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A Guide to Behaviour Management, Part 3

Continuing his Guide to Behaviour Management Blog, here is Darren's latest instalment. Darren is an Australian teacher currently teaching in the UK through Protocol Education.

Maintaining A Sane Classroom

Ok, so you've given yourself a pretty good start to the day... how do we keep it up so a decent amount of work gets done and you go home without a headache?

* Firstly, try and get kids up to demonstrate things on the interactive whiteboard ASAP in your lesson. They like listening to each other, and they'll sit up straight and quiet if they think they'll have a chance at getting picked to demonstrate something to the rest of the class. Try not to talk for too long or they'll get bored and fidgety.

* Explain what you will do to get their attention and give them a practice go at it. I use a count-down from 5 with my hand in the air showing the numbers... the important bit though is that I only say 5 and 4 aloud and the rest is silent. When I get to zero, I keep my hand in the air (which is a closed fist by then) for a couple of seconds, then do the silent charade of waiting and 'traffic control'. Don't say what you have to say until you have silence. You may want to make one more firm reminder though "Eyes and ears this way, mouths closed, and everything out of your hands please". Then wait for that AWKWARD silence again before you move on. By having this complete silence before you talk, it sets up an expectation of respect whilst you're explaining... otherwise those little pen shuffling noises and minor whisperings will gradually rise while you talk into a competing noise level. If you can get whole class attention without even using your voice, it can be even more effective (some people do a clapping pattern that students are supposed to repeat, but I find this is better for the younger ones than the older ones as the older ones see this as a bit babyish). I'm thinking I'll get a cheap novel instrument (like African Agogo Bells) from a music store soon to use as an attention-getting device. You may even have 2 different ways of getting attention - show them the two and tell them if you have to use both ways twice in a row, then you will take time off game/break time while you wait.

* Be as clear as you can as to what you expect from their work.

* Try to break up your lesson in to 10-15 min chunks, you'll make life so much easier for your students to keep focused. Sure, there are times (like tests) when they'll be expected to focus for 40 mins in one hit, but that should be the exception, not the rule! Let them know that in 15 mins, you'll get a few students to read out their introduction or explain the first two answers, etc.

* Be active in finding students who are showing the behaviours you expect and congratulate them loud enough so that the people around them hear too. Make sure you are generous with house points/rewards, etc so that the people who are doing the right thing are the ones who are having their names said aloud and getting all the attention.

* If a particular child is being distracting, try non-verbal signals to show them what they need to change, then try walking right up to them and whispering in their ear that they need to start behaving/listening/sitting properly rather than calling out to them from the front. This maintains a sense of mystery for the others as they see the student change their behaviour and also means that the child who is being distracting doesn't keep having their name called out every 5 mins in the classroom. How much fun is it to have your name as the most mentioned thing by the 'most important person in the room' (at least that's often how they see you)?!!

* Give students a break if they're working well at a long task that requires steady concentration (even midway through a test!). Stand everybody up behind their chairs and do 2 mins of aerobics (its ok to look silly), if they're too silly though, sit them back down again and tell them they've lost their chance for a quick break from thinking and that they need to prove another 10mins of hard work before you give them one last chance.

* Don't punish everyone for the minority of disruptive children. Taking time off game-time or adding time to break/lunch is an old favourite for most. Giving everyone a minute or two time in at recess (going up in 30 sec increments) whilst waiting for attention is fine as this way there's a chance for positive peer-pressure to work its magic... but if some are still continuing, it's probably because they're enjoying the feeling of power over the others (ie. everyone else is getting punished because of them), so take that power away and only add time for those few extras. Then after that try only adding time to the minority group that are continuing (call out their names and tell them that you're now only adding time to these people). Soon as they realise they're only now affecting themselves, they usually settle down. This staggering of time penalties works really well for me. The most I'll break it up into is 3 groups though as its too hard to police otherwise.

I think that's most of my strategies for the moment, but basically the big rule is that as soon as you start talking over children (either to get their attention or whilst you're explaining something) then that is a slippery slope which leads to trying desperately to maintain their attention.

Oh... and the other thing I've learned is that when you say "I give two warnings, and then *consequence*..." that should not mean you later say "next time I have to talk to you, that's a warning" Make sure a warning is a warning. Don't warn that you're going to give a warning..... Get my drift? If that's confusing to you, then how confusing must it be for a child?! Be clear and follow through with what you have said. As soon as you start second guessing yourself, students will start testing how far they can stretch the boundaries with you and then you're back on that slippery slope...

Hope these ideas help make your classroom a more relaxed place with less power struggles and more happy kids. Remember you're the adult and you need to give clear directions. Also remember that the kids aren't necessarily bad, but they're learning how to be good humans as well as whatever it is that you're actually teaching them. I'm still learning how to do this gig better, but have found these strategies help. Hope it helps you too :)

All the best!


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Tags: Teach in the UK, Overseas trained teachers, Teach in England, English Schools, Teach in Cambridge, Protocol Education, Behaviour Management, Australian Teachers, Facebook, Twitter

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