What Works?

 Warning this page may cause mmmm moments.....Enter at own risk.

Ok, so if you are reading this page you are obviously either stressed out or you just want better control of your classroom.

There are several strategies that work well with most students,in most classrooms, in most schools.

Take this simple quiz?

  1. What kind of relationship do I have with my students? (__out of 10)
  2. How well do I know my students? (__out of 10)
  3. How well do my students know me? (__out of 10)
  4. Are my students engaged in their learning? (__out of 10)
  5. Do you radiate positive vibes? (__out of 10)
  6. Are you consistent? (__out of 10)
  7. Are you funny? (__out of 10)
  8. Do you have class meetings? (__out of 10)
  9. Do you have a few simple rules to follow? (__out of 10)
  10. Are you a relaxed teacher? (__out of 10)

Did you score 100/100? Well Done! You don't need this website, you need to write a book!!

If not read on.........

Messurier (2010, p.11) states that " As educators, we have the capacity to influence transformation within students. We can fill them with inspiration, dread, dreams, confidence or deep feelings of failure or resentment, and history tells us we are very good at it. Whether we know it or not, the mark we leave on every student who comes our way is absolutely enabling or disabling to them."

This quote inspired me to become the best teacher that I can be. I decided that if I had the power to transform another human being, then I was going to do it in the best possible way that I could.

Messurier (2010) also suggests that getting to know your students is vital in managing their behaviours.

1. Learn your students' names

The teacher who stands in front of the class and says 'hey you! the kid in the black jumper.... yes!....yes!....you....no... not you ....your mate...... has not only lost the respect of the student that she is trying to talk to, but possibly that of the whole class. By the time she has actually got the student's attention, the reason that she wanted him/her has possibly passed.

 This Charlie Brown cartoon illustrates what it means to your students, that you know 'who they are', and 'where they have come from'. After all, without knowing these two things, it is impossible to 'know where they are going (in life)'. 

2. Build Relationships

Knowing your students as people, and building meaningful relationships with them is undoubtedly one of the best behaviour management strategies you can use.

My Prac Class

This is my experience of my first prac class. Year 4 (names have been changed)

Day 1:-You walk into the classroom and suddenly, you have 29 students in front of you. Eyes all looking at you for inspiration and guidance. But little do you know what they are thinking, what has happened/or is happening in their lives as they look at you.

Suzie:-Little do you know that Suzie and her family are living on the streets and on these cold winter mornings she has no jumper and has had little to eat. But she is here at school because to her, this is a safe and loving environment where she knows she will be safe and looked after. She is always well organised and takes very good care of the little she has.

Nicky:-Quiet little Nicky sits there and appears to be listening, but what she is realy thinking about is how many more days until her dad comes to visit-(will he actually turn up this time?).

Joey:-Joey's, the 'class clown'. He likes to be heard and likes to make his mark on the class, but what is really going on with him? He comes from a large family (8 kids) and strives to be heard. He wants and needs some attention and will do anything to get it. He just wants to be 'somebody'.

Brady:-Little Brady, walks into school late.....I could be angry at this, but little do I know that he is one of 9 kids, whose dad has long gone and mum spends most of her time passed out on the lounge. This morning Brady has already got his brothers and sisters up out of bed, given them some sort of breakfast ( yes ice cream can be good for breakfast). He has found them all some sort of clothing that loosely resembles a school uniform (doesn't really matter that it hasn't been washed for days). He has attempted to give them some sort of food to take to school for lunch and then he has walked them all to school. I'm impressed he is here at all, let alone before 10 o'clock!

Don:-Then there is Don. Don has been away for a few days and has had a sore knee for a couple of weeks. Mum has just informed us that he has a growth on his knee and they are testing it for cancer.........He doesn't know yet. He knows his knee is sore and that he has to travel to the city on Monday to see a special Dr. Mum is stressed because she doesn't know how she will handle telling him, let alone cope on her own with this, his 2 year old sister and special needs brother.

Jane:- Jane's dad has been unwell and has had to go away for a while- What has actually happened is that dad has been arrested for stealing and drug possession. Jane believes dad is really sick and can't understand why she can't go to visit him. Jane is living with her neighbour who is one of dads 'best friends' and yes, the police did visit them this morning too.

And this is only a few examples of the lives of my students.

I can't stress enough, how important building relationships with your students will be. You need to know where your students have come from, to know where they are going.

Building relationships with your students will give them the confidence and build the trust they need to be able  respect and to be able to talk to you. After all, you are often the only stable adult in their lives that doesn't let them down.

Once you have established this, you will find that students will want to work harder and behave better for you.

3. Classroom Rules

In Mark Davidson's (2009) Essential skills for classroom management he discusses how, when creating your classroom rules you should have a limit of 4 or 5 maximum.These should be worked out in a class meeting, with every student having the chance of input. Have the rules clearly and colourfully displayed around your classroom and discuss them on a regular basis.

An example of the 4 rules could be:-

  1. Learning/effort
  2. Respect
  3. Safety
  4. Self Responsibility

These simple rules can have a few simple descriptors eg.

Learning/effort ( arrive prepared, stay on task, always do your best.

Respect ( use a respectful voice, listen when others are speaking, be nice to others)

Safety ( keep hands and feet to yourself, always walk in classroom)

Self Responsibility ( be prepared to take responsibility for your own actions)

4. Be Consistent

I find this probably the most difficult one to follow, but it is essential that you remain consistent in your behaviour management approach. This allows the students to understand the classroom rules and allow them to follow them consistently. Being strict with one student and lax with another with send the message that you don't value the rules and therefore, why should they.

It is difficult, however, when you know a student is 'off' due to an incident that has happened at home or in the playground. Try talking privately with this student and let them know you understand the reason that they are upset, but they will still be expected to follow the classroom rules.

5. Routines

Routines are an important part of behaviour management as this allows the student to know where he should be, when he should be there and what he should be doing.

Each morning I put my timetable up on the Interactive Whiteboard. I take the students through the timetable and briefly explain what we will be doing in each activity. I then ask students for any questions about today's lessons. I also put any reminders on the timetable to help both myself and the students remember eg. please remind me to hand out newsletters, tuckshop orders need to be in by 9.30 etc.

After each break I again bring the timetable up just to remind students what will be happening in the next session. If there are any changes in routines, I make sure that I explain to students in advance (as advance as possible) so they can prepare themselves for the change. This is especially important for students with ASD.

I try to keep each day of the week as similar as possible to help put routines in place. This allows students to know that every Friday afternoon we will be doing Art, every Monday middle session we will be doing Science etc.

 Charlie Brown teacher-sourced from www.youtube.com

  6. Strategies

Every teacher in every classroom will have a set of strategies they use for behaviour management. Some work with some classes, but won't work with others. It is essential that you have a few up your sleeve to use in any situation. This includes the classroom, playground and excursions.

The strategies that I like to use are based on Mark Davidson's (2009)Essential skills for classroom management:-

  1. Establish expectations
  2. Give clear concise instructions
  3. Waiting and scanning
  4. Cueing with parallel acknowledgment
  5. Body language encouragment
  6. Silent Signals
  7. 3 Strikes
  8. Incentives
  9. Saying 'Thanks'

Establish expectations:-

Create clear boundaries and make sure your students know your expectations.

Give clear and concise instructions

  • Clear, short instructions help students understand what you expect them to do.
  • Instructions help students organise what they are required to do. Students are then able to begin the task as soon as possible (" if students can be physically doing something within the first 5 minutes of instruction for P-7 my research indicates that inappropriate behaviour will be minimalised" ). (Davidson, 2009)
    Waiting and Scanning

Wait 5-10 seconds after you have delivered an instruction. eg. Pencils down....thanks.  This allows the students time to process the information.

How to do it?

There are several things you can use here. The one that I find works best for me is:-

  • I raise my right arm in the air with three fingers up.
  • I then slowly start putting one finger down at a time until I get to zero. (I haven't actually got all fingers down as yet before all students are sitting with their hands on their heads).
  • I will often also say things like 'Olivia, you are listening beautifully, go and get a number' (see incentives tab in this website).
  • This is often  all that is required for all students to instantly do what was asked and be sitting with their hands on their heads.
  • I get them to put their hands on their heads as this way they are not fiddling with anything, their attention is on me and they have put their pencils down.

Other ways could include:-

  • 1,2,3 eyes on me
  • Stop, look and listen
  • Begin counting backwards from 10,9,8....
  • Clap a rhythm
  • Play a short piece of soft music eg 10 seconds worth

Avoid standing with arms folded or hands on hips as this will give a negative response to your students.

Cueing with parallel acknowledgment

This is when you acknowledge a student who is on task in order to get others to follow suit.

Eg. I like the way Jill's group is working.

I like how Ben has put down his pencil and is now listening.

Body language encouragment

These are easy to do but can be a very powerful tool.

  • Walk next to a child who is on task and touch his work, smile, nod or thumbs up to let him know he is doing a good job.
  • Walk next to a student who isn't on task and gently tap his work to get him to refocus. As soon as he does, smile, nod or thumbs up.

Silent Signals, 3 Strikes, Incentives and Saying 'Thanks'

These strategies are dealt with in length under their own tabs within this website.

7. Expectations

Having clear expectations, not just about student behaviour but also student academic effort is essential in any good classroom. Students need to know what is expected of them in order to strive to meet those expectations. If you have low expectations then so will your students. Your attitude is the key factor in this strategy.

8. Be Human

Students are more likely to warm to you if they think you are human. By this I mean, don't be afraid to make mistakes and allow students to correct them. I have a student in my class- Anthony, he likes to be on the ball and is usually the first to point out if I have made a mistake. Instead of saying 'I DID NOT' I simply say 'Well done Anthony for being on the ball, just as well I have someone to keep me on track' and I will always smile at him. This encourages him to correct me, but in a respectful manner.

If I make a mistake, I am the first one to say 'sorry'. This shows students that it is ok to make mistakes and it is ok to be strong enough to admit them.

 Image Stress-sourced from iclipart under creative commons licence.

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