Getting Behaviour Right

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Steven Robertson

Steven writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a primary perspective. He is a primary school teacher in a catholic primary school in Runcorn. Although currently in key stage 1, he has experience teaching across a variety of year groups and has previously taught in...
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What strategies can teachers put in place to ensure they promote good behaviour in the classroom? 

Ensuring that pupils act and behave appropriately during lessons is an essential prerequisite for effective lessons and underpins meaningful learning. It is important that all teachers take time to reflect on whether they are doing everything they can to promote the positive behaviours that they expect to see.

Consistent whole-school approaches which incorporate a shared language and agreed criteria, greatly strengthen the extent to which effective behaviour management can enhance teaching, progress and attainment; but individually you may wish to consider some of the following points in regards to your own personal practice.

Practice the policy!

Your school will have a behaviour policy and colleagues and students should expect to see it in action in your classroom. The most effective policies are always the simplest. Teachers, students and parents need to be able to understand the language used and more importantly, remember it. Ensure that you know the school’s behaviour policy and follow the procedures set out within it. If you don’t, you are only under-mining yourself and your colleagues.

“But Miss, I didn’t know…”

Take the time to share and discuss your expectations plainly. Ensure absolute clarity about the expected standard of pupils’ behaviour and that you are in-line with your school’s policy, ensuring you apply these consistently. Hammer the inconsistencies if you need to!

shutterstock_26690506 multiracial fist to fist agreement (isolated on white)

Hammer the inconsistencies if you need to!

Image: Shutterstock

Make rules visible:

Display the school/classroom rules around the room. These should match the school’s, not be in addition to what is already in place. You will only be making things more complicated for you and your students if you have another set of rules to impose! There may be a need for specific subject rules, for example in a technology classroom. Either way, always refer back to the school to ensure that pupils, staff and parents (when necessary) are aware of your expectations. They also serve as a visual reminder to the pupils each time they enter the room.

What’s the point?

Make sure pupils know why they should behave as you ask, and what they can expect if they don’t. Discuss the sanctions and rewards for different behaviour with your class. Display these in the classroom if appropriate. Work continuously towards the rewards and make a big fuss of them, as pupils seldom enjoy sanctions as others are rewarded.

Most importantly, do not escalate your sanctions too quickly unless there is cause to do so, plus never speak a sanction you know you will not carry out.

Plan ahead:

Make sure that you plan for sanctions and rewards appropriately. A child missing out on a sanction or reward seriously undermines your behaviour system. There’s no point in telling a child they’ve earned a reward, only to find you’re called into a meeting and can’t follow through. Have effective systems in place and plan where and when you can follow them through.

Be the change you want to see:

I once saw this emblazoned across a picture of Gandhi and it struck a chord with me. I must say, it’s yet to lead me astray. Model the behaviour you want to see from your class and the expectations of other adults in the classroom and around the school. Colleagues and students often pick up more from what they see, rather than what they’re told.

Steven Robertson writes for Teacher Toolkit. You can read more of his articles here.

One thought on “Getting Behaviour Right

  1. All sound advice and I would emphasise a focus on “learning behaviour” rather than just rule following. William Glasser said something along the lines of all we do is behave. Our behaviour is learnt and is based on success in terms of achieving a desired outcome. Struggling to understand something can make us feel uncomfortable, especially if others appear to “get it” and so we may prefer not to be in that environment. Alleviating those feelings may come about by not being in that environment and the behaviour that we adopt will have that purpose. A learning behaviour response would be to express how we feel and to seek reassurance from the teacher and possible seek a different learning strategy. A challenging behaviour response would be to do anything to get out of that environment and the quickest way of doing that is most often to break a few rules.

    We can promote learning behaviour by meeting learning needs, those of Power, Belonging, Choice and Fun. east to remember if we remember Please Be Child Friendly!

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