We may not know when exactly schools will re-open, but there’s never the right time to discuss behaviour management ideas for teachers and even homeschoolers! As a teacher with only 11 years of experience, I have had my fair share of misbehaviour from students and I have felt the need to stand outside for a brief five minutes to breathe so that I don’t snap and lose my mind in front of the students. As teachers, we know that when students are continuously misbehaving in class it disrupts the flow of the lesson and the focus ends up on the student or group of students who are disturbing the class. Bye, bye lesson!
Very often we pinpoint the ‘trouble maker’, label them as a ‘problem’ and then find ways to handle the ‘problem’. When doing this, do we take into consideration that perhaps the child didn’t eat last night? Perhaps he lives in a very abusive household and he couldn’t sleep last night? In such circumstances, these students come to school with a host of issues and they disguise their problem by misbehaving in class. They don’t talk about it, they don’t ask for help, they are ashamed and embarrassed because for a while they have been labeled as the ‘bad kid’, the ‘troublemaker’ so he continues to live up to his given title to remove any attention on his actual problems. But all this is another story for another post!
Kern and Clemens (2007) identified certain behaviour management ideas that when applied consistently will lead to a well-behaved class. Notice the word ‘consistent‘ because it is extremely important that you have clear, simple rules and expectations which you apply consistently. This will ensure that your students know exactly what is expected of them and that there are consequences to their behavior. It also shows that no one is the ‘faverite’ because they are all treated the same.
Another strategy from Kern and Clemens (2007) is establishing routines, cues and signals so that your students know what to expect in class. Praise your students! They love this don’t they? Both verbal and non-verbal praises mean a lot to them. It not only acts as a continuous motivation for those who are working well, but it also motivates the others to push harder and improve. We should also look at the difficulty of the work we give the class. Very often, misbehaviour is linked to the inability to do the work given. Therefore, you need to analyse the level of work you are giving your students, especially the lower ability classes (if you’re in a school that follows streaming).
I have had quite a few of those ‘difficult’ classes. One way I managed to overcome the problem, was to actually look for common interests. During my very first year, I had a class with more boys and they loved cars. The girls in the class also partook in this passion since there were not many of them. I would pause my lesson and get them to share their passion with the rest, but I always told them we have a few minutes to talk about cars, but then we go back to talk about rocks! And surprisingly, the tactic worked. It has to be noted that what works with one class, may not work with another class. I tried that with one class last year and I failed miserably.
1. Model the ideal bevaiour
So you want your students to be good students right? Be a good teacher! Use role-play and model how you would react to certain situations that trigger misbehaviour. Use polite language, maintain eye contact, wait for your turn to speak! These are some examples of how we want our students to behave. So we show them and constantly do it, they will eventually learn.
2. Allow students to help establish the rules
This helps them to identify the correct behaviour in class. Get them to outline what the class rules should be. Should they raise their hands to answer questions? Should they ask for permission to move around the class? What should the noise level be like? More importantly, let them establish consequences which they may face if they break the rules! Once all the rules have been discussed, it is advisable that you document them! Write them on coloured paper and display them on the walls, where they are always visible. This shows the students that you do respect and value their ideas! It’s also easy to point to any of these rules should they break them! And if you’re feeling extra…design a little handbook with the class rules!
3. Avoid punishing the class
I am so guilty of this “if one person makes noise, the whole class with remain on detention!’ Does this sound familiar? We know it’s wrong, but we do it anyway. This actually discourages those who are on task! If Peter is going to be noisy and I’ll also get detention, they why should I do my work? The best way to handle this is to isolate the student misbehaving and talk to him or her one one one. Instead of saying “John stop being a nuisance and complete your work” try asking “John do you have a question?” or “John do you need help answering the question?”
4. Praise them!
I mentioned this earlier, but its such an important tactic that I must mention it again. It has to be sincere or else it won’t matter. Students can tell when we mean business! When praise is used properly, it can help to inspire the whole class – everyone wants to be in your good books! It improves the self-esteem of the student being praised and it also helps to reinforce the rules and values you want to see in your students. In my experience, praise helps the student to repeat the good behaviour. I love to praise my students. When someone has answered a question exceptionally well whilst others are struggling, I always use the student with a good answer as a model for the others to follow. It not only motivates the student who did well but it helps the others to see how to answer specific questions.
Another way to utilise praise, is to openly praise and reward specific students as well as letting the class know why they are being rewarded. Children love little gifts from their teachers, it doesn’t have to be anything big, as long as they see you mean it!
5. Have a party!!
Yes! You read that right! Reward good behaviour! It can be something that lasts only 10-20 minutes, but when they see that they are being rewarded for good behaviour they will continue because, hey, who doesn’t like a party! Make sure you let them know why they are receiving this little reward though, or else its no point!
6. Send out positive letters/Make positive phone calls
I remember I started giving students who did exceptionally well on tests the same slips I would give those who performed badly. Obviously the messages were different! The look of horror and shock on their faces was priceless. They were not used to receiving positive notes to take home to their parents! In fact, they hid the notes from their peers before even reading it thinking they had failed. This was because the ‘slip’ has been labeled as something negative and couldn’t possibly be positive. So I wanted to break that chain and show them otherwise. And parents enjoy this and in turn reward their children prompting even better behaviour! Oh, it also gets the parents to show interest in what you are doing in class! Win-Win for all!
7. Build excitement!
Get them excited for the lesson! Start off with a fun introduction – a small game which is linked to the content. Are you teaching about Africa? or any other continent? Start off with a little brainstorming ‘Where was Nelson Mandela born?, Name a famous person from India’ Granted they may not know, but it causes excitement as they rack their brains for answers. My students love it when I make the silliest facial expressions when they give the wrong answers and genuine happiness when it’s correct. This breaks the ice, gets them to be more relaxed and then you can proceed! If your lesson is after mid-morning break or lunch, it also wakes them up (especially after a good lunch) and for those who had been running around and have a high level of energy, they can focus that energy on the questions being asked.
8. Handle the misbehaviour quickly
Unless you’re fuming and smoke is coming out of your ears, don’t wait until the end of the lesson to deal with the student or group of students who are misbehaving. Don’t even hesitate to handle it! Especially if the rules are displayed on the walls of the class! The longer you wait, it tends to let those negative feelings brew and the anger builds up between you and the student or between those on task and the student. It also gives the class the impression that you are not enforcing any consequence to misbehaviour, hence even more disruptive behaviour. Research has also shown that it is best to talk to the student privately. We are so guilty of embarrassing the students in front of the class with our witty sarcasm (I think teachers are some of the most sarcastic individuals out there – comes with the job right? lol) and we don’t always realise how this demoralises the students, promoting more misbehaviour.
9. Consider peer teaching
Have you ever noticed how students sometimes understand a concept better from another student? Use that! I’m not saying that you sit back and allow another student to teach! But consider pairing the weaker students with those who already understand the concept. This helps to boost the children’s confidence as well as help the weaker students to open up and ask for help. Ensure that you are carefully monitoring the situation because children don’t always have our level of patience.
10. Interview the students
Take some time to individually interview students who are misbehaving badly, displaying anti-social behaviour and bullying others. Talk to them about what’s happening in class, maybe they don’t understand something, perhaps a student is mocking them and you haven’t noticed. It can be a variety of reasons, but this method will help you better understand your students and connect with them a lot more. Keep note of whatever they share with you, it could help you to better plan your next lesson to include the student. He will feel valued because you are ensuring that his feelings are being considered. I have also used this method and I have found that students eventually open up as we build on the trust. Mother them a little! A little bit of love and care goes a long way!
So these are a few of the more popular behaviour management ideas. If you would like further reading you can visit this website. I also referred to this paper for some background reading as well as evidence-based approaches.
Good luck with your teaching