QR:  Manage behaviour in lessons

Manage behaviour in lessons

Photo: N Brown

Photo: N Brown

One of the most daunting aspects for teachers that are new to the profession is to manage behaviour in lessons. As a new teacher you have to consider so many facets when you plan a lesson, and once you are in the classroom you realise that your expectations are perhaps not fully met and children behave differently to what you thought they would. Obviously, there are many factors influencing a lesson, and the same is true for students’ behaviour. The dynamics of the classroom and the teacher’s personality are probably key to how much classroom management you will need to do and which strategies you can use. However, there are some basic rules that you should consider and that will help you manage behaviour in your lessons.

1.) Setting appropriate tasks
It is a good starting point to keep your students busy. Often bad behaviour occurs because students are either bored or find their work too difficult. If you are new to the profession or to a specific school you may not have a clear idea where students are in their attainment, and therefore your tasks may not be set well. It is therefore a good idea to have extension tasks at the ready for those that find your work too easy. If you find that some students struggle with their activities, see if you can move them around so they sit with others that find their work easier and that way the more able can help the less able, which means again everyone is busy.

2.) Pace
You need to ensure that your lessons are pacy so that boredom cannot creep in. Often, as teachers you underestimate your students and repeat the same thing several times. This will lead to students not listening to instructions properly the next time, because they know you will go over the same thing again anyway. Limiting instructions and therefore going through lessons more quickly means the students will be more focussed and have less time to misbehave.

3.) Handing over responsibility to the students
Student-centred lessons are particularly successful on several levels. Handing the responsibility for learning over to the students means they feel part of what happens at school and many will thrive on that. You will not reach every student with this strategy, but many cherish that you trust them. “Flipped classrooms” are particularly popular at the moment, and they fit this principle perfectly.

4.) Moving around the classroom
During the lesson you should be moving around the classroom and not remain in one spot such as at the front of your classroom. Sometimes, a teacher standing next to fidgety children is enough for them to calm down, so that more invasive strategies to manage behaviour are not necessary. Being amongst the students in your class also means that you pick up on off-task behaviour more quickly and can nip it in the bud before it gets out of control.

5.) Know your classroom management strategies
The previous four steps will help you go a long way and you will find that you manage behaviour naturally. However, there will always be students who will test your limits and if you do not have a clear process in place your students will soon play to that. Therefore, you should have a good idea of what you will do if….. In many schools there are reward and sanction systems that you can apply in your classroom. For example, forgetting homework or misbehaving once could lead to an entry in the student planner, but two occasions of forgotten homework or misbehaviour could result in a lunchtime detention. You must make sure that you are fully aware of the process in your school so that you act in consistency with the relevant policies. This is so that the students know you are aware of what is happening, but also to protect yourself against potential complaints from students and parents. If there are no behavioural policies in place where you work, then you should draw up your personal policy and make your students aware of that. Consistency is key, if this is to work well.

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