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18 ways to stay on top of behaviour

Respecting pupils' personal space, being positive and targeting praise are three of Victor Allen's tricks

Respecting pupils' personal space, being positive and targeting praise are three of Victor Allen's tricks

1. Be positive. You should be the one to set the example of positivity from the first time you meet the class. Be on time, be prepared, praise those who are on task and demonstrate the positive attitude you are looking for.

2. Display your guidelines. Use posters, written or illustrated, to get the message across within your classroom.

3. Match your voice to the one you want to hear in response. Your volume and tone should be the volume and tone that you want to hear from the pupil. A loud and aggressive or patronising tone will usually result in the same coming back at you.

4. Stay calm. The only person you can control is yourself, so practise self-calming skills. Remember, the first person who needs to calm down in a confrontation is you.

5. Move in. If you need to speak to a pupil, don't shout across the room. Move in, being aware of your body language on the approach.

6. Move away once you have spoken to the pupil. You do not need to wait or watch for compliance. You are far more likely to see them getting back on track once you have walked away. This will enable the pupil to make it appear to others that doing so is their own choice.

7. Respect personal space when you are closer than an outstretched arm. Any further away and the message could be misdirected; any closer and it can become intimidating. If you need to stand closer, do so slightly sideways to avoid the squaring-up pose.

8. Target your praise. If a pupil is off task, find and praise the nearest pupil to them who is on task.

9. Be aware of your body language and remember that most of what you communicate is non-verbal.

10. Use the note trick. Sometimes it is useful to have a pupil removed from the lesson for a short time so that they can calm down and you can deal with the class. This can be done by sending a pupil to deliver a note to a colleague (who is prepared for this). The colleague can say encouraging words and thank the pupil for the note. This will help them to return in a fresh state of mind.

11. Be there when pupils arrive. Make sure you meet them at the door. Being there and welcoming them into your room helps to get them into the right frame of mind for your lesson.

12. Prevent topic-jumping. Be aware that pupils like to jump to a topic they want to talk about, which is not necessarily the one that you want to focus on. Let them talk for a while and then say: "I hear what you are saying, but first I want to deal with this point."

13. Prepare a route planner with pupils to show them the choices that they are making and give them a chance to reconsider. It could include the stages of the school's behaviour policy, as well as alternative ways to readjust their behaviour.

14. Involve pupils in developing the rules and guidelines for behaviour. If you can, discuss put-downs and the need for them to not play a part within your class.

15. Use different responses to misbehaviour. Examine your responses and see if you can use deflection, humour, "the look", proximity and reminders before you have to change the tone and become stricter. Remember that you are a teacher, not a disciplinarian.

16. Communicate. Share information with colleagues and parents if you have something good to say, as well as when you have concerns. Keeping accurate records will help should anything require further investigation.

17. Be aware of types. People show a tendency to be a specific type from an early age. You should broaden pupils' skills and outlooks, but it is not worth forcing those who are one type to become another - for example, pushing a quiet person to become outspoken.

18. Smile. It's infectious - and remember, you have one of the greatest jobs in the world. Make your classroom into a place of safety, enjoyment and exploration.

Victor Allen is a freelance behaviour and leadership consultant and founder of Mirror Development and Training.

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