Do you need strategies for managing behaviour?
So, here you are approaching the first day of the first term of your first year as a qualified teacher, let loose and on your own… just you and around 30 children.
You’ve read all the books and done all the theory, now it’s time to put everything into practice, knowing that the reality is your learning has only just begun.
The challenge of managing behaviour
Behaviour management is a peculiar part of being a teacher because every situation and how to handle it is dependant on so many variables. There is no hard and fast method. We would all handle the same situation differently so it’s really tricky to find your way when you are starting out.
This is the first installment of 3 blogs that will guide you through your behaviour management in your first year, term by term. My aim is to give you tips on what to do to establish a positive learning behaviour culture in your classroom.
Behaviour management in your term 1
Invest time getting to know your students. Knowing your students underpins everything when you are trying to manage a class, but it is also the hardest balance to strike. Everyone knows that trying to be the cool teacher is a complete disaster. You need to have a slightly reserved interest in their lives, but as Paul Dix suggests, “Choose your opportunities to build a relationship with a student carefully”. Aim for a casual interest when opportunities present themselves, but don’t force anything and be prepared for your students to not reciprocate.
In my experience, rules are there to be broken but expectations are there to aspire to. In the days before the term starts have a really good think about what is the minimum you expect from your students, how do you want your classroom to look and feel? It could even form part of a guided activity in your first lesson so your students have some ownership over the expectations.
You would be looking for things like…
- Everyone is quiet and listens to each other.
- Everyone tries their best.
- Everyone is free to ask questions.
- Everyone is respectful of each other’s opinions even if they are different.
There may be whole-school routines like lining up outside the classroom, but equally, you should have ones of your own. Routines will make life easier but they have to be taught and practiced before becoming a routine. Investment in these at the start of the year with new classes will make behaviour management easier in the future. Think short-term pain for long-term gains!
You could establish routines for:
- Entering the learning space.
- Handing out books.
- Taking out and putting away equipment.
- Handing in completed work.
4 Positive directions
Popularised by Bill Rogers many years ago, this is a subtle technique based around the language you choose to use. It’s about using positive directions rather than negative instructions. For example, rather than saying “Everyone stop talking” you would say “Can everyone listen please” or rather than “Harry, stop fiddling and distracting others” you would say “Harry put your pen down and look this way, thank you”. Adding the thank you at the end is a powerful assumption that they will do as you asked and more often than not they do.
5 Stop, look and listen
I often recommend this technique to my NQTs. It is used when you have just set a class to a task. Instinctively, we tend to get stuck right in and start milling around, as often there are hands up almost immediately. However, to manage low-level chatter and disruption, what you actually need to do is take some time.
Firstly you need to STOP and take a moment to LOOK around the room. Scan your class and look for students that are finding it difficult to start. Maybe they don’t know what they are doing or haven’t got a pen? Acknowledge those with their hands up and either encourage them to have a go, start the task with something simple or reassure them you will be coming round. While doing this you LISTEN carefully for the start of off-task chatter as you’ll be in a great place to nip it in the bud. Just a few minutes of Stop, look listen might feel like forever but it’s a really powerful way to keep the class settled.
6 Use the system
Whole-school behaviour management systems are important; make sure you know what’s in yours and don’t be afraid to use it. Students respond best when we use the system correctly, so be fair and consistent.
Good behaviour management starts with creating a positive learning atmosphere. A successful teacher is firm and assertive, yet kind and understanding. Don’t forget: children will behave like children and you are the adult.