Like Greg Ashman, I’ve been having the ‘teacher dream’ lately where I am unable to get a class of students to do what I need them to. This has been brought on by two factors. In January I take up a new role at a school. Having completed a January move once before, I know it’s going to be tough to start with as I establish myself in the classroom to ensure …… In addition, I am tasked with leading on behaviour across the Academy. I am relishing both, however I have been reflecting upon some of my own practice lately, especially around the core purpose of classroom management: creating the conditions that will prevent behaviour problems from developing in the first place (taken from Ashman, 2018, p18).
My first reflection is the purpose of classroom management (which should always sit within well-defined whole school policies) which is to maximise academic learning time, rather than to maintain control. After school policy, establishing clear routines that encourage strong habits are important. To me, the first five or ten minutes can make or break a lesson. The diagram below summarises the proactive approach that has worked well for me.
Sometimes, the process can feel like a grind, particularly at the start of an academic year. However, I’ve found that in establishing this routine and, most importantly, sticking with it, positive relationships are quickly built and a positive climate for learning is established. It may take longer with some classes than others, but they all eventually get there.
Some would argue that this approach limits creativity and positive teaching and learning. I disagree. In setting clear routines, students know exactly what is expected and means that, over time, more ‘risky’ teaching activities (in terms of classroom management) can be undertaken.
Meet and Greet
To me, this is the most important routine I can do to establish positive relationships that lead to positive behaviour. It’s about being proactive. Of course, how I deal with students must sit within a whole school behaviour policy. This is what I do:
- Build relationships – try to speak to every individual. I’ve also shaken hands. It’s important to begin with a fresh start for all students, if an individual made poor choices in their last lesson with me, I try to move on.
- This also allows me to sweat the small stuff – ensuring I pick up on uniform issues and gauge the mood of individuals. A quick chat outside the door can prevent small issues becoming large ones. Of course, when I’ve been nomadic and involved in duties, this can be difficult to maintain but well worth the energy.
Work to ‘do now’
I’m not sure where the term ‘Do Now’ came from, but it is effective. Whether giving something out at the door, or some instructions on the board. It’s that expectation that, once students enter the room, they are expected to work straight away. The activity I choose needs no verbal explanation and is always linked to previous learning. Even the humble word-search (without a list of words to find – asking students to find 10 key terms linked to previous lessons is useful) can be useful. The point is to set the class working.
Owning the room
I picked this up from a Headteacher in Newton Aycliffe, during my second PGCE placement. Once students are in and working, walk the room. A subtle touch of a desk can quickly improve behaviour. Again, the idea here is to show that the classroom is a safe, working space. This also provides the opportunity to catch them being good, provide just-in-time feedback and check up on students that I have questions about from looking at their books.
The transition to the next activity
I find that being well planned is really important in encouraging a positive working environment. As a novice teacher, I used to struggle with the transition between activities. This often led to some challenging behaviour moments. These days, I ensure that the next learning activity is well linked and well thought out and clear. I have to thank colleagues at Priory School in Portsmouth, who introduced me to the assertive discipline PRINT routine. I still find this useful as, on reflection, some poor behaviour choices could have been attributed to ambiguous activities and instructions. I still find this a useful planning tool:
- Purpose : what is the point of the next activity? What needs to be done?
- Resources: what is needed for the activity, and where can they be found?
- In seat: Do students need to be walking around. I learnt early on that behaviour and my expectations need to explicitly taught and revisited often.
- Noise Level: Is this silence? Paired talk? Group talk? Again, time spent at the start of the year teaching what each of these mean is important.
- Time: How much time is being given to complete the task?
I’ve also found that choosing 2-3 locations in the room where I give whole class instructions / feedback / Q&A also helps condition classes to getting ready to listen. As a geographer, these are often linked to cardinal compass points. This again is from experience: I found that I tend to pace the room wen talking which is distracting. One of the best places to give instructions is from the back of the room (I’m a fan of configuring desks in to rows most of the time.
I wonder, what are your behaviour routines?