The ability to manage the behaviour of your class is a skill that every educator needs. Good behaviour management is essential for your lesson to run smoothly. Fiona has put together a 5 tips to get you started.
Whether you have your own class or teach supply, are newly qualified or have years of experience, every teacher knows the importance of effective behaviour management. But what is ‘behaviour management’, and how can I do it most effectively? Here are a few tips to get you started, or to add to your existing repertoire.
1. Classroom organisation
The best behaviour management is preventative. Often the students who are disruptive or off task are simply bored. Make it so your students are continually engaged in learning and they won’t have time to do the wrong thing. You want to set up your classroom in such a way that minimises delays sothat you can get on with teaching. Messy transitions between activities or lessons allow students to lose focus and waste a lot of time in regainingtheir attention. Resources such as pencils, rulers, number lines, whiteboard pens etc. should be kept neat and tidy and within easy access. Make sure students know where everything belongs so they can pack away and retrieve items quickly and efficiently. If they need books, worksheets or other materials for a particular lesson, set them out on tables in advance to avoid traffic jams.
2. Always over-prepare
Have a plan B. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. There are so many variables within the classroom environment – for starters you have 30 or so people with individual social, emotional and academic needs – a lesson will rarely go exactly according to the plan. Make sure you have a back up plan and extra activities for those students who finish early. These shouldn’t be ‘time fillers’, but tasks that will extend and build on the learning for that particular lesson. Ensure tasks are pitched at the right level so they are challenging enough to keep students busy, but not so challenging that they can’t be completed independently.
3. Know your school’s policies
Most schools will have a behaviour management policy in place. Following this helps to keep consistency throughout the school and ensure you’re on the same page with your colleagues. It also makes your job a whole lot easier – there’s not much point ‘reinventing the wheel’ when someone has already done the hard work for you. As a supply teacher, it also helps to stick to what the children know. Maintaining the expectations, rewards and consequences of the regular class teacher will make for a better experience for everyone. If you don’t know the school policy you can always ask the teacher in a neighbouring classroom, or the TA in your room.
4. Rewards and Sanctions
Best practice suggests that positive affirmation is better than any form of ‘punishment’, and I would agree. It also supports the preventative approach. If students are encouraged and rewarded for desired behaviours you’re far less likely to have a problem in the first place. Accumulative point systems are great, because it means you can use points as often as you like, and students work towards a point goal or a reward at the end of the week/day. Class Dojo is an online platform where you can give points for desired behaviours such as ‘being on task’ or ‘good listening’. This can be displayed on your computer screen or IWB with all your students’ names so they can see how many points they have. It also makes a sound when a point is given, so you can reward one student for being on task and others are prompted to settle to their work. I’ve found this to be a useful tool in my classroom, but a wall chart with stickers can be just as effective. Team points are also great as they encourage students to work together. The key is consistency, and making sure students know exactly what is expected of them. Of course, sometimes there is a need for sanctions or consequences. This is where your school behaviour management policy can come in. I find a warning system with different stages is effective. Remind your students of what they should be doing, and give them the opportunity to correct their behaviour before following through with appropriate sanctions. Wherever possible the consequence should fit the ‘crime’. This could mean staying inside at playtime to make up for wasted time in class, or cleaning the table that they drew on. When their actions have negatively impacted someone else you might have them write an apology letter and deliver it. As a supply teacher or NQT, it’s a good idea to involve another teacher or seek support from senior leadership in certain cases.
Students with particularly challenging behaviour may need individual attention. Acting out or being disruptive may stem from an underlying issue such as a learning difficulty. Appropriate differentiation is important, and support from a TA can help. An individual carpet space can help for those who are easily distracted by peers. Try to choose some rewards that appeal to their own personal interests, or ask what they would like as a reward for completed work or quiet listening. This could be 5-10 minutes on an activity of their choice. The whole class approach doesn’t always work for every student, so you need to be able to respond and adapt to individual circumstances.
Trial and Error
Ultimately, how you handle behaviour management in your classroom is up to you. Sometimes a little trial and error is required in order to find out what works best for you and your students. Don’t be afraid to ask other teachers for suggestions or advice. Most teachers will be more than willing to share what has worked for them, and it may be just the solution you’ve been looking for. Make sure you return the favour too!
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