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Be brave about leaving your classroom space

Sue Cowley offers practical advice on managing your class and delivering your lessons

Spring is finally here, and the warm days of summer are hopefully not far away. It's a good time to take your pupils out of the classroom and into an open space, such as a gym or playground. This will help you learn skills for managing their behaviour in a less structured environment, which can be surprisingly tricky.

* Set the ground rules first: Once your pupils get into the open space, the sense of freedom will probably lead to some boundary testing. Establish clear rules and expectations of behaviour before you leave the classroom.

Make it clear that, if there is any silliness, the class will be returning to sit at their desks.

* Be aware of safety issues: Whenever you take your class into a new environment, do a spot check first to establish any potential hazards. Talk these through with the children before you head out of your room. Have an absolute rule that any dangerous behaviour will lead to a child sitting out of the lesson.

* Take care with timing: It can take a surprisingly long time to move from the classroom to a new space and back again. Leave yourself plenty of time for moving the pupils around. This will help you maintain a sense of calm and control, and to create an orderly start and finish to the lesson.

* Find a "gathering point": Have a spot in the hall or playground where you will stand when you need to talk to the class. Insist that, when you stand there, the pupils must come to you immediately. Use this spot for explaining activities or for discussions about appropriate behaviour during the lesson.

* Use a circle for talking to the class: When you need to talk to the whole class in an open space, it can be tricky to ensure that everyone is really listening. This is particularly so when the class gather in a group and you can't see all the faces. Use a circle instead, so you can keep an eye on all the pupils. A circle is also useful for discussions and for splitting the class into groups.

* Have a non verbal "stop" signal: When pupils move into an open area and engage in active learning, the noise levels will inevitably rise, hence you need a clear "stop" signal for when you need the pupils' attention.

Shouting will only add to the noise, so use a sharp sound instead, such as clapping or blowing a whistle. Practise a quick reaction to your stop signal when you first get into your open space. When the signal is sounded, insist that the pupils freeze instantly, in silence.

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