One of the biggest worries for all teachers but particularly for NQT’s is how to manage behaviour. It was definitely the one thing that I was most concerned about, probably every year no matter how experienced I was! Over in my Facebook group, The Primary NQT Tribe, several people have asked for tips on how to manage the behaviour of their new classes. Ultimately how you manage the behaviour in your class will be down to a personal style, however there are some great tips which will help you crack behaviour management from day 1.
Use positive reinforcement as a majority rule!
One of the best things about teaching primary aged children is that, more often than not, they want to like you, want to be liked and desperately want to please! Yes, even those Year 6 children. So, the best way to crack behaviour management is to use this to your advantage! Use positive rather than negative reinforcement in your classroom as much as you possibly can.
Instead of : Jimmy, I’ve asked you to put your pencil down!
Look for the child closest to Jimmy and focus on him/her instead!
Change to: Fabulous Kevin, you’ve done exactly what I’ve asked, put your pencil down and are ready to listen.
I can guarantee that 99% of the time, the child who hasn’t followed the instruction first time round, will very quickly comply!
Instead of: Sandra, I asked everyone to underline their title and you haven’t done that yet!
Change to: Sandra, I’m pleased to see that you’ve written the title, it’ll look even better if you underline it!
Aim for all of your words to be positives rather than negatives. More often than not, children don’t mean to be naughty, to not listen or to not follow the rules. They just sometimes need a little positive reinforcement to get them back on track!
Whole class strategies work best!
Many NQT’s are tempted to put in place a strategy which individually rewards children. More often than not in primary classrooms, I’ve come across the weather behaviour management strategy. For those who don’t know, it consists of a range of weather with the children beginning on the sun each day and moving up or down depending on their behaviour. These have been used for many years, in fact I remember using something similar when I was a new teacher.
HOWEVER..times have changed and the common consensus is that these charts don’t work for our most vulnerable children. Instead of being seen as a positive reinforcement, something to aim for, some of the most vulnerable children see it as public humiliation and shame. Whilst a large percentage of children are able to recover from this, many of our more vulnerable children (adopted, children in care, children who have experience trauma or loss) can’t recover and end up in a shame spiral.
So, the number two tip is to use whole class strategies! Children love to work as part of a team, and they love the feeling of achieving a goal – both of which work here. The easiest way to implement this is to ask the children each half term to vote on a reward they would like. This could be extra playtime, a DVD with popcorn, a football match, a pizza party – whatever they want and you feel you could provide. They’ll need a little guidance at the start of this to understand that, for example, a swimming party probably isn’t going to be doable! Then the children work as a team to collect their rewards – marbles being the easiest!
The key thing here is, no marbles can be lost once they have been won, and everyone can contribute. It gives you the chance to ‘catch’ all the children being ‘good’, it gives them all a sense of team work and helps them all feel the satisfaction of achieving something great. For some children, they might have already experienced these feelings, but for other children this may be new to them, and is a great way to ensure that your whole class experiences the ‘feel good’ factor of trying their hardest!
OK, so this might sound a little wooly, and perhaps a little obvious, but when I was training to be an NQT there was a quote that did the rounds. You might have heard of it!
‘Don’t Smile Until Christmas’
The theory was that if you were too soft right at the beginning then you were creating a rod for your own back. In some ways the theory is sound. If you don’t set your rules with a firmness at the very start, and if you let the boundaries move, then it will be really difficult to reinforce them later on. However, the biggest thing to remember is, children want to know that you care about them, and they want to care about you too.
The best way to do this is to be human. Let them in on your life out of school. Tell them things you love or hate. Let them see that you make mistakes too and that it’s OK to apologise and move on. Let the children ask you questions about yourself and find common interests. You’ll be surprised by how quickly the children come to know the ‘real’ you rather than you as a teacher. They’ll want to know what you did at the weekend, when your cat’s birthday is and whether you support their local football team (hint here – I always supported every football team – it saved on arguments!!)
Humour will get you everywhere
I have to be honest and say that I use this in pretty much every area of my life since discovering this as a teacher. I successfully got every teaching job I applied for by using humour in my interviews, and have got 99% of children on my side through using humour! Children love to be silly but more than that, they absolutely adore it when you are silly! If you can get them laughing with or at you then you pretty much will have them on your side from day 1.
Get out and about
It is incredibly easy, especially as an NQT, to spend all of your time in your classroom – even when the children aren’t there. You want to crack on with marking, update lesson plans, arrange displays and so much more. But there is something you can do that will make behaviour management much easier – get out and about with the children. Be seen around the school, in the lunch hall, on the playground (even if it’s not your playground duty) and maybe pop into lunchtime clubs. Not only will it do you the world of good to be out of your classroom for a while, it also gives the children the opportunity to see you in a different light. These are the places you will be able to have more informal chats with your class, and get to know the other children in the school. This in turn will help you form strengthened relationships with your class and will allow them to see consistency in your behaviour management both in and out of the classroom.
Remember that you are a teacher of all children, not just your class, so if you see rule breaking on your travels, always pull the children up on it, even if you don’t know them! But do it in a positive, humorous way and you can guarantee that you will be the teacher the children remember, want to please and enjoy being taught by!
Have you any other tips for behaviour management that you have found work? I’d love to know in the comments!
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