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So, you’ve completed your first term with your new class, and not listening to the age-old behaviour management advice, you’ve even smiled before Christmas. You’ve seen the merits in developing relationships and are seeing the fruits of your investments. You’re feeling confident with using your school’s behaviour policy within your class and the children are responding to it.
However, you begin to worry about repeated low-level disruption. Shouldn’t you have cracked that by now? You don’t want to fly through the behaviour system and involve more senior staff just because a few over-eager children are shouting out answers, but it’s becoming disruptive to the learning of others.
They’re still learning well, but they just can’t seem to control these outbursts. You’ve even heard whispers in the staffroom about the behaviour in your classroom, leaving you wracking your brains about which strategy to apply. It’s time for a new year and a new start.
It’s easy to feel your patience slipping when you hear negativity from ‘mood hoovers’ about how they feel about the behaviour in your classroom. But remember that, you, as the adult within your classroom, create the atmosphere, affect the day and influence your children. You can achieve the classroom atmosphere that you desire by positive behaviour spotting.
When a child is showing the undesirable behaviours that are causing disruption to others, instead of using negativity or consequences, praise somebody within your class that is showing the positive behaviours that you want, such as, “Well done for putting your hand up”.
As you get to know your children better and develop stronger relationships, you will begin to be able to notice when your ‘eager’ child is getting fidgety and become more proactive in your approach by praising them for their positive behaviour before the shouting out even occurs.
Children that shout out want to show you that they know the answer to your question. They want to please you by giving you what they want. There’s no deliberate act of wanting to disrupt learning. By positive behaviour spotting, you aren’t having to give negative attention, which neither you nor the child want.
If the child that is shouting out is causing disruption to your classroom, it is really important to focus on communication with all involved.
This includes speaking to previous class teachers who may have, more than likely, experienced the same behaviours and may have information about strategies that have and haven’t worked. This knowledge might be invaluable to you.
Look at communication with the child too. Use ideas such as the ‘5 x 2’ strategy, where you let the child lead the conversation for at least two minutes, five times a day. It’s strategies like these that ensure you will have positive interactions with pupils.
Sometimes, in the busy life of a school, you have to set time aside to ensure this is a feature of the day.
Don’t forget the parents either. When communicating with them, make sure that you separate the child from his or her behaviour. Focus on the positives – not a stream of negatives – and build relationships early.
It’s important to have an objective to your conversation and avoid jargon and information overload. Be aware of family dynamics too – who is the person that you need to communicate with?
Communication is one of the key tools in education. We don’t always get feedback when communication is good, but you will certainly get told when it isn’t. Positive change happens when all parties are working towards the same objective, making it vital that your communication is sound.
Be aware of barriers. Can you use alternative methods of communication, such as email, the phone or home-school book?
If a child continues to struggle with a particular aspect of their behaviour, whether it’s disruptive lunchtimes or shouting out, you need to pinpoint support that will help to modify it.
You might want to consider some additional activities that will enable children to focus on their behaviour, with adult support. Plan this in exactly the same way as you would plan an intervention:
There are plenty of options to help you tighten your grip on low level disruptive behaviour within your classroom. As long as your relationships with the children continue to develop, you’re bound to see success.
The key thread running through all three of these strategies is support. By keeping that as your focus, you can continue to develop an atmosphere within your classroom that ensures the adults have a positive impact on the lives of the children and equip them for the subsequent stages in their school life.
Create some visuals identifying ‘good listening’, ‘good looking’ and ‘good sitting’.
Discuss the use of these visuals during a PSHE lesson. Start by discussing the key learning behaviours that are needed to have a successful lesson.
Children could design their own posters featuring simple pictures to go alongside these phrases to act as a visual reminder which will prompt them to show the positive behaviour you want to see.
Laminate some of the posters and display them within the classroom.
If a child starts to fidget during your teaching input, simply point to the posters and continue with your lesson. This will have a direct impact: you won’t interrupt the flow of your lesson but it will bring attention to the expectations that you have of the children in class.
Tracey Lawrence is the author of Practical Behaviour Management for Primary School Teachers (£16.99, Bloomsbury). Get 20% off the book and e-book until 31st March 2018 by using the code TeachBehaviour17 at bloomsbury.com. Find her at traceylawrence.com and follow her on Twitter at @behaviourteach.
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