It’s far more effective to encourage good behaviour rather than deal with misbehaviour as it arises

The 10 strategies below are designed to help you encourage your children to behave well, so that you can hopefully avoid having to deal with misbehaviour.

Wait for silence

This is the single most effective thing that a teacher can do to get their classes to behave and learn properly. Whatever it take never ever address a class until they are sitting in silence looking at you and ready to listen to what you say. Depending on the children you teach, to achieve silence form your class you might try

  • Simply waiting for them
  • Giving a ‘silence command’ such as ‘I want everyone looking at me and listening, please’
  • Using sanctions for chatty individuals or whole classes
  • Giving them a shock eg pretending to bang your head on the desk, storming out of the room theatrically etc

Expect the best

Children will generally live up to or down to what you expect of them. Always expect your students to work and behave impeccably and express surprise (rather than anger) if they don’t.

Tell them what you want

Our students need to know where they stand so tell them exactly what it is you want. One good way of doing this is to use ‘I expect’ statements right from the word go. For example, let them know that ‘I expect you to listen in silence when I am talking’ and ‘I expect you to stay in your seats unless you have permission to get up’.

Give them the choice

Pass he responsibility for behaving appropriately over to your students - it is after all their decision to make. Essentially the children have a choice between doing as you ask and being rewarded or refusing to comply and accepting the consequences of this.

Use the deadly stare

Non-verbal messages are a very powerful tool in getting good behaviour. Learn to perfect the deadly stare so that a single look will silence an individual or a class.

Control your voice

Our voices give away our inner state of mind and can also influence the way that our students behave. Learn to keep your voice calm and relaxed and this will help you control your class.

Praise one encourage all

A quick word of praise to a student who is doing what you want, rather than a snap of annoyance at those messing around will encourage the rest of the class to behave in an appropriate way.

Set the boundaries

When you first meet your class or classes let them know where your boundaries are - what you will and will not accept. A good way to visualise boundaries is to think of them as a box within which your students must stay. Make it clear to the children which behaviours are inside and outside the box and be consistent in your adherence to these standards.

Set them targets

We all like to have something to aim for. Set targets for how your children should behave as well as how they should work . For example a quick target of ‘I want everyone to work silently for ten minutes starting from now' can prove very effective.

Learn to laugh

Use humour in the classroom will show your students that you are human and consequently encourage them to respect you. Being able to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake offers a good counterbalance to the moment when you must be strict and so helps lighten the classroom atmosphere. 

This article is an excerpt from Sue Cowley's Guerilla Guide to Teaching (2nd edition) published by Continuum. You'll also find the latest on Sue's books on the Continuum blog


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Thanks for the information. It's really a good piece of writing and I'll share it with my colleagues especially those under the metoring program in my school.
From: ceciho 16/10/2010
Hmmmm....... I went to do supply and 1 young lady was constantly chatting whilst I was trying to give instructions so eventually, after repeatedly requesting her to be quiet, I said 'X, can you please go and stand outside as you seem to have a bad case of VD' to which she said, 'What is VD?', another pupil replied 'Verbal Diahorea' - and I insisted that she went so she did. After a little while, she put her head through the door and said, 'Miss, can I come in please, I have now got VC?' So I said 'What is that then?' and she replied 'Verbal Constipation!' - I thought it was hillarious and she came in and settled down and got very friendly as well.......and most importantly, got on with the work. One of my favorite classroom banters I have experienced.
From: spatel34 24/3/2011
To deal with behavior problem,staring at the students sometimes not good. It is ok,with the lower classes. But,in senior classes the student will immediately challenge the teacher. So I feel, we have to change our strategy according to grade level. Thanks. Swapan52(USA).
From: swapan52 19/7/2012
"Giving them a shock eg pretending to bang your head on the desk, storming out of the room theatrically etc" excuse me?? this is the most terrible advice i've ever heard.
From: rabba 14/11/2012

Yes, I admit I used this as my basis for encouraging my own behaviour. Not only that, I also share these tips to my students. How? I shared this link to them for them to visit tand read. Thanks a lot for the share. -sutton realty white rock

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