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Get Behaviour Back to September Standards in 6 Easy Steps

Like a cold, low-level disruption starts off with a single case, but can become contagious very quickly

  • Get Behaviour Back to September Standards in 6 Easy Steps

Do you remember the first few days with your new class back in September? You sat back confidently at the end of each day, safe in the knowledge that you had this behaviour thing cracked.

In every lesson, the children looked up at you with awe and wonder in their eyes, hanging onto your every word and doing their best to receive praise whenever possible.

You checked the post regularly, just in case you had been nominated for a teaching award for expertise in behaviour management. Life was good.

Fast forward a few weeks and the class are behaving like a pack of wild animals. You sit back at the end of each day with hair dishevelled, tie askew and a glass of something strong in your hand.

Your confidence is in pieces. You may have even wondered if teaching is really for you.

But what if I told you that this is perfectly normal? What if I told you that coming out of the ‘honeymoon period’ with a class can feel a little like you’ve lost control – of the class and your senses?

But more importantly, what if I told you that there is an approach that could make this process completely manageable?

Consistent strategies

The ‘SIMPLE’ guide to managing behaviour gives NQTs a handful of strategies to implement, even if things have gone awry since the start of the year. These are strategies that work, as long as you use them consistently.

Systems

Setting up systems in the classroom is crucial to successful behaviour management and it’s never too late to implement them. Children respond well to systems, but setting them up does take some planning. Examples include:

Reward systems – find one that your class will respond to and put it into place. Be consistent – recognise behaviour choices that are in line with the class/school rules.

Seating plans – these can guarantee constructive learning takes place, as well as ensuring that distractions are kept to a minimum. Change seating plans each half term to give children a chance to work with different peers.
Morning routines –have something set up that can be done daily and enables the class to start the day in a positive, calm way.

Sanctions – reward systems are important to create, but so are sanctions. Children need to understand that there are consequences to their behaviour choices. Follow the school policy and follow through with a sanction once you’ve given it.

Implementation of class rules

Class rules are important for adults and children alike. They ensure boundaries are set and adhered to, as well as providing a consistent approach for both teacher and TA. Refer to the rules frequently so that you can remind children of the behaviour expectations. Use them when explaining sanctions so that children understand why they are receiving it.

When creating class rules, ensure that the language is positive, eg ‘We put our hands up if we have something to say’, rather than ‘Don’t call out.’ Revisit these rules during circle times throughout the term, refining and improving them as necessary.

Managing Low Level Disruption

Low level disruption is one of the banes of teaching life. A little like a cold, it starts off with a single case, but can become contagious very quickly. You have to manage it consistently well. Left untreated, it impacts the learning of everyone in the class, but also wears you out very quickly.

The best way to fix the contagion is to be ruthless in your treatment of it. If a child talks while you’re talking, stop and wait. If a child is wandering around distracting others, ask them why and remind them of your expectations.

Don’t let low-level disruption win. If you’ve been letting it run riot in your classroom, you’ve still got time to salvage the situation. It’ll be hard, but it’s worth it. Be consistent and you can effectively treat the epidemic; the classroom will be a happy and healthy learning environment once again.

Pace

If the pace of your lessons is slow, children will become bored and make poor behaviour choices to amuse themselves, thus impacting their learning and their progress.

Keeping your lessons pacey will ensure children stay on task, giving them less time for distractions. Keep the children on a clock, eg ‘You have ten minutes to finish the task.’ They respond well to this approach and it keeps the pace up. Counting down from ten to zero also works well and keeps the children focused on you.

Language

Keeping your language simple is key to good behaviour management. Don’t lecture children about their behaviour, as they’ll switch off. Deal swiftly with the behaviour that’s being displayed and without a lot of conversation.

Children are experts are dragging adults into conversation in a bid to distract them from giving sanctions; don’t let yourself get sucked in.

If something needs further investigation, arrange a time to discuss it later – the middle of a lesson is not the time to discuss Molly pulling Lucy’s hair at lunchtime. If it’s simply the case of Rashid flicking Alfie’s ears, give him a quick reminder of your expectations or move him away from the temptation altogether.

Expectations

High expectations are essential to successful classroom management. The bar for behaviour needs to be set at the start of the year and it needs to be high.

Children must rise to meet your expectations. If you expect a high standard of behaviour, you’ll get it. If the children get away with little things, you can kiss goodbye to a well-managed class and say hello to low-level disruption.

Keep your expectations high all year. You’ll be able to relax a bit once the autumn term is over but the children need to remember where that line is, always.

Well-rounded learners

Behaviour management is fundamental to learning. Without positive, well-managed behaviour, children cannot learn effectively.

If you’re struggling with managing your class, don’t struggle on in silence. Seek advice from experienced teachers within your school or get yourself on a behaviour management course.

If you want to try out new techniques, don’t start them all at once – the children won’t know whether they’re coming or going and neither will you. Pick one or two and do them consistently.

Once you have consistent behaviour management strategies in place, you’ll feel happier and more confident, and that will reflect on the positive attitudes and confidence of the children in the class – two key ingredients for the well-rounded learner.


How to get back on track

  • Behaviour is communication
    Children can struggle to explain how they’re feeling and this can show in their behaviour. Picture the iceberg model – children’s behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg; try and work out what is going on below the surface.
  • All children deserve a clean slate
    You may have been told that Charlie always calls out or that Samara is a distraction to her peers, but give children a chance. Don’t assume that they’ll behave in the same way for you. Every day is a clean slate too – don’t bear a grudge from yesterday, it helps no one.
  • Be firm but fair
    Children respect this. They also love boundaries – it helps them feel safe in the classroom. Some pupils become worried if they feel that you’re not in control. Being firm doesn’t mean shouting; it means a serious tone and a disappointed look. If you’re shouting, you’ve lost control.
  • Act your socks off
    When you’re in the classroom, you’re acting in the role of teacher. This is not necessarily the ‘weekend’ or ‘family’ you. When you’re managing behaviour, you need to act disappointed. Try not to feel genuinely irritated with the children’s behaviour.
  • Focus on the behaviour, not the child
    Children must feel loved and cared for. When you’re speaking to someone about their behaviour, you need to remember it’s just that, a display of behaviour. You’re disappointed in the behaviour, not the child – explain that explicitly to them.

Steph Caswell is an educational consultant and writer. She is the author of three books for NQTs and a regular contributor to Teach Primary magazine. You can connect with Steph on Twitter at @stephcaswell_.

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