If I were your fairy godmother, what one wish could I grant you?
Your planning done for an entire year?
A first day that runs smoothly?
A class that is so well-behaved you become the nation’s hero?
Okay, okay, maybe that last one is a little far-fetched. But what if I could give you 18 top tips for behaviour management that ensure your class are learning and progressing well?
Sound good? I thought so.
Now where did I put my magic wand…?
18 Behaviour Management Tips
1. Reward system
Design your reward system around a team approach.
Each table is a team, thinks of their own team name and has a captain and vice-captain that change each week.
The job of the captain is to facilitate how the members of the team work. They must work together effectively to ensure that the table is tidy, they are ready to learn, and they follow the class rules.
The teams compete to win marbles to put in their team’s jar. The team with the most marbles at the end of the week can be awarded ‘table of the week’ stickers.
2. Seating plan
Seating plans ensure effective learning takes place. They also help with behaviour management.
Organise tables so that no one will have their back to you or the board. Base the plan on your knowledge of the children or notes from the previous teacher.
Write names on Post-it notes to stick on tables so that children know where to sit on the first day. Let them know that they will stay in these seats for the first week.
When you’re ready, move them to their permanent seats, based on your observations and understanding of the individual children.
Swap the seating plan each half term to give children opportunities to work with a range of peers.
3. Random name generator
This tool generates a randomised child’s name and flashes it onto the interactive whiteboard or computer screen.
Whoever is picked can then answer your question or share their ideas with the class. It’s a great AfL strategy, but also makes sure the class are always focused on what you are doing, as they never know if their name will be chosen.
There are lots of random name generators online – try www.superteachertools.com.
4. Class responsibilities
These could include register monitors, homework monitors and book monitors.
Explain to the children what these roles entail so that they can do the jobs effectively. Every child must get a turn at something during the year. Children are very aware of this element of fairness, so keep a list of who has done what as the year goes on.
Responsibilities are an excellent behaviour management tool for children who crave to be part of something.
5. Class rules
Decide what you want the class rules to be to enable effective behaviour management.
Don’t have too many, as it will be difficult to remember them all – have approximately six
The children should be actively involved in creating the rules as this ensures ownership, but you should guide them to the principles you think the class must have.
6. Carpet spaces
Particularly useful for younger children, these spaces place pupils where you want them to be on the carpet.
If there are children who find it hard to concentrate, have them near the front so that you can manage their behaviour easily. It can also be a good strategy to ensure mixed ability learning.
7. Morning routine
What are you expecting from your class when they first arrive in the morning?
Have something for them to do otherwise they’ll mill around until register time. The activity, of course, will depend on their age. With training, you can introduce a variety of activities and children will be ready to learn at nine o’clock.
These could be responding to marking, reading, or answering a ‘daily challenge’ question.
8. Lining up for moving around the school
Lining up for lunch or assembly, coming back into the classroom after break; you need to tell the children what your expectations for their behaviour are.
You could develop a specific line order, deliberately putting (or not putting) certain children together.
Other teachers line pupils up in register order.
With older children, it can be fun to mix this up a bit; sometimes line them up by first name and sometimes by surname.
The idea of ‘boy, girl, boy, girl’ can work effectively, provided you work in a mixed school, of course!
A quiet line when returning to the classroom will ensure a calm start to each lesson, with all children ready to learn.
9. Stopping the class
From cowbells to counting down from five to zero, you need a way to stop the class.
Clapping rhythms, songs, and tambourines can also used.
Whatever your method is for stopping the class, keep it consistent and let the children know what to do when they hear that cue.
Practise it explicitly on the first day so that it is done as well as you expect. All of the children must follow the rules for stopping.
Don’t let one person get away with not doing it properly, as this can spread. Ensure that other adults in the room use the same strategy as you to ensure consistency.
Rewards are so important, but so are sanctions.
The school will have its own system, but there are sanctions that you can put in place in your own room that match your principles and style.
One example is the Three Strikes Rule.
11. The Three Strikes Rule
Using the Three Strikes Rule in your class could serve you well.
It’s simple for the children to understand and for you to follow. Each of the three strikes is more serious than the previous one. You can then build up to a sanction without leaping straight to the most serious one.
Read my post here on how to implement it.
Implementation of class rules
Children need boundaries in order to thrive.
As they grow older, boundaries will be put into place in all walks of life and they will need to respond appropriately. You can teach them this skill by implementing class rules.
On the first day, create some class rules that you can all stick to. Here are the key things to remember when setting up rules for your classroom:
- Create the rules together so that the children have ownership.
- Emphasise that the rules must be followed by everyone in the class — adults too!
- Phrase the rules positively, such as ‘We take turns to speak in the class’ rather than ‘Don’t call out.’
- Ensure that mutual respect is a class rule. Explain that concept to all year groups so that everyone is clear about what it means.
- Have all members of the class — including adults — sign the rules to show their agreement to stick to them.
- Display the rules in a prominent place. Refer to them often so that children can see you using them to ensure consistency and fairness.
12. Rules for adults
Some teachers have two sets of rules or expectations: what the teacher expects from the children and what the children expect from the teacher.
This is a great strategy to use with older children. If you make a mistake, you can refer back to the expectations the class set for you and admit that maybe you didn’t quite stick to that one.
Admitting a mistake takes bravery, but it demonstrates the mutual respect and accountability that needs to be embedded.
Expectations that have been set for me as a teacher include:
- Be fair.
- Mark our work so that we can receive regular feedback.
- Make our lessons fun and exciting.
- Help us when we are stuck.
- Have a sense of humour.
- Give us rewards when we deserve them.
These expectations were from a Year 6 class; they came up with some great ideas.
Younger children can come up with similar ideas, but may need help phrasing them appropriately.
Management of Low Level Disruption
Fail to manage low-level disruption and you’re asking for a difficult start to your teaching career.
Ofsted are keen to tackle this type of disruption. If you are observed, the observer will expect to see you deal with any disruption in an effective and confident way.
So, what is ‘low-level disruption’? Here are some clear examples that you may experience:
13. Talking while the teacher is talking
You must have witnessed this.
Under no circumstances should you let it happen.
It’s a little bit like a germ — once one person comes down with the ‘talking bug’, it will quickly spread around the classroom. Managing this behaviour comes back to high expectations, and your response should be absolutely non-negotiable.
Do not address the class if children are talking. Do not let children feed back their ideas or answers if other people are talking.
Create a listening culture: when someone is speaking, we listen to them with our whole body.
14. Failure to follow a system that has been taught
Once you have explained and practised a particular system, such as walking up the stairs silently after break time, you should expect it to happen this way every single time.
If the children start to think they can chat during this process, and you don’t address it, they will continue to do it.
Remind them of your expectations.
If they continue to go against the class rules, get them to repeat the action in the way you want it to be done, such as going back downstairs and coming up again silently.
You could add the possibility of practising it in ‘their time’ — that is, break time — and not in ‘my time.’
Have you ever sat through something that made you want to curl into a small ball and pretend you were on a sunny beach somewhere?’
You began fidgeting in your seat or thinking about the list of things you needed to get done that week. Or, if you’re anything like my father, you simply fell asleep.
Now put yourself in the shoes of children in your class who have to sit in your lessons for five hours a day, every day, whether they enjoy the subject or not. If the lessons move at a slow pace, the likelihood of the children becoming disruptive grows considerably.
Do you blame them?
There are two definitive ways to tell whether your pace has slowed:
15. The Velcro Test
As soon as you hear Velcro being pulled on a pair of shoes, you know you have lost the attention of at least one child in the class.
That sound should give you the cue to either wrap things up or give the children a ‘brain break’.
Direct pupils to discuss the lesson with a talk partner or, if appropriate, sending them to get on with the work at their tables.
Admittedly, the Velcro Test tends to work better in Key Stage 1, before children learn to tie laces, but you get the idea!
16. Movement of key children
You know who I mean: the children in the class who can be disruptive.
We’re not talking only about the children with special educational needs, but any who need support for focusing.
As soon as rolling, lounging, or low-level chatting starts while you are presenting your lesson, you need to think on your feet.
Have you done enough talking to enable children to access the activity? Some schools have guidance about lesson structure; children are not kept on the carpet for more than ten minutes.
Here are some ways to keep your lessons moving:
- Give children time limits to complete tasks – use a timer to give them a visual reminder of how much time is left.
- Set clear time expectations: “In one minute we are going to line up at the door silently.”
- Ensure that you follow the 80:20 rule: You want the children to be doing the majority of the talking, with you just guiding the learning and discussion with well-planned questions.
Understanding pace takes practise.
If lessons are presented too fast, children will become confused. If they are too slow, children lose interest and don’t understand what to do when the time comes for independent work.
Low-level disruption also thrives if the pace is too slow. Don’t be afraid to let your lesson take a different route when responding to children’s understanding. Doing so can help with the pace problem.
Some of you read this heading and thought, ‘I know not to swear at the children; calling them little bastards will make me lose my job.’ But that isn’t what I mean, although I strongly advise you to keep it clean!
What I mean here is relatively simple in theory but quite difficult in practice: don’t use too much language when dealing with behaviour management.
17. Be crystal clear about your expectations.
Don’t use fancy words in your class rules.
Don’t use long sentences when explaining why you’re disappointed with a child.
The child will switch off and you’ll be sick of the sound of your own voice. That is why ‘The Look’ can work so well — it saves so much talking.
The 80:20 rule works well here too. 80% of effective behaviour management comes from using 20% of the language available to you.
18. Limit Discussions
If you enter into discussions with a child about a sanction you’ve made, the child will only think you’re open to negotiation, which YOU ARE NOT.
If a child tries to argue with me, I simply raise an eyebrow with a look of pure shock on my face.
The look of surprise on my face will normally be enough to stop the child from continuing to argue. If not, I can say, “I’m sorry, are you arguing with me?”
That will stop most children in their tracks.
You may have noticed that I use the term ‘expectations’ a lot when discussing behaviour management.
You, too, need to use it when talking to children. This word has to become a key part of your vocabulary, particularly with the word ‘high’ inserted before it.
Use phrases like, “What I am expecting from you is…” or “You know that I expect you to…” Keep this word in your vocabulary, and it will soon become part of their’s.
If you let your high expectations slip, all that hard work that you put in at the beginning of the year will be undone. Your expectations need to be as high on the last day of the year as they are on the first.
Children will know what these expectations are and will rise to meet them, if you are consistent and persistent.
Keeping the rules, systems and language as simple as possible will create a calm, well-behaved class.
Not only will they progress at the rate they should be, they will also become mature learners and a real joy to teach.
And you? You’ll have cracked behaviour management once and for all.
Which behaviour management strategies work well for you? Which don’t? Share your comments in the box below!
Don’t forget you can buy copies of my book, ‘Keeping Bums in Seats: An NQT’s Guide to Behaviour Management‘ here.