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The Behaviour Question

I had a hideous last few lessons with my hardest Year 8 class at the end of term. To make matters worse, I had to have my NQT observation with them - and it was graded as inadequate because of behaviour. All my other observations have been outstanding, but this one fell flat because they wouldn't stop talking, pestering each other, throwing paper around the room, getting out of their seats and so on. I am gutted. I need to try to make a fresh start to the term and address behaviour by re-establishing my expectations. I'm really wondering the best way to do this.

What you said


A new term is a chance for a new start. Go in hard and remind them you're not messing about. Refresh the seating plan and make it clear that you will escalate consequences if they fail to obey.

The expert view

I am sorry to hear you had a tough time last term. But this is perfectly normal, so do not worry too much. However, you do need to reboot the expectations in your class. Here's how.

1. First lesson back is all about the behaviour. So a seating plan is a must: separate troublemakers as much as possible and put the worst offenders under your nose. Organise tables into rows so that interaction is discouraged until you want it to happen.

2. Reiterate your rules. Do not negotiate them. Just explain that the learning has not been great because the behaviour has not been great, so you need to make a few things clear. Make a list of 10 required behaviours - check out my resources on the TES website for ideas (http:bit.lyxlKIx4).

3. Park the group work for a while and focus on independent learning. If they are a weak group, keep the tasks short and mix up the types of thing they need to do. Avoid having them move around. It is perfectly OK to give them straightforward tasks involving book work, worksheets and so on. Anything that does not require you to explain a lot or require their participation in a dynamic way. This frees you up to ...

4. Manage behaviour. Make behaviour the focus of the lesson for a few weeks (unbeknown to them); if you set straightforward work, you can monitor the class far more easily.

5. Anyone who breaks your rules gets a warning (if it is very minor) or has their name written in your book. This book is very important: it is your detention list. Tell the children when they have accrued a detention. They will kick off like hell at first.

6. Hold detentions as soon as you can, preferably the same day. Do not let them work them off, and do not let them go after five minutes. Make them sit in silence, preferably doing some simple and boring task. Yes, it is meant to be boring: the point is that you want to encourage them to want not to be there.

7. Follow up on anyone who doesn't attend; escalate the sanction, involving line management if appropriate.

8. Keep the paperwork tight. Keep track of who comes and who does not. Let them know you won't miss a thing.

9. Repeat ad nauseam. This might take a while. Once they start to behave, you can have a more varied lesson plan, but until things get better, keep it simple and structured. Good luck.

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

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