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The behaviour question

I am an NQT having major problems with behaviour management. My top Year 8 set are angels and most of my Year 7 groups are fine, but I can't keep my other six classes under control. I have seating plans but am met with so much attitude when I try to put them in place that I have given in. I've changed my classroom layout to a horseshoe, but while this is working well for my easier groups, the others are a nightmare in it. I use a system of ticks and crosses in lessons - any other ideas to help me avoid failing my NQT year?

What you said


Set up your classroom in rows. I don't care what anyone says, it's 100 times easier to manage kids in rows. Aim for three long rows, rather than four shorter ones (there's less turning round that way).


I had a terrible start to one lesson yesterday and solved it in the short term by getting a senior teacher in to shut them up initially, and make it clear she was backing me to the hilt. Then the pupils worked in silence on a copying-out-of-the-book activity, with the threat of detention for anyone who spoke out of turn.

The expert view

Worry not. Every new teacher goes through a version of these growing pains. If you persevere, you will win, but it's going to take a bit of grit and determination.

- Go back to the seating plans. It's a huge expression of who is in control of the room. If they know they can sit where they please, then they will figure they can do as they please in all other areas.

- Your system of ticks sounds lovely, apart from one thing - it's strangling you. All that time ticking and unticking, writing names and so on - what a faff for you to have to do. Have a book at your desk and tick their names. Or even more simply, issue detentions to every pupil who breaks your rules, as you see fit.

- Reiterate your behaviour expectations and get them to write them in their books, or even display them on the wall.

- Hand out detentions like fliers outside a nightclub. Anyone who doesn't show up, go up the ladder and escalate the detention. Phone home, a lot.

- Keep yourself seatedstanding at the front as much as possible. It gives an impression of solidity and stability. You can also see them digging tunnels and so on.

- Plan for poor behaviour. There is nothing wrong with old-school (literally) lessons where the kids have to read a textbook and answer 10 questions. It might get you clobbered in an Ofsted inspection, but Ofsted don't have to teach your class, do they?

- Tip the horseshoe into a skip. Rows and columns, beloved of the Roman Army, are also the best tactic for maximum control. They face towards you, and not at each other.

- Avoid group work until they can handle individual tasks.

- Don't give up. These things take time. If you keep at them you'll wear them down, as long as you work with management and not alone.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.

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