How to deal with low level behaviour issues
Does this describe your classroom?
These are demonstrations of low level behaviour issues, and in many ways these can be harder to deal with than the bigger displays of poor behaviour.
The danger is that we allow it to continue as we may think the students are mainly on task. However when there are any kind of distractions in the classroom, then your students will not be able to make progress. Therefore we need to address low level behaviour issues as soon as they arise.
Below I have listed ten areas you could address to make the difference – it may be that you are already doing many of these – but if you are still experiencing any of the behavioural problems listed earlier, then read on and see if there is something extra you could try.
Remember - most children want to learn and enjoy learning
Keep the following information in mind when you are planning. If students are not learning, then they may switch off and lose interest.
10% of what they read
20% of what they hear
30% of what they see
50% of what they see & hear
70% of what they say
90% of what they say & do
Effective lesson planning is one of the most important things you can do to prevent behaviour problems from arising!
Use your voice wisely – adjust the volume according to the situation. As the adult in the situation, it is down to you to avoid the event becoming a confrontation.
A confrontation can only gather momentum if it involves you; without your input it is only a child behaving badly. Lowering the volume of your response has a far better effect as it will ultimately have the effect of pouring water on a flame. The flame may continue to try to survive, but without oxygen will fade away to nothing!
2. Use the space well
There is a balance between moving around the classroom too much, and just standing at the front of the class. Speaking from different places in the room will keep the students’ brains alert in the same way as a new activity will revitalise them.
When they are working, be sure to wander around the space and check on their contributions. This keeps them on task, allows them to quietly ask you questions about things they didn’t understand, and means you are working with them to achieve their learning aims.
NB - If you start doing something else while they are working, like checking your notes or reading emails from your laptop, it has the effect of telling the students you aren’t interested in what they are doing! Not a good way of gaining and maintaining their respect.
3. Distract negative behaviour
Just like toddlers who need to be distracted from putting an object into a plug socket (but take no notice of the word ‘No!’) you need to distract your students from negative behaviour. This means attracting them to something else – ultimately the work! Sometimes asking them a question about the topic is far better than a reprimand.
This is especially true if they have other things on their mind. Sometimes they have brought baggage in with them which they are finding it difficult to leave at the door. Focusing on that baggage is not always the best solution. Rather, draw their attention to something else if you can. Otherwise a quiet word asking if they could try to focus on the lesson and save the issue to be resolved for later. If this is not possible, there will be processes in your school to deal with an immediate well-being issue such as removing the student to have a chat with their pastoral team.
4. Preparation is key
I have spoken before about how a well-prepared lesson can prevent most difficulties. The times things can go wrong will be when the students are bored waiting for you to find a resource, or to get a video clip to play.
Equally, carefully differentiated resources mean all students will be challenged and supported to learn. Have another look at the blog post on differentiation.
5. It's your classroom - who's in charge?
Look back at the blog post on behaviour management tips. Keep remembering that it is your classroom, you are the adult – and remain calm and quiet to maintain an excellent learning atmosphere. If you allow any students to get under your skin, you have effectively handed the control to them.
6. Keep calm and teach!
Sometimes it is harder to keep calm than others. These are the occasions you need to draw on all your emotional intelligence and pretend! If you don’t feel in control – pretend you are.
If the situation feels like it is getting out of control, calmly ask the perpetrator to leave. Tell them you are not prepared to accept their silliness as you need the rest of the class to continue learning. You will find your way with this.
Most importantly – don’t let previous situations stay in your mind and flavour the next lesson. Learn and move on!
7. Teaching and learning is the most important thing
All the previous tips have referred to this – you have had more experience at controlling your emotions than the children; you have more to draw on to bring any situation to a good outcome.
Remember we are looking at low level disruption here – not the bigger incidents which may require a slightly different approach. But any low-level disruption stops the learning of the students – and this is the main aim of them being in the classroom!
8. Think about what you say and how you say it
Try to use positive and reinforcing words as this has a better effect.
Sentence starters could be – ‘I noticed that …’; or ‘when you are working well you show a real ability…’; or ‘when you sit quietly and focus you are behaving safely in this lab which is what we need…’
9. Share your expectations
In the earlier blog post about learning intentions and success criteria, we talk about making sure the students understand what their role is in the lesson, and how they will recognise success. Similarly the students need to understand what your behaviour expectations are.
See the previous posts on routines for you and for the students. This makes a huge difference to the way the lessons start and finish. If the students know what you expect with regard to behaviour, then they are more likely to respond appropriately.
In your observations, look at those lessons where the learning environment is calm – the students know what to do when they arrive, know how to give books out, know the level of noise that is acceptable and when they have pushed the boundaries too much!
Remember you are also teaching students how to behave.
And when the preventative measures don't work...
Dr Sharon Williams