Every fortnight, one of our NQTs will write a reflective blog post focusing on issues raised in our professional development sessions. This is the first of the new academic year, by English NQT Jen Chapman, on the challenges of establishing effective routines with new classes.
Behaviour management was never something that was too much of an issue on my PGCE. The situation you find yourself is so different from being an NQT – you meet a class midway through the term, where rules and expectations have already been established for you. The task on placement is simply to be consistent and stick to the same expectations as the usual class teacher. I didn’t realise how much of a task establishing my own expectations in the classroom actually was until NQT.
I was very worried about behaviour in my first couple of weeks, and it is something I still worry about to an extent now. Students talking over me, shouting out and being disruptive during lessons was common in my classes to begin with, but it’s steadily getting better.
After getting advice from other teachers, I have found it’s not necessarily the individual strategies I use, but the consistency with which I use them that has really made a difference. Here are three that I’m glad I’ve stuck to:
Count down and wait for quiet
Counting down from 5 to 1 and waiting for silence has been really effective at getting the attention of the class when I want to give instructions or get feedback. I have found that as time has passed, I will sometimes have the class’s attention before I reach ‘1’ – on reflection, this must mean that they have learnt what I expect when I start the countdown.
Using a random number selector for feedback
I have used this with some classes and am planning on using it with all my classes. This has been excellent at preventing shouting out when getting feedback. Now the students expect I will use the selector and won’t shout answers out.
The ‘SAS’ approach to low-level disruption
This came from a great INSET with Nicola Morgan from NSMTC – she describes it as “get in quietly, deal with it quickly, don’t look back” and after learning about this I gave it a go in my classes. When a student is off task or messing around, it’s been a great way of quickly dealing with behaviour issues without getting into an argument with a student.
The plan is to keep my expectations high for behaviour and carry on upholding them until they become the norm. I hope that continuing to use these strategies rather than being distracted by the ‘next good thing’ that comes along, will help improve behaviour in classes, but I’d welcome any other strategies or ideas that can help tackle disruption in lessons – post a comment below if you’ve got an idea to share!