I am very fortunate to work in a school which, relatively speaking, has low levels of behavioural problems; disruption in class is more typically due to one or two individuals who are excitable and/or unable to be quiet when asked.
We set very high expectations for our learners and likewise have firm policies for both positive and negative behaviour. This consistency is one of the reasons why behaviour is more manageable.
I have classes that represent nearly every “stream” the school has and, as such, I have learnt to facilitate lessons for a range of students. For example, with my lower set year 9, the learning and application feels more of a struggle, compared to the top set year 9, where the students are keen to think, discuss and apply. This is stretching my ability to differentiate through motivation and engagement, and developing my learning strategies. The following are among the sanctions and strategies which I have been using to encourage engagement.
Learning through choice: my Mother Earth lesson – mentioned previously and linking closely to Bloom’s Taxonomy – gives pupils the opportunity to choose their learning and apply it, allowing for stretch and challenge. Similarly our “Sociology Express take-away menu” is full of activities that consolidate and apply the students’ learning further and this has proved to be most novel and exciting for many pupils.
Other methods I have developed include having great starters that get pupils in, sat and reading or thinking in order to engage (as well as stop low-level disruption). These include card sorts, anagrams, spot the difference, and complete the questionnaire activities, which have all worked well to link in with the lesson’s learning, as well as helping students to recall previous learning.
I have an approach in every key stage 3 lesson and often use it in key stage 4 too: planners out, open to your “stamps page”. As part of our positive sanctions strategy, we award stamps for great work, behaviour, home learning and attitude. Requesting the pages to be ready is a superb way of saying to the pupils: “I want to reward you” and “I expect to be able to.”
As the teacher, you can reward any of the above aspects and there is an equal opportunity for the timid to receive praise as well as the cheeky or academic.
Elsewhere, one simple strategy is saying “thank you”, regardless of the request you have made. This works well as I feel it is important to demonstrate respect for all pupils regardless of their good or bad choices. If I am told or asked to do something it would be my expectation to hear “thank you”. I hope this also allows me to separate a pupil’s behaviour from their character, and to maintain rapport even when attitude is lacking.
When it comes to negative sanctions, I ensure that I follow our rigid school policy. Integral to this is my communication to others, not least with the pupils themselves. Whether good or bad “news”, I would not share something with a year office or ring a parent without the pupil being aware of this. I believe that this has helped me to maintain rapport and respect with my pupils so far this year.
Also vital is consistency when sticking to the sanctions, whether positive or negative. Whether rewarding a merit, giving a stamp, or setting a detention, I stick to it. This consistency promotes trust within the pupil-teacher relationship, something that I work hard to retain.
I wrote in September about how I was determined to expect the appropriate behaviours from all pupils. I would now develop this further to suggest that reminding and reinforcing the expected school behaviours is a valuable tool too, as well as giving the pupils a mutual respect to allow them the opportunity to present the right behaviours and attitudes to learning.
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.