Skip to main content

On top of the form

How do you manage your class in the early days of your new job? Rachel Cookson offers advice

Most schools will have some form of behaviour management system in place that will enable them to control their pupils and allow for a productive learning environment. There are different approaches to behaviour management and what may work for one school, may not work for another. But there are some common approaches that many schools use and adapt to suit their needs. For behaviour management to be successful, expectations should be clearly established with all staff, pupils, parents and carers.

When you start at a new school, one of the most important things you need to do is become conversant with its behaviour policy. It should state the school's expectations for acceptable behaviour and what systems it uses to reward this behaviour and the consequences or sanctions if behaviour breaks down. All staff are expected to follow the policy, so learn this off by heart. These systems are essentially the tools of the trade for keeping order in the school.

Most schools have a positive behaviour management system in place which focuses on valuing achievement and success in everyone, reinforcing positive behaviour and motivating children to meet behavioural and work expectations.

Schools that adopt this system are very clear that all staff must praise, reward and sanction consistently to the agreed policy. In doing so, pupils feel more secure and staff feel more supported because they are clear about the behaviours they expect, the range of rewards they can use to motivate pupils and the range of sanctions they can use to discourage inappropriate behaviour.

The positive behaviour management system places much emphasis on the relationship between staff and pupils.

Imagine this scenario first thing on Monday morning.

Year 3 have come in from the playground, are taking off their coats and beginning to assemble on the carpet for registration. Their teacher begins:

"Good morning, everyone. Sit down. Sshh, sshh! Now, I'm trying to take the register. Jason, I asked you to sit down. Now do it!. SShh! Good morning, Natasha. No, Fahima, I haven't seen your book bag. Good morning, Casey.

Good mor... Jason, I said SIT DOWN! Your book bag, Fahima? I said I hadn't seen it. Stop bothering me and go look for it. IT'S TOO NOISY! John, stop messing with your shoes. Good morning, Luke. SSHH! I am trying to take the register.

"Caroline, why are you so late ... again, I'm fed up with you interrupting the lesson. Jason how many times? Are you deaf? Sit down!" and so on.

It is easy to see that this could be a common occurrence in schools up and down the country. The teacher has become negative and ineffective. She has become frustrated and angry, has started to use derogatory language.

A key feature of behaviour management is that teacher's behaviour is the most important determinant of pupil behaviour. The teacher above is not being a good role model to her pupils. Eventually the teacher pupil relationship will break down and the children will not be able to make progress in their learning.

Schools who adopt the positive behaviour model believe that adult use of positive language, praise, encouragement and reward is fundamental.

Positive reinforcement and reward teaches appropriate patterns of behaviour, nurtures harmonious classroom relationships and boosts self-esteem.

Consequently, it promotes effective learning. Encouragement and praise creates an atmosphere conducive to positive learning. It is very easy to "catch children being good". Positive scanning around a room and generous verbal or non-verbal (a smile or thumbs up) praise to those children behaving well not only reduces teachers' stress but very quickly shows others that behaving well gets the teacher's attention and brings pleasant consequences. Explaining why the children have done well will also reinforce the agreed rules more clearly. Having high expectations of the children will ensure that success is attainable for all.

Sanctions vary in many schools and are dependent on the severity of the behaviour. But with any sanction a child's self-esteem is at the heart. So if children do not behave to the agreed rules, adults must make it clear they are upset about the children's behaviour, not the person, and use private, not public, reprimands so that once a sanction has been implemented the child can make a fresh start. Expect children to behave well and tell them they can do it.

Alongside praise and positive language this type of system also promotes the use of stamps, stickers, merits and certificates. A variety of rewards can be given which best fit the school. Stickers are often used in primary schools. You may allow the children to collect their stickers individually on a card or team sheet. After filling in the card, the children may receive a certificate or special "golden time". Merits are often used with older children and accumulate in number to receive a headteacher's certificate or prize after collecting a certain number. Some schools give out book or CD vouchers as good behaviour incentives. Whatever the rewards, for best results give them out at every opportunity.

Other key aspects of good behaviour management is through good classroom management. Consider the following:

* Classroom layout

* Getting the year off to a good start through shared rules and routine making

* Developing set rules and routines for everyday procedures

* Curriculum considerations in activities and teaching methods

* Planning circle time and PHSE into your weekly planning.

Schools may have separate policies on these areas, but they are essential reading. There are other behaviour management approaches that are used in schools and key ideas often overlap. If a school has a system for behaviour management, follow it to the letter and use it consistently. What is clear is that teachers are dealing with many young people who present challenging behaviours. Some children have poor relationships with adults and have developed low self-esteem. Positive behaviour management systems work well because we are praising and rewarding children for what they do well and so telling children they can learn and succeed in life.

Rachel Cookson is assistant head and foundation stage teacher at Oliver Goldsmith School, Camberwell, London

Accentuate the positive

* Give four praises to every one negative

* Praise and respect the ones doing it right

* Praise every pupil every day

* Catch pupils being good

* Be clear about expectations, routines and instructions and repeat regularly

* Allow children to have ownership of the classroom rules

* Don't lecture children. Grizzling will make them switch off. Be clear and concise

* Make sure you tell parents what the children are doing well

* Don't always shout; use a quiet voice or non-verbal gestures

* Stand back in your class and observe who is doing the right thing

* Listen and discuss with children

* Celebrate effort

* Do not give whole-class punishments

* Display your rewards

* Plan for circle time every week

20 ways to say 'You're terrific'


1 Following directions

2 Taking turns or sharing

3 Being kind

4 Being enthusiastic

5 Saying 'Please' and 'Thank you'

6 Always being on time

7 Lining up well

8 Smiling

9 Being good in class and assembly

10 Setting a good example

11 Asking questions when unsure

12 Doing a job well

13 Cleaning up

14 Sitting well

15 Being a 'buddy' to a new pupil

16 Looking after an upset friend

17 Listening well

18 Speaking appropriately to peers

19 Reading at home

20 Walking where appropriate

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you