Raise your hand if you have a student who always tattletales on their peers? Keep it up if your aggressive student disrupts your class. What about those smart students that are boisterous due to boredom? If your hand was raised for any of the above statements, you and other teachers alike are battling with classroom behaviour issues. It is important to understand the nature of the students behaviours before coming up with an action plan to rectify individual and group behaviour and expectations. Whether you teach a group of young students or a class of teenagers, we will touch on three points that will ensure your vocal chords aren’t strenuously used and that you keep vigilant and characteristically low-profiled. In the end, teachers need to have a sense of consistency, care and community in the classroom to achieve a perfect balance of behaviour. Let’s focus on the three points:
Be a good example!
If you have heard the saying “monkey see, monkey do”, you understand that students are creatures of imitation. If a teacher constantly talks over the class, that sets a precedence that it is ok to do the same. When the teacher yells, it becomes a fighting match with the class, keeping the noise level up. One great technique is for the teacher to keep a quiet voice so that the students will need to be quiet in order to hear instructions and respect others talking. Avoid a power struggle between you and the classroom; instead of engaging in an authoritarian climate where all the decisions lie on the teacher, empower students by giving them small choices that make them feel good. If you overreact over classroom behaviour, this is where tattletale students shine by blowing minor occurrences into bigger deals. Remain calm, relaxed and humorous while explaining the difference between controlling a peaceful class and focusing on all negative aspects.
There’s nothing worse than a chaotic group of students who can’t distinguish between what’s good and bad behaviour in the classroom. At the beginning of each class, go over the classroom rules. This sets a priority that students are expected to follow. In a warm, caring and friendly way, enforce rules equally to all students (whether they are girls, boys, tall, short, smart or gifted. Do not give preferential treatment). There exist many verbal and physical cues that can help a classroom stay on its best behaviour, especially younger students. Make it a game for them by using baseball signals; for example a tap on the nose means every student stands up, while a slap on the leg means students are to hop on one foot and sit down. This immediately controls a boisterous classroom through signals.
Positive narration such as “Wow look at Coco sitting nicely”, “1-2-3 all eyes on me” or “If you can hear my voice, touch your ears” also place the students’ focus to one task. A reward system can be placed with many different variables from collecting tangibles such as stickers to intangibles such as standing in front of the line when exiting class. For those older students, a daily count of ‘good behaviour’ can be displayed at the beginning of each class to show progress. The first student to receive forty ‘good behaviour’ points will be allowed to perform a fun activity or receive a special prize (to be determined by the teacher and the class). Such points can also be shared with parents by providing a count in the students’ homework or evaluation books.
Establish a contract!
This can be achieved solely between the student and the teacher: That one student that’s ratting everyone out? Focus the class’ attention using low-profile intervention with a dialogue such as “Let’s measure John’s height for comparison.” Little Johnny will have pairs of eyes on him, thus halting any further talking. In a classroom environment, promote a fun and engaging lesson by initially establishing a verbal contract with the class. At the beginning of each lesson, go over the classroom rules with students establishing proper behaviour such as ‘sit nicely’, ‘listen to the teacher’, and ‘speak English’. In this case, students will not want to miss out on the fun and behaviour will be altered. If such contract is not met, the class may be reprimanded by an activity that although results in the same learning points, may not be as interactive. For example, a student-to-student interaction pattern game gone wrong can turn into an individual writing exercise.
Finally, a contract can be established between the teacher, progress advisor (or the like), student and parent(s), if necessary measures need to be taken. The teacher and progress advisor must be in direct contact to gauge the progress of the student. They must then meet with parents and discuss an action plan that the student must follow. For example, a young student needs to perform well for five classes in a row (recorded via a student evaluation diary, a progress spreadsheet or other bookkeeping resources) in order to receive a reward from their parents.
Teachers are aids in the classroom, and the focus should always be on the students’ production. Teachers must be sympathetic, spontaneous, encouraging, inspiring and motivating, just to name a few, in order to hold a harmonious classroom. By being a good example, setting expectations and establishing a contract, there exists a clear path to success between the teacher and the students. Say goodbye to that scratchy throat and stressful nights, you just discovered some of the secrets to a happy class!