Engaging Lessons Solve Behaviour Problems in the Classroom? by @Mroberts90Matt

Early into my second year of Initial Teacher Training we were taking in a session on Behaviour Management. As young teachers who had only delivered a handful of sessions thus far in our development, behaviour management was a looming issue in our inexperienced minds. As such, we came with expectations that we would come away with some valuable tips and ideas on how we could get the little lovelies to behave when we are trying to demonstrate we can piece pedagogy together. Imagine our surprise when the educator informed us that the best way to handle behaviour management was to…make our lessons as engaging as possible!

Now, this post is not to decry the concept that if we engage children more in their learning then behaviour in the classroom will improve. In fact, I do agree with this. However it must be thought through seriously – learning is affected when classroom management is poor (Charles 2002, Evertson, Emmer and and Worsham 2003) and so all possibilities must be considered.

In my short teaching experience, lessons which might be deemed more engaging have indeed had less behaviour management disruptions. Shindler (2009) states that classroom management is founded on how and what we teach, as do other studies. When children are more engaged behaviour can be managed – however that brings up some questions! What is deemed as an ‘engaging lesson’? What might be engaging to one person might not be engaging for another. Also, is it physically possible for a teacher to plan, teach, assess and evaluate a fully engaging lesson in every session that they teach? As a Year 6 teacher drilling (a.k.a. preparing) their pupils for the upcoming SATs, I feel the answer is in the negative. And finally, even with the most engaging lesson, if a teacher does not have a basic grasp on behaviour management techniques, will they never encounter disruptive behaviour in their lessons?…

Therefore, can it really be said that engaging lessons will solve behaviour difficulties? It certainly will reduce the amount of disruption. However, I went away from that University session feeling a bit let down. Since then, I have been to other presentations on behaviour management and, whilst they also have heavily relied on the assumption that behaviour management can be solved by engaging lessons, they have also given useful suggestions. These include:

  • Set, consistent classroom rules
  • Constructive praise
  • Proximinal praise
  • Regular routines
  • Sanctions that are followed through
  • Having an engaging personality with some humour
  • Using technology to assist pedagogy and rule-enforcing (Class Dojo as an example)

These and many more would be useful to have had discussed early on in my training. One of these is proximinal praise which was only introduced to me in one of my NQT observations by my Headteacher. It involves noting the desired behaviour next to a child who is not showing the desired behaviour. Rather than focusing on the negative behaviour it sheds more light on the behaviour expected in the classroom. I have found this to be extremely effective and would encourage any teachers looking for behaviour management tips to try this out in their classroom.

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Behaviour management will always be a topic discussed by leading educators and organisations (for example the recent publication by Ofsted on low-level disruption in the classroom) – therefore it will be necessary for all educators to not only plan more engaging sessions (for that does have an impact on classroom management) but also to develop an inventory of techniques and tools to aid focus and concentration in their learning environments.

References

Charles, C. M., 2002. Elementary Classroom Management. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Evertson, C. M., Emmer, E. M. and Worsham, M. E., 2003. Classroom Management for Secondary Teachers. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Shindler, J., 2009. Transformative Classroom Management. [Online] [14th April 2015] http://web.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/cm/Chapter11pedagogy-final.htm

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2 thoughts on “Engaging Lessons Solve Behaviour Problems in the Classroom? by @Mroberts90Matt

  1. I agree that creating engaging lessons is important as the aim of a lesson should not be to be boring!! As you point out what is engaging is different for each person. However, that can only solve the issue if the behaviour is being caused by boredom. If it is being caused by other factors – emotional, behavioural or learning difficulties, issues with other children, etc then no matter how ‘engaging’ the lesson is disruption will still occur as it is unrelated to the lesson content.

    I do think that classroom rules need to be clear and as you said sanctions need to be followed through otherwise an ‘engaging’ session can become a nightmare one very quickly as the children do not respect it as a learning opportunity. Groundwork needs to be done as anyone who has tried to turn the classes behaviour round having started too soft will know.

    Also I have been on the receiving end of ‘make the lessons more engaging for…..’ (insert name of difficult child) only to find that he would not participate in said sessions deliberately ruining them for his peers as his emotional and mental health problems could not be assuaged by a ‘fun’ lesson.

    Like

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