The problem

I'm an NQT and have just started my first job as a Year 4-6 teacher. I have done a year of supply, so I have experience of challenging pupils. In the morning, my class are usually focused, though one boy is continuously disruptive if he's not with a teaching assistant. But once the afternoon hits, they usually take 15-20 minutes to settle and for the rest of the afternoon are less focused and more chatty. The boy becomes very disruptive and I can't focus on him, as I have another 26 pupils.

What you said

I'd work on trying to calm the whole class after the break in the afternoon. Try quiet reading, taking the register in silence. Make sure you talk softly and go slowly. Worst-case scenario, you could look at meditation.


The expert view

If you have been on supply, you might have missed out on one of the most powerful factors in behaviour management: time, and the effect it has on the teacher-student relationship. This is significant, because pupils will test your boundaries to see how much they can get away with.

I hope you have made your classroom rules and expectations clear. If not, this needs to happen straight away - and I mean a formal session where the need for rules is discussed (or better, simply told to them because they are not up for negotiation).

The next step is teaching them the law of consequence, and that you will punish and praise as their behaviour dictates. You need to be ruthless about this, and always say what you mean. If you say "You mustn't shout out", then don't let anyone do it, and set some kind of consequence. Missed break? Stern chat? Phone call home?

The boy needs to receive some kind of consequence every time he disrupts the class. You will find that if you can sort him out, the others will settle; meanwhile the normal rules apply to them too.

Even little ones are perfectly capable of behaving. They just choose not to, or haven't been habituated into it yet. No one feels comfortable setting sanctions with students, but unless the consequences of their actions make them uncomfortable, there's no incentive for them to walk on Straight Street. And you need to be the instrument of this adjustment.

Tom Bennet is author of `The Behaviour Guru' and `Not Quite a Teacher'.

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