Behaviour management is ongoing development…what works for one class won’t work with another! As an NQT you are developing your toolkit. The 7 strategies below are about building a solid foundation and a strong start with your new classes.
1) Routines - have a routine way of starting AND ending a lesson.
For example meet and greet at the class room door, have a positive interaction with each child and calmly reinforce expectations (e.g. 'Morning! Well done on the football game Sarah. Begin the starter as soon as you are seated.'). This allows students to be clear on your expectations and means that they will associate your classroom with praise from the outset. Praise can be given for contributions in a previous lesson, tidy uniform or even a new haircut! Have the initial activity ready to hand out as students enter the room or on desks/ the board, seating plan in place and again find reasons to praise students for following instructions. This is a great time to use the school rewards system for immediate engagement, following instructions and key contributions.
Manage the end of the lesson - do not run up to the last minute and then be in a rush for the next class. Have a clear plenary, even if it's a quick show of hands to show whether students feel that they have achieved the aim of the lesson, dismiss pupils in an orderly fashion and again use names and praise on exit.
Stick to your routines relentlessly. A calm and orderly classroom facilitates learning; efficient routines make it easier for students to learn and achieve more.
2) A flying start - make the first five minutes of your lesson highly engaging.
Pay attention to this when planning you lesson. What will your hook be? How will you behave? Your enthusiasm for your subject should be infectious, motivational and inspiring! Praise the students who are following the routine and show them you are invested in their learning by looking forward to teaching them. This can be difficult to achieve when teaching a five hour day or when you've just dismissed a challenging class but remember as a teacher we often perform a series of cameo roles and occasionally an Oscar winning performance!
3) Confidence - fake it until you make it!
Even if you don't feel it, the students need to believe you are calm, confident and controlled. Move around the classroom, make eye contact, use the space (move in to show you are interested, get close to the student who is off task), upright and bold posture, clarity of voice and give instructions from the same spot in your classroom every time.
As well as a confident persona you also need a confident classroom and lesson for student 'buy-in'. Sue Cowley writes:
"As well as looking confident, you also need your teaching to convey a sense of confidence. You need your lessons, and the way they are taught, to come across in a confident manner. You need them to feel well organised, to have a sense of flow and forward motion, to be interesting, engaging and well managed...Your classroom (or other teaching space) is your domain, your kingdom if you will. With your own teaching space, you can convey a sense of confidence simply through how your room looks when your students arrive. They will make snap judgements when they arrive at your room, particularly the first few times they are taught by you. Your aim should be to build an atmosphere where you appear to be fully in control.”
The Seven C's of Positive Behaviour Management - Sue Cowley
4) Catch them being good - use praise to teach students how you want them to behave.
It's so easy to focus on that small minority who disrupt learning, yet praise is the most powerful motivator there is, so use it as much as possible when students are meeting expectations. Teach your pupils how you want them to behave through praise. Phone calls or postcards home reinforce your investment in the students and help to establish the HABIT of co-operation. Praise makes school more enjoyable for students AND teachers!
5) Consequences - apply them consistently, sparingly and match them to the level of misdemeanour.
Before using the more formal school sanctions, make use of low key non-verbal signals e.g. pausing, raising an eyebrow, tapping the exercise book, re-directing focus to something on the board. When sanctions are needed, ensure the student knows what you expect of them, what will happen if they do not co-operate and give them take up time to make a positive choice. Detentions are all well and good IF the student is given an opportunity to identify what they did in the lesson that prevented them from making progress and how they can prevent this from happening again. Avoid whole class sanctions at all costs - they do not work and create a 'students vs. teacher' culture that is detrimental to building positive relationships.
6) Count down to a win-win situation.
Use timers and count downs to help students feel more in control, but meet your expectations.
The classroom countdown is a good example of 'Win-Win'. By using a countdown you're giving fair warning that they need to listen and allowing them time to process that the lesson is moving on. They are ready when you want them to be but also feel like they have been given freedom to manage their response to instructions.
Using visual timers also supports students' ability to manage their time and increases their independence, whilst preventing the 'teacher minute', a phenomenon where we state that we will allow 5 minutes for a task, then give students 10 minutes to complete!
7) Avoid entering into a discussion about behaviour - no more why.
Don’t ask questions such as 'Why are you doing that?' or 'Why would you do that?' as these sorts of questions waste lesson time. If you do ask a question, it is much better to choose a question that refocuses students on their learning:
'What should you be doing?'
'Is this helping you to make progress?'
Similarly, when you give learners an instruction or a sanction, never engage in discussions with students who ask 'why'. Instead, say that you would be happy to explain at the end of the lesson or return to non-verbal cues to show that the conversation will not continue. Always remember, your goal is to stop the misbehaviour and quickly move on with the lesson.
The Golden Rules -
Teachers must be:
- They must show respect to learners
- They must praise good behaviour whenever possible