We all want every lesson to be the dream lesson, where children are enthused, excited and involved with all aspects of learning. They ask poignant questions, complete all work and your content delivery is seamless and engaging. Sadly, we know that this rarely happens.
Challenging Behaviour can be one of the biggest obstacles to delivering great lessons and it can also have an impact on the class's productivity as a whole. It can also be a great source of stress and anxiety for you when you’re faced with a class that is hard to control.
Gone are the ‘one size fits all’ days, where raising your voice was enough and many schools now are non-shouting schools. Countless times, research has shown that harsh methods don’t even work. So here are my top 10 behaviour management strategies that you can implement today.
1. Use Positive Language
When a child is doing something you do not want them to do, it is easy to snap and tell them to 'Stop doing this' or 'Don't do that'. We have all done this but in the long-term, this creates an unhealthy relationship with students. Hearing negative phrases such as 'no', 'stop', 'don't' too often can have a real impact on a child's mental health and self-esteem.
Instead, turn negative phrases into positive ones. For example, instead of saying 'Thomas, stop shouting' say 'Thomas, please talk quietly'. It is a small change but can have a big impact. You are telling the child what you do want them to do, which is obviously the desired outcome!
2. Teach Your Class About Positive Behaviour
Instead of punishing students, it could be argued that the answer of how to handle challenging behaviours in the classroom lies in an educational approach. In practice, this means creating a positive classroom where teachers support challenging students. It is hard for students to behave in the way you want them to if they don't know what that looks like.
Establish clear class rules that are positive rather than negative. To remind the students of what the rules are, create visual posters that you can pin up around the classroom.
3. Be A Role Model
You have to show them how it's done! Whilst teaching them what good behaviour for learning looks like, showing them will really help it hit home. Children learn best by example so it is important to be a good role model for them and to demonstrate the behaviours you want to see yourself. For example, if you want students to be polite, ensure you always use your pleases and thank yous and demonstrate kind behaviours to other students and staff members.
4. Create A Calm Corner or Safe Space
Some children, especially those with SEN, will have a difficult time managing and regulating their emotions. Behaviour can occur for a number of reasons, a few of which are outlined here. Whenever a child is stressed, frustrated or anxious, it is great to have a designated space for them to go and relax and calm down.
Having a calm corner where a child can relax, colour in, read or just sit on a beanbag will also help them feel safe whenever they get overwhelmed. You can even decorate your calm corner with picture cards of techniques that aid relaxation such as 'Take 5 deep breaths', 'Count to 10', 'Do some colouring'.
5. Reward Positive Behaviour
Bit obvious but it works! Reward the behaviours that you want to see. Ensure that you praise children equally and that you are specific with your praise so that the child knows exactly what they did well. You can also reward the class as a whole, giving them a goal to work towards with the promise of a treat or reward at the end of the week. Try to have a visual representation of how close the class are to their goal - this could be a jar of marbles or a thermometer poster that you regularly update - but this will help keep them motivated.
6. Speak to Students in Private
No one wants to be 'told off' in front of anyone else. This applies to children as well. Being punished in front of all their peers and friends can make them feel embarrassed and ashamed and, fundamentally, it will destroy their trust and respect for you. To avoid this, if you need to give a warning or more critical feedback, do it in private. Either take the child outside, to a clam corner or do it in a way where other children cannot hear.
7. Differentiate Correctly
Some students may start to display challenging behaviour because they are frustrated with the work that has been set for them. Some may find it too challenging and rather than ask for help, they will try to avoid the work. Others may find the work too easy and end up being bored. Ensure that the work you set is differentiated to each ability level, but also that you mix up your style of work. Some learn best with pictures, others with movement, others with words. Simply provide a range of activities to keep everyone occupied.
8. Develop Relationships
Relationships are everything in the classroom. Take the time to get to know each of your students and build relationships with them. A great way to do this is to have an 'All About Me' session at the start of the year, and you can update these as the year goes on. Talk about common interests, open a casual conversation, and always ask them how they are. You could even ask them for advice and recommendations on something, such as “I want to read a new book. Has anyone read any good ones recently?”
9. Teach Mindfullness & Relaxation
Teaching children various techniques they can use whenever they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated can help them learn to regulate their emotions. Some examples you could teach include;
Stretching or yoga
10. Get Support
Establishing good behaviour and managing challenging behaviour when it arises is no easy feat and it is a rollercoaster ride! Always seek support when you need it, whether that be from another teacher, SLT or a behaviour specialist. Looking after your own wellbeing will help you be the best you can be in the classroom.