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Draw your own conclusions

Sue Cowley gives advice on managing the end of lessons

What happens in your classroom when the bell goes to signal the end of lesson time? If your pupils tend to bundle out of the room in an unruly mass, then it may be time to try out some new approaches.

* Watch your timing: Many new teachers try to fit too much into a single lesson, and then end up rushing the closing phase. It is always better to finish the lesson well before the bell goes - I'd recommend leaving yourself at least five minutes, if not more. Use any spare time available to talk to the children about what they have achieved during the lesson, to praise their efforts or to clarify homework tasks.

* Set up a routine: If you draw your lessons to a close in a set pattern, your pupils will come to know precisely what you expect of them. Before very long, they will follow the routine and there will be very little need for teacher input. For instance, you might want to insist that your pupils stand behind their chairs before you dismiss them.

* Use leaving "on time" as a reward: Where a lesson takes place before a break-time, a phrase such as "Let's see who wants to leave on time" can be very effective in encouraging good behaviour towards the end of the lesson.

Set your standards high, and let the pupils who have followed your routine leave first. I will often ask for complete silence from a class before I dismiss them. Pupils will be keen to make sure this happens quickly - remember that peer pressure can be a very powerful tool in managing behaviour.

* Get your pupils to tidy up: If your lesson involves a lot of messiness, make sure you leave time for children to tidy up, rather than having to do it yourself afterwards. Split the class into "teams" and challenge them to leave your classroom looking spotless. If you have moved furniture around and you share the classroom with another teacher, make sure that everything is put back in its place.

* Send your pupils away calm: The way your lessons end will be foremost in pupils' minds the next time you teach them. I use a statues game with pupils of all ages. Tell the children that when you say "Three, two, one, freeze", they must remain absolutely still for two or three minutes. During this time, you can give positive feedback about the lesson, reminders about homework, or maybe just collapse in your chair. At the end of the set period, tell the class to unfreeze and, perhaps in slow motion, to tuck their chairs under their desks. This will help to encourage a pleasingly calm conclusion to your lessons.

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