How to pre-empt poor behaviour and avoid unnecessary confrontations in your classroom

Last week I came across a brilliant video by Adam Boxer entitled ‘Setting Students up to Succeed’.  In the video, Adam shares some approaches he uses in his classroom to prevent problems arising.  The approaches are taken from Doug Lemov’s superb book ‘Teach Like a Champion 2.0’.  You can watch the video below – and I strongly recommend that you do:

In just 20 minutes or so, Adam does a superb job of summarizing these incredibly useful approaches.  Irrespective of your teaching experience, I’m pretty convinced that they will make a significant difference to your practice.  With this in mind, I thought I would share them here.

  • Narrate the positive – teachers often use a countdown, when they want their students’ attention e.g. ‘I want you all silent in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1’.  The countdown should be punctuated by you emphasising students doing the righ thing e.g. ‘…5, 4, I can see John putting his pen down, 3, I can see Sarah looking at me now, 2, 1’.  By doing this, you are normalising compliant behaviour.  Narrate the positive can be used in a variety of contexts e.g. whilst watching students as they start a new task.

  • Least invasive intervention – when you are doing the above, you might notice some students not complying.  Rather than drawing attention to this and calling it out in front of the whole class e.g. ‘Nick….stop talking now!’, take the least invasive intervention.  This might be a nod of the head, in the direction of the non compliant student, or a raised eyebrow etc.  They get the message that you have acknowledged their non-compliance and want them to stop, without bringing it to the attention of the whole class.

  • Be seen looking – as you are waiting for students to settle, as you are narrating the positive, make it clear that you are looking around the room to monitor their behaviour.  Do this by making it obvious that you are looking around the room, by deliberately moving your head around.  Again, be stating the positive and negative behaviours that you observe.

  • Pastore’s Perch – once you have set students to work on a task, move to a position in your room where all students will be in your field of view.  This might not be at the front and centre of the room.  Often it will be the left or right corner of the room.  When you are there, stand there and scan the room, to check that all students are on task.  If they are not, again use the least invasive intervention to get them back on track.

  • Means of participation – often, students don’t carry out a task in the way we want them to e.g. in silence, for a simple reason – we assume they will do it this way, without telling them.  Pre-empt this by signalling and cueing how you want them to work beforehand. For example:

“By putting your hand up in the air, who can answer question 2?

“Working on your own and in silence, I want you to work through questions 1-10”

  • Front loading – this is where you put your means of participation at the front of the instruction, before the point at which a student might stop listening and thinking about something else.

  • Step away from the speaker – when a student starts to answer a question, step away from the student answering the question.  This is important because it signals to the rest of the class that they are still a part of the conversation.  If you move towards the student answering the question, it becomes a one to one conversation and you risk switching off the rest of the class.

  • Brighten Lines – when you are giving students instructions, make sure the instructions are very specific and clear.  Give the instructions once, then twice and ask students to repeat the instructions back to you.  Give a clear time limit for a task and ask if there is anyone who is still not clear about the task.  Then set the students off on the task.  As they do, assume Pastore’s perch, be seen looking and narrate the positive.

  • 3:30:30 rule – when students settle into an independent task, the teacher should go to Pastore’s Perch and just stand and watch the class for three minutes – being seen looking and using least invasive intervention as required.  Even if a student hand goes up straight away, tell the student you will be with them in a few minutes – don’t go to them before the end of the three minutes – they will probably unstick themselves!  Following the three minutes, start circulating the room.  Interact with individual students who need support for 30 secs and then stop and scan the room again for 30 seconds, before engaging with other students for 30 seconds again.  This intermittent scanning, with you ‘being seen looking’ stops students drifting off task, as they know you are still monitoring the whole class.

I hope I’ve done a good enough job of explaining the approaches that Adam shared in his video.  I think they are great.  You can read more from Adam on behaviour here.

Huge thanks to Adam and Doug.

Shaun Allison

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