Staffroom myths about "going in hard" on a pupil's first misdemeanour have a grain of truth, but most teachers show a little more finesse. Newly qualified primary staff should consider the Department for Education advice about reasonable restraint and stay away from physical contact with a child unless there is a crisis. Let an older hand deal with the problem, if possible, since there is little to gain and a lot to lose from misjudging physical contact. Some forethought will help you to avoid conflict.
Set up your classroom for ease of movement and access to resources. Children love the chance to queue up, nudge, chat and irritate. Place your desk for maximum supervision, particularly of the book corner.
Choose a suitable signal to grab their attention. Whereas a megaphone might seem attractive, try a hand clap or something that best expresses your personality.
Many new teachers make the mistake of getting involved with a demanding individual and forgetting to check on what is happening elsewhere. Keep checking on what is happening under your nose and all around the class. A regular check on the lavatories also pays dividends.
Children like to have an agenda. Tell them what to do, list the activities on the board and give them time limits. This is especially valuable in literacy hour, and works particularly well with boys. The more differentiated the tasks the better. Have an acceptable activity ready for children who finish early.
Let children know exactly what is and is not acceptable to you, and remind them frequently. Confused children misbehave. Chil-dren also worry about not finishing work and anxious children seek to distract by misbehaving, so give them frequent time checks.
Define in your own mind what is misbehaviour, and compare it with school expectations. Share this with the children and get them to define class rules. These need to be fairly similar to the usual school rules. Praise examples of good behaviour and reprove poor behaviour. An agreement with a colleague to accept any miscreant will isolate the culprit and give you and the class a breather.
Bob Aston is head of a primary school in Kent