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Eight easy ways to tackle low-level disruption

Students are losing up to eight weeks of teaching every year to low-level disruption, a recent Ofsted report suggests.

In this week’s issue of TES, Greg Ashman, teacher at Ballarat Clarendon College in Victoria, Australia, says that while most schools have clear procedures for dealing with extreme behaviour, less severe transgressions are often managed inconsistently.

However, Ashman believes that with the right support, any teacher can stamp out the minor misbehaviour that can send a lesson way off track.

Here are his eight easy tactics:

1. Mind your (body) language

Walking towards students who are misbehaving can send a subtle cue for them to fall in line. If they are still distracted by the time the teacher gets there, the off-task behaviour can be addressed quietly without involving the whole class.

2. Don’t be the class clown

Sometimes learning has to involve a bit of grind – it can’t always be enjoyable. Trying to be a non-stop entertainer or to avoid difficult work is a slippery slope to disaster.

3. Get your seating straight

Many problems can be avoided simply by arranging the students effectively. If you know that Ahmad and Jayden don’t work well together, seat them apart.

4. Put the right structures in place

Research suggests that we need to have clear structures in place to manage low-level misbehaviour. This means consistent rules, rewards and consequences, and a teacher who is alert and responsive.

5. ‘Game’ your behaviour management

“The good behaviour game” involves dividing a class into two equal teams who compete to follow the rules. Points are awarded for meeting expectations and deducted for infractions. Such an approach is not for everyone, but research suggests that it has its benefits.

6. Don’t fear negative consequences

It is a fact of life that some behaviour attracts negative consequences. Australian researcher Rachel Sharman says that we have become too squeamish about applying consequences and that this is harmful to our students’ future prospects.

7. Make use of whole-school systems

If you are in a school without a clear behaviour policy, try to replicate an effective whole-school policy in your own classroom. Develop a set of rules and apply graduated consequences for those who break them.

8. Track low-level behaviour

Low-level disruption should be treated cumulatively. This means that you will need to keep track of it and be prepared to follow through with what you say you will do. This is the hard part, but without such a commitment your approach will be ineffective.

Read more from Greg Ashman in the 16 January edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

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