Behaviour management is one of the hardest challenges for any teacher or trainer to master and unfortunately many practitioners decide to leave the teaching profession early. The difficult reality is behaviour management has no quick-fix, your classroom experiences will shape your confidence as a teacher and improve your decision making when behaviour issues occur. My advice for any new teacher or trainer is to read up on articles surrounding maintaining classroom discipline, this will give you a solid grounding before you enter the classroom environment.
Below are 30 suggested behaviour management guidelines to support your development and quest for a cohesive classroom environment.
1. Setting Ground Rules
For any teacher or trainer beginning a new course, you should aim to set clear learner ground rules for everyone to follow. These ground rules set clear barriers and expectations for all learners to adhere to and acknowledge where boundaries should be kept.
Ground rules are the non-negotiable rules set by a teacher to a set of learners, these could include: health and safety, wearing PPE, punctuality, equality and diversity and homework/course work deadlines. The ground rules are to be set by you the teacher, do not engage in any questions from learners regarding changing these rules.
• Reiterate the ground rules set by you.
• Read the staff handbook.
• Create a hands up rule
• Set up a clear expectation of the tidiness of the environment.
2. Greet learners at the door
A welcoming teacher will set the tone for the lesson. By greeting your learners by the door, you will make them feel welcome and this shows an active interest in each person. As a teacher, try to adopt a positive and open body language stance regardless of day/time, keep the same positive approach to promote consistency.
• Keep eye contact with each learner.
• Smile, say good morning.
• Address them by name.
• Ask them how their day is going.
3. Have high standards
An outstanding teacher will have high expectations and standards of their learners to achieve their goals and to meet the course objectives. By pushing learners to achieve beyond their perceived capabilities, you will encourage each individual to stay task-focused and avoid becoming distracted by other learners. If learning is too easy, learners may become disengaged with your teaching style and possibly become reluctant to partake fully within the activities you deliver.
• Set challenging tasks- some learners may not succeed within an activity- this is fine.
• Use peer feedback to help the flow of the lesson.
• Set time-focused activities.
4. Starter Activity
Having a starter activity present on the classroom desks will help all learners to settle and focus once they come into the classroom. Learners will be curious about the activity which is presented to them and will soon be engaged within the activity rather than talking to their classmates.
There are many starter activity techniques:
- Articulate (Paired activity).
- Discussion or debates.
- Student led starter activities.
- Mobile phone quiz (Socrative, Kahoot,Menti).
- Recap test.
- Crossword/multiple choice tests.
5. Classroom Contract
A classroom contract is an ‘agreed’ set of rules created by the learners that will help to create a cohesive working environment. Many learners may be resentful at a teacher or an ‘authority figure’ telling them what to do. However, if learners feel part of the decision making process; there will be a decreased chance of learners breaking rules within the classroom setting.
• Using a flip chart paper, ask learners to write a list of rules.
• Ask all learners to sign the contract.
• Laminate the classroom contract and put this on the classroom wall for all to see.
• Ask learners to create a ‘teacher contract’ where the teacher must follow an agreed set of
6. Delegate classroom activities
A method for teachers to encourage a cohesive classroom is to delegate responsibilities when setting up the lesson. For example, when starting a lesson, you can ask a learner to hand out the text books to the class, another could read a paragraph or even write on the board. By giving these small activities, these will help learners to feel more involved within the ‘flow’ of the lesson and can take pride in their responsibilities and less time to become engaged within off-task activities.
• Adopt a ‘team approach’.
• Rotate learner roles.
• Encourage a learner to become a classroom rep.
7. Enthusiasm for your subject
Enthusiasm is contagious! If you can teach your subject specialism with passion, then this will reduce the amount of classroom issues you will experience. An enthusiastic teacher will encourage learners to relax and be more open to learner activities. Learners will take greater risks and will be more engaged within the flow of the lesson. A teacher who is fun and enthusiastic will be more approachable both inside and outside of the classroom.
• Introduce competitive quizzes and games to add value to your lesson.
• Be consistent- try to be enthusiastic for every lesson.
8.Avoid conflict or confrontation
For any teacher, aim to avoid any conflict with a learner within the classroom setting in front of their peers. Any type of public confrontation with a learner could lead to a potential ‘pack’ mentality where the group could back up the learner and the situation could escalate. Aim to defuse the situation by asking the learner to step outside of the classroom for a chat. Give the learner time to reflect on the conflict first and then approach them outside to discuss the issue.
• Keep calm.
• Ask for a chat outside of the classroom.
• Avoid discussion in front of the class.
9. Seating Plan
A teacher can dramatically improve the classroom dynamics by arranging a seating plan. A seating plan puts you, the teacher, in control of the environment and can help you to monitor the class dynamics. As a teacher, you can arrange to have the names ready on the board before learners come into the room-this will take the choice out of sitting in certain seats.
- Write the names of the learners on the board.
- Arrange for non-friendship pairs to work together
- Mix up the learner names over time.
- Do not engage with any complaints about the seating arrangements.
10. Peer Marking/Feedback
Peer marking/feedback is a method used by teachers to help to keep learners focused and engaged within the lesson. This method is an excellent way for learners to improve their communication and functional skills as they will be giving supportive feedback on their written work or performance. Peer marking/feedback is an excellent activity to help to reduce poor classroom behaviour as learners are learning how to provide support feedback to their peers.
• Show the learners the criteria.
• Give learners a time-frame to review the work.
11. Mobile Phones
Mobile phones can be the Achilles heel for any teacher. Learners can often be distracted by phones during a lesson, which can disrupt the flow. Alternatively, mobile phones can be a very useful learning tool as quizzes can be completed on learners’ phones. A teacher needs to be clear from the beginning of the lesson whether or not mobile phones are to be utilised within the lesson.
• Ask learners to send their final text or email before the lesson begins.
• Ask learners to turn their phones off completely and put them in their bags- out of the hands
of the learner.
12. Keep Learning Active
Active teaching is an assured way to keep learners engaged within your lesson and ultimately behave. Learners may have a blend of different learning styles: visual, aural, read/write & kinaesthetic - otherwise known as a multi-modal approach. Aim to have a blend of different teaching & learning approaches to keep activities varied and learners engaged.
• Keep group sizes small- aim for 3 learners per group.
• Have a designated time limit for each activity.
• Delegate a role for each learner.
Subject knowledge and confidence go hand in hand, if a teacher is confident with their subject knowledge this will promote trust and reassurance in the learners they are teaching. Try to stay up to date with developments within your teaching field and become an advocate for your subject specialism to provide the latest advice and support for your learners.
• Practice your teaching methods.
• Read up on your subject specialism.
• Observe fellow teachers & colleagues.
14. Non-Verbal Communication
For any teacher or trainer, it is imperative to protect your voice to support your longevity as an educator; an approach to utilise within your teaching is non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is a powerful tool for any teacher and can assist the flow of the lesson. Keeping eye contact with learners is enough to get their attention if they were off-task and can return them to their original task/work.
• Keeping eye contact or raising eyebrows with learners who are off-task will help to get their
• Facial expressions such as raised eyebrows can stop a learner from being distracted.
15. The ‘Drive By’
The ‘drive-by’ is a technique where a teacher will walk past a learner who is perhaps talking or is off-task on a mobile phone or chatting to other learners. The teacher will walk past the learner and tap their desk, without saying a word, in order to regain the learner’s focus. The ‘drive-by’ is a gentle reminder for the learner to refocus and does not distract other learners by raising your voice.
• Remind learners to keep on track with their lesson.
16. Voice Projection
A key method for any teacher to keep a classroom of learners engaged is to vary the pitch and tone of your voice. A monotonous teacher might lead to learners misbehaving or becoming disengaged within the lesson and distracting others.
• Ask learners both nominated and open questions to keep a two-way communication
• Use the questioning approach: Pose, pause, pick.
17. Stretch & Challenge Activities
A method for getting learners to behave is to actively encourage stretch and challenge activities. A stretch and challenge activity is where learners complete an additional or more difficult task to support their learning and development. Extension activities such as: further reading, supporting a fellow learner complete the task or watching a video can further a learner’s development and keep them engaged within the lesson. Stretch and challenge activities can improve the learner’s functional skills/minimum core skills.
• A stretch and challenge logo will identify where a learner can challenge themselves further.
• Promote the ‘challenge’ of the activity.
18. Be consistent
A consistent teacher will demonstrate fairness, learner boundaries and trust within the classroom. An inconsistent teacher will only create a division between the class which could lead to a fall out or complaints. As a teacher, try to demonstrate a consistently open approach and provide learners with the same support and guidance to all.
• Have the ground rules present on the classroom wall to reinforce the learners’ rules.
• Do not be swayed by learner excuses.
19. Avoid shouting or yelling
An excellent teacher is one who stays in control of their emotions and does not rise to any disruptive behaviour. Shouting or yelling at learners will only make you appear weak and out of control, this can diminish respect for you as a teacher. When a lesson is not going to plan, try to remain in control and not to get flustered. Bad lessons do occur upon occasions and the main takeaway is to learn from the experiences and address the issues with learners in the next lesson to ensure that the behaviours are not repeated again.
• Talk to your colleagues about your experience.
• Write up your experiences from the lesson.
20. Praise Learners
Praise and encouragement from a teacher is contagious and can help create a supportive classroom atmosphere. Praise does not need to be classroom situated only, congratulate learners on their personal goals and achievements such as a learner completing a 10k charity run. Providing praise demonstrates you are a compassionate and motivating teacher who wants success for their learners.
- Aim to provide praise to all learners with praise over time.
- Try not to ‘over-praise’ the same learner.
21. Ignore the small talk
Learners might ‘moan’ or complain when you first introduce a task. When this occurs, do not engage within the learner complaints or be drawn into changing the activity. Use humour to defuse thesituation and get learners back on track with the task at hand. Most learners can be reluctant to start an activity, however, with a little encouragement they will ultimately begin the activity as normal.
• Stay calm, relaxed and smile.
• Do not deviate from the lesson aim & objectives.
• Emphasise a ‘we’ approach to the activity.
22. Mix up activities & resources
As a teacher, by using a scheme of work, you can understand the resources and activities you have used within each lesson. Using the same resources and methods can lead to learners becoming bored and lessons become predictable-leading to off-task behaviour. By using new and dynamic resources this can be exciting for learners who will become more invested within your lessons.
• If a lesson activity is not working, change it up.
• Use videos, paired work and group presentations as active teaching methods.
23. Time of the day/activities
The time of the day can influence the activities you deliver as a teacher or trainer; this can have a significant effect on learner attention spans/behaviour. Be mindful of the activities you deliver, for example a lecture style lesson may not work well on a Friday afternoon. As a teacher, you can make decisions within the classroom on how the activity or approach is being received by the learners, aim to be brave and make changes if you feel a lesson is not being well received by the class.
• If a lesson activity is not working, change it up.
• Use videos as an active teaching method.
24. Learner Lateness
Learner lateness can lead to a serious disruption to the flow of the lesson. When a learner is late, ask the learner to knock on the door and to wait outside of the lesson. When there is a break within the lesson, calmly ask why they are late. Having a clear system for lateness and a consequence will help learners to break the issue.
• Ask a fellow classmate to explain to the late learner the content they have missed.
• Any missed work must be completed for homework.
• Document the lateness as evidence.
25. Follow up
It is crucial for any teacher or trainer to follow up with any issues of behaviour, attendance and lateness. Failure to document any type of issue will only allow learners to repeat the unwanted behaviour. It is imperative as a teacher to keep paperwork of lateness/behaviour issues in case of a dispute/complaint occurs. Do not threaten learners with something without following through.
- Keep a record of:
- Learner lateness
- Learners not completing homework
- Disruptive behaviour
26. Think Forward Activity
To assist the flow of the next lesson, provide learners with a ‘think forward’ activity. This is essentially a ‘starter’ activity but delivered by the learner. Think forward activities could be anything from ‘show and tell’ or a learner introducing a topic to group members.
- Learners can rotate presenting the ‘think forward activity.’
- The ‘think forward’ activity can be used as homework.
27. Packing away equipment
Allow yourself and the class time to pack away all equipment before the end of the lesson. Give a 5- 10-minute window for all equipment to be returned, this will enable you to leave the environment mwithin a clear and well-presented area. A well maintained classroom will encourage learners to take pride in their environment and this can promote self-discipline and teamwork.
• Count in all equipment.
• Recap the lesson aim & objectives.
• Debrief the learners on the learning content.
28. Learner Feedback
Gaining feedback from learners is a way to improve the classroom atmosphere and team ethos. By requesting regular feedback from learners, you are giving the learners a ‘voice’ to raise their thoughts and feelings regarding your lessons. Encouraging feedback can assist your development as a teacher and show your human side as this demonstrates that you are keen to listen to the group.
• Learner feedback can be informal such as post-stick notes or paper-based learner feedback
• No learner names on the feedback form may generate more honest feedback.
29. Challenge learners’ thoughts
A teacher who challenges learners’ thoughts and assumptions is an excellent practitioner. If a learner has a negative outlook or view on something, you as the teacher can ask them to elaborate further and expand why they think within a negative way. Through self-reflection, a learner can change their outlook on the world to a more positive mind-set.
• Ask a learner to step outside of the classroom if they have said something unacceptable.
• Give them time to reflect and speak to them when time allows.
Tangible rewards can be a great motivator for any learner and reduce behaviour issues. Rewards such as certificates or stationery can help to keep learners on track with their studies. Try to avoid rewards which have no value to the lesson such as sweets/chocolate and remember to not buy anything from your own salary.
• Keep resources relevant to your subject specialism.
• Do not buy rewards from your own salary.