How to Get Children to Behave All the Time
OK, I admit it - no one can do it and, I certainly can’t! But what we can do is give our students the best chance to behave most of the time.
The most important thing that any teacher can do to make a difference in their classroom is to get to know their students. From the very first day, talk to them, learn about their families, their pets, their sports and hobbies. Also, don't forget to share your own stories with the students - they’ll appreciate it.
Trust is incredibly important to students - they need to know that you are on their side and when they do act up (and they will) that you will deal with this professionally and move on.
When students break a rule, assign the smallest consequence possible and see if that works. Students need to know where the boundaries are, and sometimes a reminder is all they need. It might be appropriate to follow up with students later, to determine their motivations and maintain your relationship with the student.
Importance of Structure
Effective teachers also use rules and routines to ensure that students have the best chance to learn. They use management not to control student behaviour, but to influence and direct it.
Rules should be:
• Simple and explicitly stated in student language;
• Limited to between three and five key messages;
• Framed positively.
At my school, our rules are Be Safe, Be Respectful and Be a Learner. Classroom routines and expectations then support these rules. Additionally, a Visual Timetable is displayed so that students are aware of the structure of the day. Of course, some students require additional specific interventions and supports.
A mistake that many new teachers make is to not deal with the small things. It is much easier to quickly nip a minor incident in the bud than it is to deal later with a significant event. Students learn which teachers have high expectations and respond appropriately.
Effective teachers explicitly teach expectations to students and then reinforce these desired behaviours. Through fair and consistent corrections, teachers reinforce their expectations of students and create a classroom where students can learn.
Try to get the group to do the work for you by setting class rewards. For example, my Kindergarten class was able to earn an early recess if they achieved five stars. They could earn stars by all coming to the floor on time, all packing up quickly etc. In no time at all, the students were keen to behave appropriately and actively encouraged their peers to do the same.
The second component of this is to directly address separate behaviour issues with the individual student instead of punishing the entire class. Punishing the class as a group only incites further incidences.
Classroom management and organisation are interconnected. While rules and routines influence student behaviour, classroom organisation affects the physical elements of the classroom, making it run smoother and more efficiently. For example, having specific locations for all your resources mean that you and your students know where things go. When your students understand what they are doing and how to do it, the potential is reduced for them becoming off task.
The very best way to keep our students behaviour under control is by keeping them so engaged they don’t even consider otherwise. We can foster and maintain student engagement by including opportunities for active student participation in lessons.
One way is to bring students together for building teamwork and leadership skills. Today’s students love working in groups, and it is central to everything they do. They work, game, and connect online regularly and at school, it’s no different. They look to their peers to collaborate and share ideas. In their world, they can continuously work across the internet.
Technology is another great engagement tool. Interactive Resources, like those at Smart Frog Education, are high quality, prepared resources that will instantly engage your students. It can’t be any easier to make learning fun for our students.
While I don’t believe we will ever get all our students behaving perfectly all of the time, effective classroom management means we can spend more time teaching and less time on controlling students’ behaviour. Our kids deserve a safe, confident and stimulating learning environment.
Nicki is an educator who is passionate about teaching and technology. She has worked in Primary Education in Australia for 13 years. She is currently an Assistant Principal and Year 3 classroom teacher.
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