Behaviour: Low-level disruption

18th March 2011 at 00:00
I'm an NQT teaching a Year 6 class and I keep having to stop lessons to deal with low-level disruption. I try to be as strict as I can, but the pupils do not respond. It feels like a vicious circle. What can I do?

What you said

"Don't despair, most first-year teachers have been where you are. Draw on the support around you. You are not going to be able to do this on your own, nor should you be expected to. Log the poor behaviour and see what causes it. Be consistent with your approach: don't talk over them and wait for them to listen."


"If you feel it is all getting negative, perhaps you could say to the children that you need a fresh start and really try to find children to praise. Could you give stickers or certificates for those pupils who follow instructions?"

Boing boing

"Have you seen other teachers using timers and small bells? I am in secondary but the Year 7s particularly like this method of attracting their attention. I ring the little tinkle bell and they are miraculously silent within moments."


The expert view

It is very rare that the "super strict" approach works with school children, especially at this age. It probably seems the more you tell them not to do something, the more they do it. Consequently you get more agitated and it becomes, as you say, a vicious circle.

I imagine when you say you are being strict you are telling the children what not to do. Instead, tell them what you want them to do. Paint a picture of the good behaviour you expect from them and how good it will feel for them, and continue to paint that picture on a regular basis. Let them know why you wish them to behave in this way, what the benefits of good behaviour are and what the consequences of bad behaviour are. Reward good behaviour when it happens.

There may also be an opportunity to channel what you call "disruption" into a creative, thriving environment where learning becomes fun. At times it may become loud, but, if you have painted the picture described above you should be able to return to the peace and quiet quickly.

Maybe you are worried about what the person you report to will think if you let a class become loud. Will they think you are a bad teacher? What if this loudness was actually beneficial to the learning environment and allowed the children to explore subjects with enjoyment and a real engagement? They would think you were an incredible teacher then.

By involving the class fully you will focus pupils on what they are supposed to be learning and make learning fun. Pretty quickly, what you thought was disruption could be a hub of positive activity.

William Holden is a conflict resolution expert at Sewells ( For more advice, go to



Focus on what you expect pupils to do, rather than on what you don't want them to do.

Spell out the consequences of both good and bad behaviour, and follow- through on rewards.

Try to harness pupils' "exuberance" and channel it into their learning.


Keep telling the pupils off without giving them an alternative model of behaviour.

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