Behaviour management at a whole school assembly
Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management
Assemblies are an odd challenge for many teachers. Some are extended bollocking sessions while others are as solemn as Mass. Some are administrative liturgies, while others still are theatrical re-enactments of the Radio 4 ‘Thought for the Day.’ Either way, I know many teachers dread them. Handling a room of twenty-five is daunting enough, but trying to run an auditorium of hundreds is akin to herding cats made of bees, in a tornado.
Here are my suggestions for making sure that assemblies assemble rather than dismantle:
Use a seating plan
This is no time to get fancy with hedgehogs, horseshoes, or clusters. Get the kids in rows, facing forward. This is a theatre, not a workshop. Assemblies don’t function well as multiplayer activities. More people means more chance of disorder. It’s up to you need to create that order. As far as possible, students should be seated in form groups, and in a structure that separates friendship groups. This ain’t no disco.
Staff it up
Every form should be accompanied by their tutor, or by their cover. If teachers routinely bail from this duty then they are undermining their colleagues. In some schools you could have them doing Zumba on a building site, so certain are you of their regard for rules. But in most schools you need the insurance policy of many hands to make light of the work, along with many eyes and many naughty lists. The more efficiently it’s done, the more the kids become habituated into behaving sociably and sensibly, and the lighter the touch can become. Good behaviour management works to make itself progressively less necessary over time.
The assembly content
While the children are responsible for their own behaviour, you are responsible for the stimulus provided. If you intend to drone on at them for twenty minutes, be ready for wriggling; if you get them to shout out answers, expect them to shout out at other times too. Set the tone for what you want by planning something tight and engaging, then deliver it with conviction. Sure, some of it will be administrative, but make sure you don’t succumb to the simplicity of sending them to sleep as a strategy. If you view assemblies (as I do) as having at least a partial function in setting the kids up intellectually for the start of the day, then tell them something interesting, useful, or that gets them thinking.
Treat it like any other lesson: provide structure, routine and boundaries. Never talk over the kids, and make sure that people are taking the names of those that step out of line. Don’t stop for the slightest thing, though. Keep pace rolling, or it starts to fall apart. If you do this, and others support you, then it should come together like one of the A-Team’s plans.
Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state schoolin Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletterson behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter
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