26th July 2013 at 01:00

The problem

How important is it that students are quietly lined up before you take them into class? I am a primary supply teacher and I have tried all the following approaches: praising those lined up quietly, then walking up and down the line and telling misbehaving individuals that we are waiting for them; praising students who are lined up, then shouting at the top of my voice to try to get everyone else to line up; waiting until most of the students are lined up, then taking all of them in and calmly telling them that they need to line up quietly next time to get ready for class and that I expect more from them next time. Often these work but I sometimes teach in a tough school and none of the three approaches seems to have any impact. I think lining up after recess is a good strategy to calm students down before they enter the classroom - does anyone have any tips on how to do it with a difficult class?

What you said

I found lining them up more trouble than it was worth as you get into confrontations with students in a very public way before the lesson has even started. Also, if there is a critical mass of students who will not line up, then your authority is undermined before you even get in the door.


The main reasons for lining them up are to establish that you are in charge and so that you can greet them individually as they enter. If this proves to be a trigger point, then it is a good idea to act as if you don't care and let them in (with a greeting for each child), and establish control by setting them a task to get on with immediately.


The expert view

Here's the short cut: any kid who fails to line up properly gets a detention. Repeat this process until it sinks in, and believe me, it will. It is fun to lark around and if the only consequence of doing so is watching you blow your stack for a few seconds, then where is the deterrent? The mathematics of misbehaviour is simple. Make it more painful to misbehave than it is to behave, and watch them fall into line (pardon the pun).

Tom Bennett's latest book, Teacher Proof, is out now, published by Routledge.

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