Ask some people what classroom management is and they might imagine a teacher bearing down on a misbehaving child, screaming at full volume and red in the face. This is negative classroom management and something we should avoid as teachers.
By using positive classroom management techniques, the teacher is no longer the warden of the class. Instead of making our students learn by force, we are active members of a team that is working together to discover, explore, and improve.
What is positive behaviour management?
Positive behaviour management is using positive reinforcement techniques with students to encourage good behaviours and replace bad ones. We reward our students with attention and achievements when they behave well and do not draw attention when they misbehave.
Because a student wants to receive feedback from someone (anyone!), a telling off can be just as rewarding as praise. But if we choose to ignore these behaviours and reward achievement and success, trying to get a rise out of you becomes boring and they turn their attention to getting recognition for effort and ability.
Before class begins
The best time to start behaviour management is before you’ve even met your class. Creating an environment where good behaviour is expected and the norm is key to helping your class understand your rules.
When I was training, I received the frustrating advice that “you can’t see good behaviour management”. Looking back, my tutor was right. The best behaviour management is done the first time you meet a class by introducing rules early and encouraging an environment where they are followed.
Involving your students in the rule-making process
When you meet your class for the first time, ask them what makes a good classroom environment. Whether you're in early childhood or grade 12, they will have an idea of what is and what is not good behaviour. Let them build their standards as a class.
Involvement in the process means that they understand exactly what the teacher is expecting. This gives the students the responsibility to follow their own rules and display the positive behaviours that they think make a good classroom, instead of just what they are told.
How do I make sure they understand these classroom guidelines?
This can be done as a social contract. Create a charter of rules for the classroom that all students sign in their workbooks. These rules can come from a group mind mapping session. For younger children, asking them to agree out loud might be more appropriate.
If you need help making these rules clear, why not use theTeacher’s Pet Creatureto help introduce behaviour guidelines to your young classroom? He’s a cuddly classroom friend that watches your classroom and looks for positive behaviours.
Whenever you see challenging behaviours, you can refer to the class rules. They’re not just accountable to you, but to their peers who decided what made a safe classroom. This holds students to a higher standard instead of punishing them for bad choices.
Every time that an individual student achieves, you should be their cheerleader. This can be anything within the class, but we’ll focus on the way that we respond to questions, control volume, and reward excellent work and behaviour.
Responding to questions
It’s easy to overlook feedback when questioning your students, but this is the best time to manage your classroom positively. You can use questions to disrupt bad behaviour and build a short conversation with the answer.
When you receive an answer (whether it is right or wrong), take a few seconds to model good behaviour and social skills. If your students hear “thank you”s and “please”s every time you ask a question, you can be their role model.
If you want to push your class, you can ask another student to expand on the answer. Collaborative learning needs barely any planning!
Controlling the volume
How do we make our students know that we need quiet in a class? The louder we speak, the louder they shout. If we are loud, our students will model our behaviour, losing the classroom before we even start.
Set three levels of volume - “quiet”, “pairs”, and “group work” could be your three settings and you could have brightly coloured cards stuck to a wall to point at during class.
If you point to “quiet”, students work on their own. If you ask for “pairs”, they can talk to the person next to them in a quiet voice. When they see “group work”, they can talk at a normal volume and that the classroom can become quite loud.
This three-level set-up lets students know exactly what you are expecting from them and gives them clear visual cues to follow. It is also a calm and controlled technique, so your students will remain calm and controlled too.
If your class is successful with “quiet” and “pairs”, you can increase the amount of “group work” time they have. This shows them the benefits of following the rules and gives them a small reward.
Rewards in class
There are a million ways to give rewards in your classes, but finding the way that works for your students is key. Star charts? Golden time? Star of the day?
These techniques need long term planning and using a simple, visual star chart to signpost achievements gives your students something to aim for.
You can improve on this by creating a rewards jar and a collection of marbles at the front of the class. When you see positive behaviours, you add a marble to the jar. This can then be used for class rewards such as the amount of free time at the end of the day.
Keep your rewards visual and your students will be able to know exactly how much they have achieved.
Positive behaviour management is the difference between having a class that follows rules for fear of incurring your wrath and a class that is working towards a common goal, teacher and students.
Giving children the chances to succeed and hold themselves to account will see a classroom of children driven to do well. They will look for chances to impress and please you instead of impressing their mates by making fart noises when you read the register.
The Teacher’s Pet Creature is an excellent way to support your students to learn positive behaviours. Your Pet Creature can be your eyes and remind children about the importance of calmness, kindness, and friendliness.
A wide range of supporting resources like reward charts and positive behaviour posters can also support you in creating the best and safest learning environment possible.