February 2020 BLOG
Long story short… during a recent review with James, I mentioned that it has been a while since we had any direct training/advice on classroom management techniques that deal with LLD or poor behaviour in the classroom. By the time the meeting had finished I had been tasked with writing February’s blog (note to self, keep mouth shut).
As with any homework, I scrolled the internet first, to copy someone else’s, and gathered some information. I then emailed a bunch of staff for their thoughts and ideas on the classroom techniques that they use to keep LLD to a minimum and keeping those students with a reputation for poor behaviour, on task. Below is a list of my findings. What I found most interesting was that many experienced staff had similar thoughts and ideas (most of which, have been around for a while, but are certainly worth revisiting!).
- Planning – If you haven’t done so already, read page 57 of PLAN, MARK, TEACH. I promise you that you will read further!
One re-occurring theme has been the importance of a well-planned lesson. This is vitally important when dealing with challenging groups.
- Give the group a bite-sized, do now task, the moment they walk in through the door (plan this carefully). Don’t give them a second to be a distraction/distract others. The first 5 minutes is when you set the tone!! (no wiggle room)
- Greet the students upon entry, “Welcome, your task is on the board, you have 2 minutes to get out your equipment, including your planners, and begin” (some teachers find this most effective to do at the door).
- Be enthusiastic! Passionate teachers often get the best results. Sweep students up in a wave of enthusiasm, take them on a journey, they will learn without realising it…and hopefully never forget it!
- Catch students doing the right thing. “Thank you for putting your jacket on the back of the chair and getting out your equipment”. This can sometimes be more effective when done privately… “I noted how you came in calmly and sat down today, thank you/well done Darren” (naughty boys were always called Darren – fact!)
- The importance of consistency cannot be underestimated (one could write a book on this) in every area of our profession. Have the same procedures every lesson! This creates boundaries and students will soon realise what is expected of them. Follow through…If you say it, make sure that you do it (Never say anything that you can’t follow through with).
- Use non-verbal signals – a nod, a smile, a stare, a frown, a raised eyebrow, or a gesture is often all that is needed. Similarly, moving into closer proximately to a student who is showing signs of distraction can be a non-intrusive deterrent.
- Walkabout your class - don’t always deliver your lesson from the same spot (certainly, don’t sit or stand behind your desk). If you have something on the board, walk to the back of the class to explain it. Students will not only know if you are watching them or not, it will also give you a student’s eye view of your classroom/lesson.
These are all well and good, but… I am struggling to be an authority in the classroom. I don’t’ get the respect from the students that I need for them ALL to make progress. I spend far too much time dealing with behaviour issues and not enough time teaching/paying attention to the students that deserve it the most... I hear you cry!!
OK, it’s hard! What will work for some students, will not work for all students. Just when you thought you were winning, they blow it all back in your face, treat you like…It also takes time, years in some cases. It is no coincidence that some of the better “classroom managers” have had over 20 years in the profession (oh and they still get it wrong from time to time!!).
The following may help you increase your dominance and assertiveness
- Own your classroom!! Set rules/procedures and stick by them.
- Put a seating plan in place. Put the most challenging student right at the front. If your tables are grouped, try to get them working with well-behaved students
- Be authoritative in your speech and body language
- “Fake it until you make it” Be absolutely confident and in control, even though you don’t feel like it.
- Wait for absolute silence! I sometimes look at my watch, or I hold eye contact with the student/s that are still talking.
- If someone starts talking when you are…stop (this is most effective halfway through a sentence) It takes practice, but don’t worry about losing your train of thought…apologise to the class “I’m sorry, I got distracted and have lost where I was”. Remain silent and still, maintain eye contact until you get the response you want
- Pose questions rather than telling a pupil off “Why have you not started your work?”
- Use their names, especially when complimenting them.
- Problem solve together, ask questions as if you don’t know the answer…work things out together.
- Avoid sarcasm, what you might think is light “bants” will harm student-teacher relationships
- Use reminders and warnings about rules before you start an activity
- Make positive phone calls home. Pleasantly surprise their parents. Ask them to congratulate their son/daughter/name of student in their care!
The following are some golden nuggets from staff…and students (I asked a few year 11s for a hand…some of their insights were fascinating!)
- Be honest, admit when you’re wrong
- Take the class you enjoy teaching the least and decide to make them your favourite. Make a huge effort to plan their lessons perfectly. Remind yourself to be super positive and energetic before they arrive. If the students believe you love teaching them, it transforms them
- Don’t be their friend! They will look to you for boundaries, guidance and compassion. You can’t give students those things correctly if you are trying to be their friend (they will also walk all over you)
- Consistency – be firm and fair with every student, no favourites
- Have a sense of humour!
- Don’t winge (about marking, they have produced the work, now you’re moaning about it)
- Teach for understanding and not for grades
- Recognise and thank students that work hard, compliment them
- I tell the class that I am not strict, I am clear (they aren’t allowed to disagree)
- Expectations, expectations, expectations
- Challenge the behaviour that you don’t want to see… ”what you don’t condemn, you condone”
- Be consistent, follow up
- Engage. Respect works both ways.
- Embody the cornerstones
- Know when to withdraw and observe
- Reflect, in the moment and thereafter
- “I have asked you once already, now I’m going to walk away for a couple of minutes to give you some time to think about “it” (behaviour/actions). Please can you help me and yourself out and make a good decision”
- I have always approached behaviour management by going in incredibly firm, having supremely high expectations and then easing off once they are safe in their boundaries. Go in hard and then back away softly, enabling the magic of working relationships to begin.
- Keep expectations high; students will soon learn what is expected of them!
- Be consistent, if you warn a student and they carry on, then sanction them…ALWAYS follow through.
- Show an interest in what students do outside of your lesson…students really respond well to you if they feel you really do care about them and their achievements/progress/interests
- It’s all about relationships; connect with them, but remember, they are not your mates.
- Learn names and use them for praise and criticism (work out quickly whether to do this privately or publicly depending on the individual)
- Use humour about yourself or the work, but not the kids
- Have a poster/quote/photo up that invites conversation or a comment/question, this helps them to see you as a person and not just a figure of authority to push against.
- Enforce a rule where students are not allowed to laugh at another student, even if they are laughing at themselves. This really goes a long way to encourage students to make mistakes and feel ok being wrong. This creates a much more caring and accepting classroom environment. (try not to get this confused with having a good sense of humour, which is important, just understand that “we don’t laugh when someone gets something wrong, or can’t explain something very well”).
- Put your hand up if you have a question or an answer. I don’t tolerate calling out!! I also make an effort to compliment a student who follows this…” thank you for being patient and putting your hand up”
I do not wish to mention names, but I would like to thank all the staff that contributed to this blog…and students…and of course my good friend, the internet!