#15MinForum 26/1/16

Our first 15 minute forum took place earlier this week, kicked off by Gabby Veglio (Yr9 Year Leader and whole-school numeracy coordinator) leading a session on ‘Top Tips for Positive and Assertive Classroom Management’.15 minute forum

The Context

Although as a school I don’t think we would recognise ourselves as being part of the bigger picture presented in the media of ever-declining standards in student behaviour (and I certainly don’t think our students experience anywhere close to the supposed ‘average’ of 38 lost days of learning each year due to low level disruption (as reported last summer in this article)), that doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of students who, on their day (and possibly most days!), can present challenges.

At the other end of the spectrum, I would even dare to suggest that a great many of our students are so compliant, that it means we as teachers can get away without deploying (and thereby refining) our full armoury of strategies that force us as teachers to think carefully about what we say (or don’t say), how we say it, where we are in the room, etc…

And so this was a session which had a little something for everyone, be they individuals who recognise that there are classes who aren’t quite where we want them, or staff who feel proficient based on the fact that they ‘don’t get any hassle’ but who want to take the opportunity to reflect on the language they use and the steps they follow (and then consider how these factors contribute not just to behaviour, but to the general ‘climate’ of the classroom).

The Forum

Gabby led us through her top tips – Positivity, Prevention, Deal with the Low Level, Consequences, and Lesson Planning – before we then had chance to unpack some of them further in groups. Gabby’s resource slides can be seen in full further down (and are well worth a look!), but here are some of the highlights in a more ‘stream of consciousness’ format…

  • Use the non-verbal cues. Eye contact and long pauses – don’t fill the silences! Own the classroom and consider your position in it. Just changing where you are standing can modify the behaviour of individuals (and if it doesn’t, you are well placed to quietly redirect them)…
  • State what you want, don’t just label the behaviours you can see that you don’t want. This means phrasing things wherever possible (is it ever impossible?) in the positive: rather than “stop talking”, try “I’m expecting you to be listening, thanks” (using “thanks” rather than “please” changes what you are seeing from being a plea to an expectation of compliance)…
  • Public praise – catch them being good. Use this to highlight what you are looking for – identifying these role models publicly allows you to reinforce what you are expecting students to do without simply restating the original instructions…
  • Give students choice. Here we are aiming to be assertive without bullying. “Richard, you can work sensibly with Adam as I’ve asked, or you can work at the back on your own”, or “Michael, you can come back into the classroom and complete the task in the way I’ve asked, or you can choose to go and work on the safety net. Going to the safety net obviously means it will need to be followed up with a further sanction, but it is your choice to make”…
  • Avoid humiliation and confrontation. There may be a place for carefully-deployed sarcasm, but rarely is that place classroom/ behaviour management!
  • Avoid escalation and confrontation by acting ‘casually’ – “Steven, can I borrow you for a minute for a quick word” is less likely to cause a scene than launching into Steven in front of his peers…
  • Avoid unnecessary dialogue. This is partly about non-verbal cues, partly about diverting attention away from someone who may be looking for it, and partly about avoiding escalation: remember who is the adult and who is responsible for modelling the behaviours! We don’t always have to have the last word (but we do have to reinforce what we want and round off with a statement of expectation (i.e. “thanks” rather than “please”) – “but Sir, I wasn’t talking I was just borrowing his ruler” might be better handled, despite the fact that the student was clearly talking, with “ok, well now you’ve got the ruler you can carry on with the task without discussing it”…
  • Separate the person and the behaviour. De-personalise it, then emphasise that the behaviour is something the student is ‘choosing’…
  • Make decisions and follow them through! Never threaten something that you won’t/can’t follow through on…
  • Follow department/ school procedures. We each have our own approaches before we get to the formal heirarchy. It matters less what your own steps are before you get to the ‘formal procedures’ (i.e. how many verbal warnings you give, whether you use ‘good learning/ poor learning’ on the board etc) as long as you use the same ones all the time (it is shared) and you apply it in the same way each time (it is consistent). Linked to the earlier idea of ‘choice’, it is invariably a good thing to let students know what the next step will be (be explicit about expectations and where this is heading if expectations aren’t met)…
  • Routines, routines, routines. At the start of the lesson, at transitions between tasks, at the end of the lessons. Mek them explicit, reinforce them continually and ensure students understand the conditions under which tasks are being completed. One suggestion is to start the task, watch for a few minutes and observe, freeze the class, feedback on what is being done well and where (by way of clarifying and exemplifying expectations), then set them off again…
  • Use the seating pan (and vary it, if you there is a need to prevent students feeling that they, rather than you, ‘own’ a particular space)…

What next?

For those of you interested in some additional reading/ ideas/ support, here are my three top recommendations:

 

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Author: L&T Magpie

Assistant Headteacher (L&T)

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