This week, we heard from a supply teacher who has been finding classroom management quite tricky since the return to school. Read on for advice on how to improve behaviour after lockdown.
“Dear classroom clinic, I am enjoying the flexibility of supply work now schools have reopened. However, behaviour management at the beginning of my supply lessons is becoming a real issue at the moment. Everyone keeps saying that covid is the cause of this and that it will settle down soon, but I want to see improvements now! Any advice?”
This is a big issue at the moment, especially for supply teachers. It is natural to be concerned because if any lesson does not get off to a smooth start, it can be very difficult to make learning possible. Therefore, you have already made an important first step in identifying that there is an issue.
As difficult as it sounds though, take comfort from the fact that you are not alone here. Supply teachers up and down the country are facing challenges with behaviour. Students will be on the lookout for ‘weaknesses’ with new teachers and for ways that they can entertain themselves and each other after a difficult year; It is likely that the return to a rigorous school routine is still challenging for students to adjust to. Having said that, deep down the vast majority of students will want to have some normality resume. They are craving the comfort of a smooth-running classroom.
If all behaviour is a form of communication, disruption at the start of lessons is really students saying to you, “Go on then, show us a consistent and strong start to a lesson. Show us you’re a real, proper teacher, who’s in control of the room.”
Presence in the corridor – Greeting students at the door is an expectation in Secondary Schools, but even at Primary this serves as an important first step in behaviour management. It both allows the students to enter the classrooms on your terms and also lets you greet the students as they arrive. Give the students a ‘Do Now’ activity and keep reminding them what they should be doing as you meet others at the door. There may be extra ‘covid related’ steps that students will need reminding on, so your ‘do now’ should take up as little explanation time as possible:
Do Now activity – The work you have been set may contain a ‘Do Now’ activity, but if not then using mini-whiteboards (if available) or post-it notes is a good way to get students to do a quick settling activity. Examples would be:
- Write down two things you learnt in the last lesson.
- Make a spider diagram of everything you know about X.
- Write down three keywords from this topic.
- Draw a diagram of X.
- What do you think X means?
State your rules for the classroom to the whole group. Keep these simple and short so that you can refer to the ‘rules’ later if it becomes necessary to address behavioural problems (for example, 1. Always try your best 2. We must be respectful to each other 3. Listen to each other).
Usually, schools take a register using SIMs at the beginning of each lesson. Ensure this is done promptly as children may be reported as absent if the register is not completed within a certain time limit. More students are absent in the current climate and so this is being extra closely followed by schools. While students are busy with a clear, simple ‘Do Now’ activity is the perfect time to conduct the register.
Learning objective(s) –
Make sure students know what they are learning by sharing the objective(s) with them at the beginning of the lesson. They will be used to this as part of their routine, and may also write this statement down at the beginning or end of the lesson. Check students’ books to make sure you are following the usual procedure. Even if, for some reason, there isn’t an objective included in the planning left for you, it’s always important to make up a suitable one to help drive the focus of the lesson.
Emergency work –
Occasionally schools will have issues getting the cover work to you for the beginning of the lesson, so make sure you have a few generic starter activities with you in case you need an activity to fill their time. This could be as simple as putting a number on the board and challenging the students to come up with as many different ways of getting that number as an answer as they can.
Students should have the correct equipment for each lesson, so make sure they have everything they need at the beginning of the lesson to avoid delays later on. This would include face masks or other covid related requirements. The environment and resources in a classroom have a huge impact on behaviour management, especially during supply.
Hopefully, these tips will help moving forward. The Easter break is the perfect opportunity to take stock. This is unlikely to be groundbreakingly new advice to you, however, it is always useful to pause, reflect and evaluate approaches. Having a strong initial presence and an activity for the students to immediately engage will help assert your expectations that they will work in your lesson (even if inside you’re panicking and the cover hasn’t arrived yet!). It also gives you a breather to take the register and sort out anything else that might have gone wrong.
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