opportunities for students to lose focus or drift off task.  Appropriate lesson activities and pace are key!  When planning lessons, James suggests the following mantra to ensure that learning is relevant, engaging, purposeful and active. “Something old, something new, something fun, something to do.” If you are getting this right, there is little space for behaviour in the classroom to be any less than positive.

5. Settle and Stir

It is very tempting to try and ‘engage’ difficult or challenging classes with ‘fun’ and ‘interactive’ learning activities.  Often this can be counter-productive and can wind students up even more! Having a number of ‘settling’ activities for key parts of your lesson where behaviour may be a problem is as important in trying to engage the class in ‘all-singing-all-dancing-carousel-student-expert’ type activities. Knowing your groups and how they react at different times of the day is key.

4. Non-verbal communication

Anyone who has seen any Bill Rogers videos on classroom management will be familiar with the type of hand signals he uses to correct certain behaviours. Not all behavioural issues require a verbal correction, let alone a full blown confrontation. Picking your battles in terms of knowing what to challenge verbally and what can be dealt with through body language, positioning in the room or hand gestures (non-rude ones!) can save your voice and prevent your classroom resembling a battle-zone.

3. The Three-Part Reprimand

This was my favourite! Imagine you are about to tell off a student who has wound you up a treat for the past few lessons.  You take them aside and go for it, only to find the words won’t come out in any coherent form. For a verbal reprimand to be effective, the following rules must apply: it must not be delivered in anger, it must clearly address the behaviour problem and it must provide a clear instruction for future behaviour.  I would suggest a three part reprimand: 1. A statement of what the student is doing wrong(Jack, you were talking during my instructions) 2. The effect it is having on learning (while you are talking, other students cannot hear my instructions) 3. What they need to do to put it right (you need to listen to my instructions so that you and the rest of the class know what to do). Simple but assertive and effective.

2.  Partial Agreement: ‘Maybe.. and…’

This strategy requires you to swallow your pride a little bit and act like a grown up.  Admittedly this can be difficult when a student is clearly acting unreasonably (at least in your eyes), but those of you have read or seen Andy Vass will be familiar with the potential power of two words; ‘Maybe…and’.  It is a very simple strategy that should take the wind out of any student’s argument when being asked to do something that they feel is unjust.  Picture the scene:

Teacher: “Billy, pick up that litter by your foot please.”

Billy: “IT’S NOT MINE! I DIDN’T DROP IT!”

The next bit is key…

Teacher: “Maybe you didn’t Billy, and now please pick it up”

Done! (hopefully Billy picks up said litter!)

1. Ladders of success

Primary school teachers use this strategy to great effect. Having a visual method of reinforcing positive behaviour can prove invaluable when dealing with challenging groups or students. A few years ago, I witnessed my PGCE mentor use a visual ladder display in her classroom to help manage the behaviour of a difficult year 9 group. When students did something right, their behaviour was rewarded and reinforced by moving the ‘student’ (sticker, cardboard cut-out, etc) up the ladder. When used alongside a transparent and consistent system of rewards, a visual promt such as this may support students for whom behaviour, self control or even self-confidence might be an issue.  I think we could all learn something about positive behaviour reinforcement from our primary colleagues.

Whether you are new to the profession or have been in the job for decades, these strategies provide some useful reminders of positive behaviour strategies. At the very least they have the potential to make those wet Wednesday afternoons more bearable!