The Behaviour Question

Tom Bennett

I am starting a new job soon, teaching secondary languages. I would like to plan a rules lesson with each class and wondered how you would suggest introducing the rules. If possible, I would like to fill a full lesson, to try to demonstrate how important I think this is.

What you said


I didn't bother with a rules lesson when I started as an NQT, as I started midway through the year. I just told pupils very quickly that they were to listen and to respect me and each other, then got on with it, but I was very firm in my lessons. It worked.


I created a "classroom contract" with my classes at the start of the year. I asked them what qualities they thought a "fair" teacher had and wrote them on the board. I then asked them what behaviour they thought was expected of them and wrote those ideas on the board, too. I typed up the contracts and signed them, stuck them in the pupils' books and had them sign them the following lesson. That way, if pupils broke a rule, I could state that they were the rules they all came up with. It worked a treat for most classes.

The expert view

If you want to do a "rules lesson" (and I always do with an entirely new class), here is what to do:

1. Make sure the room is prepared and as close to perfect as you can get. All equipment should be ready, chairs neat and so on.

2. I put tables and chairs in rows and columns: this is the best way to create implicit authority.

3. Greet pupils at the door; keep it polite and a little formal. Direct them to the back of the room.

4. When they are all in, direct them to their seats, as per your seating plan. Have a seating plan.

5. If anyone fusses about this, take their names quietly.

6. Introduce yourself and explain what you want to achieve with them. I always tell them I care a huge amount about their education, which means we need to have ...

7. Rules. Hand them out, have them on the board - whatever works for you. You could use the rules I put on the resources section of the TES website (bit.lyLceRxi). Go through them one by one, explaining them. Do not discuss them with the class or negotiate.

8. Then get them to stick the rules in their books. At the bottom of mine, there is a contract section that they and their parents have to sign. That is their first homework.

9. The rest of the lesson (if you have any time) could be a mini-lesson introducing the topic. But feel no fear about starting the year as a didactic prescriptivist. They need to see that you value order and good behaviour. Once you have this, you can afford to do crazy things, but only when they see that it is best to behave. It is, of course, for their own good.

10. If anyone mucks about, take names and detain. Do not forget to do this. It is the magic glue that makes it all stick together, otherwise they know you are a marshmallow. Good luck.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.

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