If you have ever encountered a small human, you will know that they can be both a stress and a joy. Their behaviour does not follow the rules of the rest of the species. Most parents only have one child or a small handful at most. How do teachers keep them under control in schools?
Behaviour management is one of the key areas where a classroom succeeds or fails. The Department for Education found that ‘primary schools with good or outstanding behaviour judgements have higher average pupil outcomes in English and maths at Key Stage 2’.
However, strategies that work in secondary schools might not play well with children that haven’t developed as much independence and emotional maturity.
There are some essential behaviour management approaches that teachers must all tick off their checklist, no matter the age. Teachers must be a role model and treat all children fairly. Of course, kids may disagree and think they are being treated unfairly, but this is rarely the full truth.
Low level disruption is an enemy in the classroom and can escalate into more troubling behaviour. If it is effectively prevented, though, greater focus and progress can be achieved.
Primary school teachers can use tactics that fit the age group of their classes. Positive reward can have a powerful effect on behaviour, and has the added benefit of bringing good vibes to your professional life as you show off your pride for your pupils.
For example, Sullivan Primary School in London has agreed a number of rewards that are clearly outlined in their behaviour policy. They have fun names like rainbow, sun, cloud, marble jar and top banana. They also integrate this into shared moments in the classroom, such as Golden Time, Star Chart and Compliment of the Day.
Other positive schemes tackle the roots of bad behaviour rather than applying surface-level fixes to bad behaviour. Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) is a programme to help primary school kids improve their social and emotional intelligence. It addresses five social and emotional skills in learning, namely self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy and social skills.
These factors are important for learning outcomes, beyond factors like resources and ability; they can help kids develop resilience for life beyond just their years of learning. Initiatives such as circle time, buddy schemes and the PSHE and Citizenship curriculums are also really important.
Nonetheless, some strategies have to be used when children misbehave to get lessons back on track. Teachers have reported that clear and simple instructions that are non-negotiable eg ‘I want you to have completed the task in the next five minutes’, can be effective. Countdowns with clear instructions can get silence and attention. Getting students to share responsibilities such as clearing away and handing out resources teaches them good manners and organisation at a critical age.
Most primary school teachers adore their pupils and enjoy their jobs. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance the sheer volume of paperwork, regulations and demands on their time, so strategies to improve behaviour can be hugely important in the professional development of teachers.