6th May 2005 at 01:00
Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn. By Noel Janis-Norton. Barrington Stoke. pound;12.99

Noel Janis-Norton, director of the New Learning Centre in London, offers strategies that claim to improve pupils' co-operation, confidence and motivation, irrespective of age, social group or IQ, although she admits "with some pupils, it will take longer to see positive changes than with others".

Behaviour, learning and social skills, she asserts, can be improved through the conscious use of language. For the majority of pupils, a teacher's usual way of talking is probably adequate, but it will leave behind those with special needs or behavioural problems.

You may need to speak more slowly with longer pauses; mouth words clearly; project your voice without shouting; vary the tone, pace and register of your voice; and speak as you might to a stranger: "polite and calm, not impatient, irritated, abrupt or cold". None of this is new, but it could be a useful read for a new teacher.

Instead of effusive praise ("Brilliant!") you should simply say what you see: "You followed the instructions straight away." This is known as descriptive praise and is increasingly popular. Body language is important, too - smile, give pupils your full attention, and move close to any potential trouble spot.

Through these strategies teachers can move from "crowd control" to personalised teaching. If that sounds too good to be true, Janis-Norton suggests trying it for two to four weeks to see what happens.

Kevin Harcombe

Headteacher, Redlands primary, Fareham

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