Behaviour management: Three ways to deal with classroom misbehaviour

Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management

It is important to have strategies for dealing with misbehaviour before it happens. If you have to decide your response to a situation on the spot, then the blood throbbing in your temple vein is likely to cloud your judgement and nudge you towards the twin sins of overreaction or no reaction at all. This is the moment when shock turns life into a curious three-dimensional movie, in which you are merely a spectator. This is not helpful when chairs are flying, or a kid is asking if you have ever appeared in any stag movies.

When faced with misbehaviour, whether low level or extreme, there are three typical strategies you can pull from your quiver. Have a think about these before you let one fly:

1. Confront

This is the bull’s response. That’s not to say it isn’t the right response; there are certain red flags which require a full charge. When a kid says something racist, or hits another student, or throws a book to the ground, there is no room for cuddles and restorative justice. These situations need a sledgehammer. That doesn’t mean you have to scream and shout; just be direct and assertive. Call the offender out. Tell them that they’re wrong. Tell them what’s going to happen next. If you aren’t clear and direct enough with most kids, they will take advantage of your kindness.

2. Ignore

It might sound weird to suggest that you ignore any misbehaviour, but when used strategically, ignoring can be a powerful tool. If confronting the misbehaviour would ruin the flow of the lesson or cause more disturbance than you seek to avert, there is always the option of doing nothing at the time, taking a note of it, and then dealing with it when you are ready. That way, you show self-control as well as determination. It won’t take long for classes to get used to the fact that you will never give up.

3. Deflect

This is a tactic many teachers should try to improve on: getting kids back on task by distracting them into desired behaviours. Say that a kid asks you what team you support in the middle of a lesson on Anglo Saxons. If you’re smart, you will turn the question into something that returns the flow of the lesson. ‘Hmm, they didn’t have football in the time of the Saxons,’ for example. Or do what I do; give them a quick stare, ask them if that has anything to do with the lesson and then hold them back to discuss their error. Deflecting takes practice, and if it doesn’t work after one or two goes, it must be cast aside for more punitive responses.

What do you do most often?



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

His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum/ Bloomsbury


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