Behaviour management, it’s one of the most highly asked about topics at this time of year.  You see we’re all new, we all have new students to learn about and some of us even have new content to engage them in and new classrooms to work with.  The thing is, the term ‘behaviour management’ has always felt a little off to me.  I remember one lecturer I had at uni who used to tell us that we would “train our students” to do ‘this’ or ‘that’. Every time I heard her utter those words I’d inwardly cringe and think “They’re people! Not dogs”. After a few years, I understood what she meant and, with a little lot of help from my friends I can share some of my top tips for managing the way we all behave in our classroom.

What type of behaviour manager are you?

Know that one of the largest factors affecting the learning climate in your room is YOU! Our job is, obviously, to create an awesome learning culture in which students feel safe enough to take risks, ask questions and grow.  There are many types of behaviour managers out there and they will offer you lots of different advice.  You should start by considering what kind of behaviour manager you are and what kinds of behaviours you think make for good learning.   In fact, it would make an awesome evidence post! The style of your behaviour will affect everything that happens in your classroom including your relationship with your class. Consider how your behaviour is an example to them, one that they should want to follow.

The most popular quiz you’ll find when exploring this question looks at the traits of  authoritive, laisez-faire or indifferent. My favourite one comes from a book that I would highly recommend to you.  Check out the Behaviour Management Pocket Book to learn about Mrs Blitzkrieg, Mr Best Friend and Tough Care. I bet you can’t work our which one is the preferred type there? Either way there are some excellent reflective questions on this very topic on page 27

Keep yourself Zen

Look after you.  An over tired, hungry and stressed teacher finds it very hard to “let it go” be proactive about planning for good behaviour and model what he or she wants to see from the kids.  If the tension is growing in your neck, you’re getting short tempered or you just want to stamp your feet…. make sure you’re taking enough time out for you.  YOU are the key to this whole thing! There’s some tips on remaining “zen” here. 

 Choice and consequences

I’m a firm believer that everything we do is a choice.  Behaviour included.  If a student knows what expected, and they choose to conduct themselves inside those parameters there should be a positive consequence. If they know the expectation, have been reminded (making mistakes is totally normal and it’s a kids job to test boundaries – they may even bee some “synaptic pruning” happening) and they’re making negative choices then the consequences are going to be negative too.  The key to choices and consequeces is that you have agreed the expectations, that you all know what’s expected.  The consequences (negative or positive) can be negotiated later – in fact it’s actually quite interesting to ask a student what they thing the consequence might be.

The Queen of Arendelle is shared by Janine under CC-BY.
The Queen of Arendelle is shared by Janine under CC-BY.

Let it go! Let it go!

Seriously, do an Elsa.  It’s so important that you end the lesson back on a positive note with everyone.  Never leave those negative emotions floating around so they can change the atmosphere of the next one.  Let it go! Don’t hold grudges and don’t judge an entire child’s personality on their behaviour choices at 10:20am. Remember that you have to set expectations.  If you’re holding onto to something from earlier your expectation might be a little lower and that’s not helping anyone.  Everyone needs to be believed in.

Be an influencer not a controller

Let’s face it, the old adage of “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is totally true when it comes to behaviour management.  You can not control the choices that others make.  The only behaviour you CAN control, is your own!  You can, however, influence others.  Build relationships and put some preventative measures in place.  This can be done by:

  • Organising seating plans (and letting them change based on what you’re doing!)
  • Using displays around the walls as positive places for praise, examples of thinking, doing and learning
  • Greeting children every time you meet them and doing so with the right mindset to set them up for their learning
  • Having high expectations both academically and emotionally and then helping them to meet them
  • Being consistent
  • Praise, praise, praise!  One thing I was taught (and this really works but you have to think!) was every time you have to say something negative, find six nice things to say to that child in the same lesson.  Anything! “James you’re very organised today”
  • Give little jobs to students who often struggle with behaviour.  Let them complete them and praise them.  Give them a chance to be responsible and let them thrive when they succeed by praising them
  • Say “Thank you” ALL THE TIME.  It’s a great way to show an expectation… even if not everyone is getting it right “Thank you to the left hand side of the room who are sitting quietly and looking this way” PAUSE – watch how long it take for the right hand side to join in.  You just praised a good choice and reminded the others of your expectations without making a fuss at all.
  • Thinking about the way you phrase things.  Direct them to the behaviour you want, make it clear that they’re in control of the choices they’re making… try not draw attention to the negative choices.  Here are two examples from my favourite behaviour management book.  Have a read and consider which one you think might be more effective and why. (oooh.. that sounds like another reflective post opportunity!)

“Michael, i need you to face the front and listen now. Thank you.”

vs

“Michael, why are you turning around? You shouldn’t be talking when I am – you should be listening.”

“Wayne, if you don’t stop talking I’ll move you over here on your own”

vs

“Wayne, if you choose to keep talking while i’m teaching, you’ll be choosing to sit here on your own. Let’s make a better choice now. Thanks”

(Hook and Vass, 2014)

Can you add to this list of behaviour management tips?  Go on… comment below this is where we share

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