It's often called behaviour management, I like to call it the classroom ethos. How to make an environment where all children in your class can learn is so important. It's particularly difficult when you are training or a new teacher as you are often focusing hard on delivering the content of your lesson that ensuring everyone is accessing your lesson can be secondary.
I've always enjoyed working with children who like to push the boundaries and children who have additional needs, that at times make a school environment challenging for them. I've taught classes where behaviour management has been considered exacting, yet I enjoy the challenge. I don't think I do anything special, but here are my top tips.
- Relationships are key. The relationship between you and the children, but also one another. Shared understanding and respect between peers. Getting to know everyone and how to help and support each other. Make sure you make time for getting to know you opportunities at the start of term, when new children join and make circle/ community time sacred.
- Early on into the new school year collate the classes shared expectations of coming to school - what are their rights and responsibilities? For example a previous line from one of my reception classes was, "We come to learn and we will listen when someone is talking". You may find that children in older classes will use the terms 'right' and 'responsibility'. I go with the language that the children use for our shared expectations.
- Ensure children know the boundaries and that you are fair and consistent every time. It is a natural developmental process for children to test boundaries. They test them to see if the same thing will happen or if it will be different. If you are consistent every time then you will find most children will stop testing. If they get a different response every time or just on occasion they will need to continue to test to help them feel secure.
- Do you mean quiet or silence? This is important, they mean entirely different things. I've seen teachers ask for quiet and when a child has whispered and the teacher has told them off they look understandably, confused! Certain types of work require different types of volume. Make sure you agree these as a class and be explicit.
- Give choices. Often the best way to diffuse a situation is to avoid it completely and ask a simple question. Would you like to use a pen or a pencil to write your story? By offering a choice this uses a different part of the brain to be able to make a decision and give an answer and can often mean the original issue is forgotten.
- Giving children responsibility within the classroom can really help them feel part of the community and have a sense of purpose. All children in my classes, whatever age, have always had jobs that have been their responsibility. In a reception class when it comes to tidying away, I didn't have children refusing to stop and tidy up as they had their own responsibilities. It's lovely to see a sense of pride develop in the job they do, supporting others - 'I'd finished my job so I'm helping…', '….isn't here today, so I'll do their job for them.', 'there isn't anyone to do this, can I add this to my jobs'. Just lovely.
- If there's a problem in the classroom ask the children for the solution. You'll be surprised how fabulous their ideas are and how willingly other children will listen to the advice of their peers.
- Think about the language you use. I always remember going on a course when I was a PGCE student and they said to always say what you want and not what you don’t. For example - don't run becomes walk thank you. Two things here. One - when you say don't run the last word you hear is run. Two - using thank you rather than please is a subtle message that you believe that they will do what you have asked and have therefore thanked in advance.
- If you need to talk to a child about their behaviour do it subtly, quietly so that only they can hear. Maybe just a signal, a look that they understand that helps them know that a change needs to be made.
- Praise publicly (unless you have a child who feels really uncomfortable with this). There's a whole lot more that I could go into on the use of effective praise. I'll go into this more in a future post.
- Visual timetable and routines help reduce anxiety and let children know what to expect. This helps you have a calmer classroom.
- Wait for silence - don't start talking until you have the class's full attention. This can seem like an eternity, but it's worth it and your class deserve it.
- Plan well and deliver engaging lessons.
- Give children a way out of the situation they are in. It could be to go and calm down in a quiet place. It could be giving them an alternative option to the path they are currently on.
- If a child is having the same struggles over and over it's time to do something different; set out a plan involving parents and child. A good start can be - I know you are finding this (set out what it is) hard, what do you think will help? Often children are very good at coming up with their own solutions and know what will help them.
If you have any specific, whole class or individual, situations that you want any help with - feel free to message me for more personalised ideas.