Female teacher with teenage pupils raising hands

Behaviour tips for trainee teachers

Tips for trainees on managing behaviour in the classroom, including tips for your first lesson and managing conflict.

Behaviour management is of paramount importance.

Your ability to control your class depends on the quality of your relationship with them, so in your first lesson with each class it is vital to start on the right foot, building a positive, respectful relationship. Here are some tips to help you.

Before you start

Behaviour management is a skill which teachers need time to perfect. Read the school policy on behaviour management and stick to it closely, because consistency throughout the school is important. If a pupil is likely to be tricky, ask a teacher who has worked with them what works best.

The first lesson

  • Hold your head up, look your pupils in the eye and smile confidently, giving the impression that you are expecting everyone to co-operate.
  • Speak politely to pupils and use a quiet, firm manner to tell them everything you expect of them.
  • Some teachers spend the first half-hour negotiating an agreed contract with the class, establishing ground rules of what teacher and pupil reasonably expect of each other and pinning them up on the notice board.

The follow-on lessons

  • Start each lesson on time to set the tone.
  • Learn the pupils' names quickly so it's not so easy for them to ignore you.
  • If a pupil has behaviour difficulties, wait for moments when they are doing the right thing, then praise them. It is so much more effective than rebuking them for doing the wrong thing.
  • Establish a clear, simple routine to your lessons because pupils like to know where they are and what's coming next.
  • Be strict about each detail for the first term and by then you should have cracked it.
  • Try to make your lessons as interesting as possible and have your resources properly organised to keep pupils interested and avoid wasting time.
  • Always prepare plenty of work, and at the end of each term, keep the pupils working as far into the last week as you can.
  • A positive approach always works best.
  • Listen to pupils. They love it, especially the worst behaved.
  • Have a system for attracting everyone's attention. When a child is not working, say, 'Can you manage? Would you like some help?' Not 'Stop talking/ stop messing about/ don't be so lazy.'
  • When you get comments like, 'I'm not doing this, I don't want to,' say, 'Would you like some help with it?' If they say no, then, 'No problem, you can do it at lunch-time.' Or, 'That's fine. You can take it home and do it. I'll speak to your parents.'
  • Pupils who don't respond to threats and sanctions often respond to praise. Use lots of it on disruptive pupils, when you can.
  • Give positive instructions: 'Please work quietly,' not, 'Stop talking,' or 'write slowly and carefully to keep it neat' not, 'stop rushing through it and making a scruffy mess.'
  • Before imposing a sanction, give pupils a clear warning and chance to conform.
  • Try to impose sanctions the same day. They lose their effectiveness if they drag into the next day.
  • Seating arrangements affect pupils' behaviour. Seating boys beside girls sometimes calms either one of them down.
  • Keep notes about any serious incidents in case there is any problem with parents later.

When you're managing conflicts between others

  • Cooperate: help children work together and trust, help, and share with each other. Get the parties to talk in a structured way, one at a time,­ taking turns to speak and to listen. If appropriate, get both parties to take more distance on the situation by writing down how they see it.
  • Communication: help children learn to observe carefully, communicate well, and listen to each other. Get them to make suggestions for how to end the conflict. Treat it as a practical problem-solving exercise, rather than a moral lesson: 'What can we do to solve this?' rather than 'I want you to apologise right now'.
  • Respect: help children respect and enjoy people's differences and to understand prejudice and why it's wrong. Make sure that each person's proposal for resolving the conflict is put in clear practical terms, and that the other person has had a chance to indicate whether they agree to the proposal.
  • Positive expression: help children to express feelings, particularly anger, in ways that are not destructive, and learn self-control.
  • Conflict resolution: help children learn how to resolve a conflict by talking it through. A conflict ends when each person has aired their views, and they have questioned each other enough to ensure that this airing has been properly achieved.
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