Ten tips for TAs
1 Catch them being good. When you give a clear direction to pupils, always make an effort to praise pupils who follow it.
2 It can be effective to ignore minor bad behaviour. Discuss which things can be ignored with the class teacher. At the same time, you should acknowledge children who are behaving well.
3 Acknowledging the positive choices of a pupil who is sitting near an off-task pupil can cue in the misbehaving pupil. The closer the children are to each other the more successful this strategy is likely to be.
Example: You notice that Nicola isn't following the instruction to put down her pencil and look at you. However, Jarrell, who is sitting next to her, has followed directions well. Say: "Jarrell, thank you for putting down your pencil and looking at me. Well done." Nicola puts down her pencil and looks at you. You smile at her and say: "Thanks, Nicola."
USE POSITIVE DIRECTIONS
4 In giving a child an instruction, it is more effective to say what you want them to do rather than what you want them to stop doing. Example:
"Jack, put your pen down, face this way and look at the diagram. Thank you" is more effective than "Jack, stop tapping your pencil and pay attention, please."
5 Giving a private, assertive reminder of a classroom rule can be an effective way of dealing with a pupil who continues to behave inappropriately. "Chantelle, our rule for answering questions is hands up. I'd like you to follow that now, please."
REFOCUSING WITH QUESTIONS
6 Casual questions can be used to refocus a pupil's attention on to a task without giving undue attention to the inappropriate behaviour.
Example: You approach the student and, while paying no attention to the inappropriate choices being made, simply ask a gently redirective question:
"How's it going? Do you need any help?"
You leave the student refocused on the work, with an expectation for continued compliance: "I'll be back in a moment to see how you're getting on."
7 Known as Grandma's Law, this strategy is at the heart of the age-old encouragement: "When you've eaten your cabbage, then you can have your ice-cream." It connects the child to the potential of getting what they want after they have fulfilled some obligation. "When you're in your seat with your hand up, then I'll check your work."
"When you've finished that, you can feel proud."
ACKNOWLEDGE AND REDIRECT
8 Rather than become involved in arguments, it is better to defuse potential conflict through acknowledging (not necessarily agreeing with) the child's perception. Example: As you ask Wayne to get back on task, he replies: "I was only asking Shaquib about the homework." You reply: "I understand you need to know about the homework (acknowledging) and you can ask at the end of class (resolution). Right now I need you to get back on task (redirecting). Thanks (expect compliance)."
9 Using the language of choice asks children to take responsibility for their actions and minimises conflict. Holding them accountable for inappropriate behaviour also helps them to make better choices in the longer term.
"Sally, I've asked you twice to work without disturbing others. Either you choose to work quietly here (restating instruction) or you'll be choosing to sit at the front on your own for five minutes (stating consequence). Back to work now, thank you (expect compliance)."
FOLLOW THROUGH WITH AGREED CONSEQUENCE
10 If, despite your requests, the child continues to behave inappropriately, apply your agreed consequences (see 9 above). It is crucial that you have reached agreement with the class teacher over what consequences are available for you to use independently.
"Stuart, you've chosen to sit at the front for five minutes. Take your work there now, thank you (expect compliance). I'll come and see how you're getting on in a minute (showing that you don't hold grudges)."
These strategies will enable you to manage many forms of inappropriate behaviour without reference to the teacher.
But if a child continues to behave badly, you should make reference to the teacher using the "eitheror" approach (see 9 above). Swift support from the teacher will help to maintain the learning climate and reinforce your role.