Tag Archives: behaviour management

Behaviour – Shifting the Paradigm in my Classroom by @Mroberts90Matt

Behaviour – Shifting the Paradigm in my Classroom

Since beginning teaching in 2014, I have always considered myself to be a fairly positive teacher. I definitely feel that working with children, helping them to understand the reason behind choices in the classroom and empowering them to take responsibility for their actions. Then the last academic year happened and I was confronted with the most challenging class I had encountered…

At first I felt I had guided the more challenging members in my class to make good choices. Things were positive, and then low-level disruption crept in more and more. Positive mentoring and feedback followed and no change. As such, I began to take action in a more negative manner. Sanctions and discipline in line with the school behaviour management system followed. However, the problem that began was not issuing sanctions – they are an important part of any school behaviour management system – but rather in my mentality.

The Trap

As days turned into weeks of dealing with consistent incidents outside my classroom and then some appearing in my classroom, I subconsciously began to take a more negative stance. My thinking behind this was to supress any poor behaviour that could take place. External influences such as the upcoming SATs, imminent Ofsted inspection and the most responsibility I had taken on thus far (leading the middle leadership team, PE and Sport Coordinator, Maths Lead Team and completing an NPQML whole school project) meant that I felt less and less patience for the children that I was ultimately working myself to the bone so that they could make progress in their education. I was developing a class that responded instantly to threat of sanction for short-term engagement rather than a class who were creating a love for learning and who responded because they wanted to do well.

Of course, I did not want this. However, the day-to-day flow of teaching and pressure in many areas created this environment and mindset.

The Escape

As things were developing in this negative culture, I found myself following the thread of #PrimaryRocksLive and the first keynote speaker was @pivotalpaul (or Paul Dix in the non-virtual world). I wasn’t there in person however the EduTwitterverse exploded with quotes from his comments. One thing in particular stood out to me – we should not praise poor behaviour. Obvious right? However, he made this point which was very poignant for me at the time – why do teachers insist on writing the names of the children who make the wrong choices on the board? Why not write the children’s names on who make the right choices? Reading this was almost like a revelation. I had fallen into the practice of routinely writing names on the board in an attempt to visualise to the children the wrong choices they were making – but ultimately all that was doing was giving them promotion to their actions.

Another major factor on this path back to positivity was a twilight given by @ArtOfBrillAndyW (Andy Whitaker – The Art of Being Brilliant). This motivational speaker really eneergised and enthused the staff with positivity and the mindset that we can aim to be our top 2% and ways to overcome challenges to that positive outlook. When we can maintain that positive outlook that positivity will leak into our teaching into our classroom, into the children we teach.

The Change

So, what did I do? From the following Monday the usual space where I wrote perpetrators’ names was changed to our #BestSeatsintheHouse space (inspired by Ant and Dec’s SNT and @chrisdyson and the wonderful work at Parklands Primary School, Leeds). I moved away from jumping straight to negative reinforcement to try and subdue behaviour problems but tried to overload the class with a better mindset. Did it work completely? No. No matter how much of a positive approach you take in teaching it would be foolish to expect there to be no behaviour problems. However, slowly but surely things started to improve.

 

After this reflection I have learnt very important lessons:

Positivity trumps negativity – every time

If anyone can come and prove to me that a negative, suppressing approach to behaviour has a better impact on a child’s ability to consider their own behaviour then I would readily receive it. However, I am yet to find a circumstance where that is the case.

What you promote in the classroom is what you’ll receive

If you consistently are on the lookout for poor behaviour and that is the commentary in your teaching (e.g. I am looking to see who needs to receive (insert sanction), whoever is talking will…, make sure you are not making the wrong choice) then that will probably be what you find. If you consistently promote good choices (e.g. proximinal praise, I am noticing a lot of good choices being made… and do on) then that will be found more often. Again, nothing is fool proof but it certainly has an impact.

 Positive and promotional approaches must be in place early on to be effective

I found that as we approached the end of the school year whilst I had certainly turned things around in my classroom, things were probably not as positive as they could have been. And this leads to the most difficult lesson – positivity must be persistent. Even in the cold, dark, wet months of November to February. Carry optimistic approaches from October through to March and things will be more positive. It will be difficult to maintain but well worth it!

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Bennett’s Behaviour Brilliance (and #PrimaryRocksLive) by @Mroberts90Matt

On Friday, a new publication was made available on the DfE website. These new publications always tend to be published on a Friday and so sit in my ‘I’ll get to it when I can’ pile. However, I had been anticipating this particular one for a little while and it has a lot of excellent infographs produced by Oliver Caviglioli (@olivercavigliol) . As such I determined that I would read this particular offering by Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) over the weekend as soon as I could. I had also been considering changing the paradigm of behaviour management in my classroom since #PrimaryRocksLive and hearing the input from Paul Dix (@pivotalpaul) . More on that later.

I could not even begin to attempt to capture the whole of this comprehensive report in one blog and I would not do it justice. To read the excellent report (and I strongly suggest you do) then follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/behaviour-in-schools

I will attempt to highlight some key messages and thoughts and enhance this with my own evidence and ideas:

1. The Way we Do Things Around Here
Early on, Bennett states – “The key task for a school leader is to create a culture – usefully defined as ‘the way we do things around here’ – that is understood and subscribed to by the whole school community.” This is a vital part of making behaviour excellent in any school. The challenge here is that this is very dependent on the school leadership. If the school leadership do not set an example of how we expect things to be, always, then it will become more challenging for staff to enforce this in the classroom.

I have experienced this in both extremes. Fortuntaely I currently work at a school where there is very much an ethos of “this is our way, and we all will follow this way”. What this does is not only instil a feeling working together to make behaviour work around the school but as teachers we become empowered to drive home these principles in the classroom. We remind children “this is not what we expect at our school” and suddenly they recognise this ethos will be expected by all. Of course some will naturally not conform, but the vast majority will, and this is the first step to ensuring excellent behaviour across a school.

2. Behaviour Focus must come from higher than Heads

Despite the importance of the previous point, it is important to note that Bennett states that actually, the way behaviour will improve across the country is for the focus and resources to come from higher than Headteachers. He says his suggestions “…are designed to stimulate change and improvement in the field of school leadership for behaviour.” The Department for Education must make certain changes and provisions to make the biggest impact – which will have an impact on recruitment and retention (which in themselves are main focuses right now for the DfE).
The suggestions to the DfE can be found in the report on page 9-10 and are well worth a look and hopefully, as they commissioned the report, they will act on the advice.

3. Behaviour must be a priority for all

There are many pressures in education. Teachers, school leaders and other stakeholders in children’s education will all have different priorities. For some it’s developing the whole child. For others it is imparting as much knowledge as possible. Whatever an educator’s core value and goal, behaviour from those involved in the classroom will have an impact. Thus, research and effort into how to develop better behaviour in the classroom is important, necessary even.
“Whatever one believes the aim of education to be, all of these are best realised in schools where good behaviour is the norm, and antisocial, selfish, or self-destructive behaviour is minimised.”
All schools can take note of this. How do they address behaviour? Is there a robust, clear behaviour policy. Is there a valuable induction for new members of staff (not just teaching staff) so all understand “how we do things around here”? Who holds whole-school responsibility for behaviour, is there a Behaviour Lead? Is it necessary to have one person given the responsibility to plan and consider behaviour?

4. Is expecting good behaviour oppressive?

Fairly recently, I got caught into a brief discussion on Twitter. It happened when there was that uproar over (guess who…) the Michaela Academy deciding to recruit a ‘detention director’. Now, I felt that this was unusual but as was pointed out – if this is how they ensure behaviour is kept excellent then so what? Some tried to argue that this clearly shows Michaela have behaviour issues in school. However, as Bennett points out, the best schools address behaviour and make plans to act on it when behaviour is very good so the fact they wanted to recruit a ‘detention director’ is no indicator of poor behaviour.

Going back to the discussion I got pulled into – there was one line in the job description someone pulled out, about expecting obedience in school. Someone had an issue with this and I asked “When would you not expect obedience in a school?” Of course I got all sorts of answers (including, when a member of staff asks a child to join them in a quiet stock room and when a member of staff says they cannot go to the toilet despite the fact they are desperate) but of course we are talking about obedience to school rules here. Some teachers seem to feel that saying we expect obedience to all rules is oppressive but, to be openly frank here, this is why we have behaviour problems in school. Expecting good behaviour is not oppressive, it is surely standard in any school.

5. Behaviour thrives in complacency

Behaviour strategies are easy to implement, they are harder to maintain. I have seen this in the microcosm of my own classroom. I am only teaching in my third year but I have seen how if a behaviour management strategy is not kept relentlessly on top of, then it’s impact decreases dramatically. Think then how slippage can happen across a school. Another things I have noticed is how the effectiveness of some behaviour strategies decay naturally over time so keeping children on their toes is sometimes necessary.
Below if a diagram showing just *a few* elements of how behaviour can deteriorate in a school which can be found in Bennett’s report:

Behaviour Barriers(page 60 for the original image)

Thus, Bennett suggests all school leaders should take an audit on behaviour. Whilst self-auditing is a start, Bennett suggests the audit will be most effective when done cross-schools. If leaders look at all this practice-changing information and say, as Bennett suggested ‘they already do that…’ then they will miss out on improving the already-good behaviour system they have. The work has to be done when things are going well or not.

So now what?

Well, for me I knew I had to change. I was unfortunate to not go to #PrimaryRocksLive but I followed on the hashtag for quite a while and it was clear that Paul Dix’s presentation on behaviour was a shining highlight.

For me, the concept of faming good behaviour rather than shaming poor behaviour rung true. I and, from the reaction I read, many other practitioners do not fame good behaviour enough. So I took this on board, and magpied an excellent assembly idea from the influential Chris Dyson (@chrisdysonHT) who took the ‘Best Seats in the House’ concept from Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. Simply, the children win the ‘best seats’ through behaviour above and beyond what we expect. I applied this to my own classroom:

This has already evolved since Monday and now the children love it – the children chosen from the previous day get to do their learning in the best seats, they get a little reward (of a chocolatey nature) and they get to leave the class first for break, lunch and end of day. Most importantly, they are announced in the class and their behaviour is famed.

If a child wins it one day then shows above and beyond behaviour to win it the next day? So what?? They win it two days in a row. That blew some of my kid’s minds! How is that fair? I had questions – and I asked one back “Was their behaviour above and beyond yesterday again?” They have quickly learned only above and beyond will earn the exciting reward! Try it out and improve on what I’ve done – I’m sure there are better ways.

 

10 points to Gryffindor! by @Mroberts90Matt

A brand new year, a brand new start. In our school we have a new Senior Leadership Team with a new Head and Deputy. It has been great so far and I’m personally happy with how things are going in the classroom. My class (predominately boys) are responding really well to our Behaviour Management system (Class Dojo – would recommend) and my TA and I are very well organised at present.

As with new beginnings there will be new initiatives school-wide. In our school we have now adopted a House System. When this was first suggested by our new Head, I couldn’t help thinking of the popular story ‘Harry Potter’ and the houses that were in the school, Hogwarts. I pictured myself in a robe taking house points off some meddlesome children who were lurking around our Forbidden Corridor where a great, big machine waits to gobble up small children (otherwise known as the photocopier).

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Not one to dwell on sterotypes for too long, I have embraced this new idea with relative optimism. In fact, I more than embraced it, I wrapped my arms around it as I volunteered to be one of six Head of Houses! As far as I understand my role is to motivate and inspire the children in Dunham House to be their very best and aim to win the House Cup. I also have to give an assembly once a half term – slightly scary as it was my first assembly but it went well.

My impressions so far of the house system? I’m actually quite impressed by the impact that it’s had in such a short time. This was especially clear after the House Assemblies. When we returned to the classroom the class were so engaged and ready to learn. Last Friday the first weekly winners of the House Trophy were announced and children from Year 1-Year 6 celebrated their victory which was a brilliant sight (our house was 5 points behind in 2nd but it was still good!) I think like most new things it will take time to see the extent of this new system.

As it turns out, it is possible to look at an example where the House system seems to be making a difference. In the current TV series ‘Educating Cardiff’, it is there for all national television viewing audiences to see. We are introduced to four houses in the Welsh high school which seems to work in a similar fashion, a Head of House with a student House Captain and competing to win the most House Points. There does seem to be more of a pastoral role involved too which hasn’t entered our House System (I’m not sure if that is the end goal or if that is more for a high school system).

Does your school have a House System? If not, are there any other ways that your school builds links between Year Groups? Would it be something you would like your school to try out?

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

Teacher Voice Weekly Poll w/b 29th September 2014

Well, time for another weekly poll. Last week’s poll focused on behaviour management, asking what you thought the most important aspect of behaviour management was. This was partly off the back of an NQT Conference I attended but also with Ofsted’s recent publication on low-level disruption I thought this was also appropriate. The results were mainly split between two answers but one clear winner with 70% – setting high expectations from the start. Obviously, all the aspects are important but that was deemed the most important. The poll is still open so feel free to add your voice!

This week is off the back of a previous blog post in August. Grouping by ability, or setting, is a practice that is widely debated and has well documented pros and cons. I looked at this in one of my final papers at University and had negative views. However, now I’m using it for Maths in my own classroom by topic rather than the same sets for the whole year I’m finding some really good benefits from this! So what are your views:

Should setting by ability be avoided at all costs or utilised to support teaching and learning? Or is there a time and a place where it would be effective?
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photo credit: lumaxart via photopin cc

Teacher Voice Weekly Poll w/b 22nd September 2014

Well, now is the time for another Teacher Voice Weekly Poll. Last time, the question was focused on group sizes used in the classroom. I don’t know if this was a less popular question or if it’s simply because I’ve not had the time to promote it but there were not as many voices heard as normal. However, the result was clear – 100% of the votes said that 4-5 children was the most popular group size. Why do you think that is? Does it provide the most opportunity for key language to be discussed among all learners? Is it simply the easiest group size to have logistically?
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This week I’ve gone with this question on behaviour management. The context of this comes from an NQT Conference I attended today which I will hopefully blog about later. It raised a few questions for me from my Twitter experience as well as I have linked with different types of professionals who will have differing yet equally valuable views:

Which of these pillars of behaviour management is the most important in your view? Is there another that’s not mentioned which is more important? Of course, I’m sure we’d say that all are necessary but which do you feel has the most impact?

photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams via photopin cc