Let’s assume that children in a school know by the age of 5 that they shouldn’t run through the corridors, push their way into a classroom or talk as they come into assembly. So what is the best way to respond when you see unwanted behaviour like this from children across school?
Public humiliation (Stand up you two – we don’t talk in assembly!); futile rhetorical questioning (Why are you running through the foyer?) and disproportionate sanctions (You’ll come back at lunchtime and practise walking into class!) are all tools I’ve seen reached for in primary schools. Staff are right to intervene, for to ignore is to condone and it takes every member of the team to achieve consistency and high expectations. But there are better ways and I learned this really simple and effective technique from one of our lesson study triads this year as they fed back with recommendations to our whole school behaviour policy (I wrote separately about this process around improving Teacher CPD and Behaviour here).
Do it Again!
This technique (No. 39 in Doug Lemov’s excellent ‘Teach Like a Champion‘) is dead simple and does what it says on the tin. You simply ask children to repeat something until they do it properly. It could be that they’ve called out an answer without raising their hand, made a half-hearted attempt to complete a task or to a whole class who didn’t get it quite right when walking through a corridor. No lectures, sanctions, raised voice or blood pressure; just repeating it until it’s right. You can even praise or thank the children when they do it right to further cement the habit.
A resource we’ve used this year in school is Geoff Petty’s really useful chapter on ‘Evidence Based Classroom Management’ which uses Marzona’s meta study of behaviour (2003) to frame behaviour management strategies and approaches. One interesting element of this study is that it’s not the carrot and stick approaches that are found to have the most impact on classroom behaviour but a teacher’s ‘Mental Set’ which is described as ‘strategies to develop your awareness of what is going on in your classroom and why. A conscious control over your thoughts and feelings when you respond to a disruption‘. Within this mental set, strategies known as ‘withitness‘ have the largest effect size in the study (1.4) with an average 42% decrease in classroom disruption. ‘Withitness‘ is defined as an ‘awareness of what is going on in every part of your classroom, and a quick response to disruption’.
For me ‘Do it Again’ is a great ‘withitness’ strategy as you can intervene quickly, retain emotional objectivity and build the right classroom habits and expectations.
So next time you see someone a little hasty in a corridor, heavy handed with the resources or talking on their way into class, why not avoid the lectures and sanctions, go easy on the blood pressure and simply ask them to ‘do it again’.
Evidenced Based Teaching, Geoff Petty (2006) Nelson Thornes
Classroom Management that Works, Marzano, R. et al (2003) ASCD
Teach Like a Chamption, Doug Lemov & Norman Atkins