Territorial rights

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
Sue Cowley offers practical tips on managing your class and delivering your lessons

The teacher's use of the classroom space plays a key part in successful management. As the school year draws to a close, build your spatial awareness and experiment with new ways.

* Teach to both sides of the room: Consider whether you tend to teach towards your dominant side (that is, to the right if you are right-handed).

This often happens subconsciously, but it means that some pupils are getting more of your focus than others. Make an effort to split your attention equally.

* Find ways to mark your territory: Establish the space as your own and your pupils will perceive you as "in control". Stand at the door when the class arrives, welcoming them, but also checking for potential behaviour issues. Display a set of your class rules where you can easily refer to it.

* Have a "gathering" position: Designate a place where you will stand when you want the attention of the whole class. In a reception classroom this might mean sitting in a chair in front of the carpet area to indicate that the children should gather in front of you. With older pupils, you might lean on your desk or stand beside the board.

* Don't get stuck: Teachers will sometimes stick to the front of the room.

Unfortunately, the pupils most likely to be plotting trouble will inevitably choose to sit at the back. Move around the room during lessons, especially when the class is settled to a task. Visit every corner to check that everyone understands the work. Stand beside a misbehaving child to stop trouble in its tracks.

* Experiment with eye contact: Most of the time your eyes should be scanning the space, checking that everyone is listening or hard at work.

Deliberately removing your eyes from the class sends a powerful signal. If you're waiting for silent attention, gaze down at the floor or up at the ceiling (although always with your peripheral vision engaged). This shows your disapproval or disappointment.

* Mind your back: Turning your back on an unruly class is asking for trouble. If your class is likely to take advantage, write any notes on the board before the lesson starts.

* Use different levels: Consider the vertical as well as the horizontal space. Crouch down beside your pupils for a quiet chat, rather than towering over them. Lean against or sit on your desk when you want an informal talk. And if you're brave, stand on a chair to declaim some poetry, in the style of Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets' Society.

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