Anticipating and managing pupils’ behaviour


The ability to plan ahead, identifying possible causes of disruption and then adopting strategies to enhance learning behaviours.
Many commentators (including the DfE) believe that you can't "manage" someone else's behaviour. They don't use the term "behaviour management" preferring" behaviour improvement". However, by what you say and do,you can manage the classroom environment and create the circumstances that lead to positive behaviour - although this is only one element in the process of improving learning behaviour.


A large-scale survey of "behaviour management" carried out by Jacob Kounin in the USA, revealed that the single biggest contributor to order in a classroom was clarity. In well ordered rooms people understood what they were doing and how to go about it. Much disruption is caused by uncertainty about what is supposed to be happening. The teachers were clear in their instructions, and made sure that pupils did in fact understand. They didn't say ‘Do you all understand? Good, get on with it.' (How many pupils would actually indicate that they were the only one who didn't understand?) They devised ways in which pupils demonstrated their understanding (Plan, Do, Review helps with this). They kept the flow of the lesson even and avoided interruptions once the class were at work (keeping messages to the end of the lesson instead of stopping the class working to read a message that had been brought in), avoided 'flip-flops', suddenly changing in and out of different activities, e.g. ‘before you start your piece of writing, take out your homework books and...' and had agreed plans for classroom traffic and access to resources.
Teaching for learning behaviour can be included in your initial lesson planning increasingly effectively as your professional knowledge and skill increases. By so doing you close the doors to many forms of disruption, Many opportunities for pupils to behave disruptively occur at times of transition in the lesson. Lesson planning helps to anticipate these occasions, to settle disruption quickly and prevent the ripple effect of disruption that occurs when the class as a whole are feeling uncertain and are prone to misbehave as a way of avoiding the uncomfortable situation they find themselves in. Remember, in well ordered situations, the vast majority of pupils are extraordinarily compliant. If, however, a pupil feels vulnerable to failing a task, because they don't fully understand it, or think that they will be unable to achieve it, pupils become more likely to misbehave and attract the teacher's attention for that reason rather than by admitting they feel inadequate.

Relevance for teachers

Important note: This is not the whole story. Clarity of instruction and management of the lesson is important but it is only one element in the process of improving learning behaviour. The Behaviour for Learning rationale emphasises the importance of teaching so that pupils build 3 relationships: with themselves; with the curriculum; and with others. By what you say and do you can also build these relationships and improve learning behaviour.  However, many of the behaviours that affect the ability of a pupil to learn recur frequently, and can therefore be anticipated and can be either encouraged or discouraged.

Some commentators focus on the classroom organization element and speak of the four golden rules of "behaviour management" ( but actually classroom management) that will need addressing for every learning session.

  1. Get them in.
    Are the rules for entering the room, settling down, having the appropriate resources etc. well known and understood?
  2. Get them out.
    Are the ends of sessions planned. Is there enough time for clearing away, making announcements etc? Do you have a set routine for leaving the room that avoids an unseemly rush?
  3. Get on with it.
    Have you considered how to bring the class to attention, introduce the topic, have the necessary resources available, including spare pens, paper etc., move the lesson on with sufficient pace?
  4. Get on with them.
    Disruption often arises because pupils sense a lack of respect. Do you give the message that you are happy to see them, interested in the work you are to do together, and are fair? Consider how the class is greeted, how individual concerns may be aired, and what degree of encouragement and gratitude you express.

Another way of categorising frequent, and therefore predictable, disruption is to categorise the behaviours into: Talking out of turn (TOOT); Out of seat behaviour (OOS); and Hindering other children (HIC).

Why do pupils talk out of turn? Often because they don't think they will get a turn. Give adequate opportunities for expressing ideas and reporting back. The ‘Plan, Do, Review' cycle helps here. Make sufficient use of plenaries, and develop well-understood protocols for taking turns and signalling intention to speak. Circle time or social skills training are helpful here.

Consider why children may feel the need to leave their seat. Are there agreed ways of collecting resources, sharpening pencils etc? Do they have ways of seeking help other than approaching the teacher? Are there established routines for preparing for classwork and for changing from one activity to another? Do you operate systems of wordbooks which the children bring to you for a spelling? (Don't.) Do you have dual queuing at your desk? (Don't.) DO teach them independent learning skills and plan the way in which they seek and receive your feedback.

In what ways do they hinder each other? Is there an agreed rule for allowing others to work unhindered? Do they all understand the needs of others? Are the others in the class able to express their needs without blame and recrimination? Do you have methods in place for resolving disagreements?


Behaviour, Learning, Management

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