After winning an award at the Nexus Education Awards, Dan Storey shares some more tips on behaviour management because you can never have enough!
My last blog (A Well-behaved class = A Happy You) was my top four behaviour management strategies to use in any school with any pupil. This blog will be part two because four strategies will never be enough!
A cringey phrase that I have heard people say in the past is a “toolbox of strategies”. I feel like a tool saying it, but it makes sense. However, I hardly ever use tools (I am thirty seven and used a drill for the first time only last week). I think a wash bag is more relevant for me! When I go away for the weekend, I need my deodorant, aftershave, toothbrush, shower gel, shampoo (lip balm and moisturising cream too ha). There is nothing worse than forgetting one of those, and if you want to look your best then you need all of them.
Anyways, it is the same in school. You need to have everything ready in your behaviour wash bag to support the children in your class. You need to be proactive and have various strategies ready in different situations e.g. a boy comes into school unsettled, not happy, saying he hates school and will not be completing his work today. Straight away you need to think quick and come up with a solution. Solutions can involve: giving the child time out, distracting them with an activity they enjoy, giving them therapeutic support with an adult they respond well to, speaking to parents, reminding the child of rewards and consequences, weighing up whether they will distract others, whether he should work outside of class until he is ready to come back in or get him to work with a peer he works well with. The list goes on and this is only for one child, in one situation. Every decision you make you need to weigh up the consequences for you, the child and the rest of the class.
Below I will focus on the best ways for teachers to get the most effective results when it comes to behaviour management in class.
I think it is imperative that teachers have the most relevant and up-to date training to support children with the array of disorders that children can have. I have children in my class with co-morbidic disorders e.g. some have ASD, ADHD and Specific learning needs or all three. When I started in my school over ten years ago, I knew hardly anything about children with Social, Emotional and Behavioural problems. Over this period, I learnt so much and this is due to many factors.
On the job training is the best. If you have little experience of working with children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health problems then gain some. If you are on supply then ask to work in SEMH schools, if you are an NQT then ask if you can have a day or more in an SEMH school to see how they manage behaviour. This will be a real eye-opener, but it will be a brilliant experience. Make sure you make enough notes and ask as many questions as possible.
In your school you need to work closely with your SENCO. They are the first port of call if you have any issues surrounding a child. You need to find out about disorders and interventions they know about. If you need help with a certain child with a disorder such as ADHD, then speak to the SENCO. It is a sign of strength if you ask for help. Straight away the SENCO will inform you of outside agencies such as Add-action, Barbados, Fusion and CAMHS that can support the child inside and outside of school.
Your school should have a structure in place that places staff on the relevant training courses. If you feel you need more support or training, then speak to your Headteacher. You do need to be looking yourself. Your local council and union have training courses on their websites. Try to find as many free ones as you can but if they cost money the school should have a budget for this. Universities have SEN Diploma and Masters courses which, not only helps you improve your knowledge of disorders, gives you an accreditation that looks amazing on your CV.
If you think your school as a whole needs training on things such as Attachment Disorder, then you will look great if you organise outside agencies to come into your school.
If you have the relevant training, then you have the knowledge and understanding of how a disorder effects a child. Due to this better understanding you will find it easier to spot the characteristics of that disorder. This then makes it easier to find more effective strategies to support their behaviour.
Who likes a compliment or praise?? I do. When I take the bins out, I want my fiancé to say well done. When I recently used my de-escalation skills to stop a boy throwing a chair through a window in class, I wanted the head to say good work, thanks for saving the school £300. Well, kids need the same. Why be a negative soul picking out all the bad things in the class? Be positive. What are your kids doing well? Even if Ethan has only completed five sentences. Has he worked hard? Well praise him for his effort/handwriting etc. If he knows you’re happy with him he will do more!
Evidence from a study taken by Nottingham University in 2019 stated that, “Children with ADHD need instant rewards and praise”. I totally agree with this statement. However, it is not just for children with ADHD, it is for all children. My daughter and son recently were not getting along. I made a reward chart and they were given a smiley face each time they were nice to each other. They are now nice to each other so much more. Soon enough they will realise that being kind to each other is the correct way to be behave and they will not expect rewards for this.
I am sure many schools already Class Dojo but I really feel it is a great ‘whole’ school approach to rewards. What is great is parents can see when their child has been good and what behaviours they have been showing e.g. kind to others, working hard or lovely handwriting. I like that you can tailor it to the behaviour needs of your class.
What is effective is that children also know that you can message their parents on Class Dojo with ease. With a child who can be challenging, I use the strategy of letting them know if they are good that day, I will inform their parents. This does have a high success rate, especially if you write the message with the child. This way they know you will back up what you say you are going to do not only with consequences but also rewards.
In my class we say the boy with the most Dojos each day gains a ‘Best Boy of the Day’ certificate. Whoever has most Dojos that week is ‘Best Boy of the Week’ and gain a prize e.g. stationary item or Pokémon card and a certificate. When a child reaches 100 Dojos, they gain a prize e.g. child-friendly toys from Wish.com such as bouncy balls, keyrings or stationary sets.
What is great is you can use this as a whole class reward system. If you have 25 kids in class, when they reach 2500 Dojos you can take them on a trip (museum, park, woods, beach) or you can buy popcorn and drinks and have a movie day. It is best to think about what they like and use this as a carrot. You could even vote on a reward they could have as a class when they reach that target.
“Is it too late now to say sorry?” No, it is never too late. What is most important about children saying sorry is their understanding of what they are sorry for and how they are going to make things right.
It is vitally important that children can verbalise and understand what they have done wrong. They need to be able to tell you why they did it and give them the chance to come up with their own consequences. If they can devise a consequence that is in line with the school policy, then this is great. It empowers the child and gives them an increased desire to apologise and move forward.
I have had had a few children in my school arrested over the years due to immense violence towards staff. The end consequence was the police talking to the child about what they have done and that child then writing a sorry letter to the staff member. This is Restorative Justice. At the time I did not feel this was strict enough, but I’ve realised now that this method does have a huge impact. Our school now has a restorative practise embedded throughout.
We use sorry letters in school now. Children need to write in the letter what they are sorry for, apologise for how it made the victim feel and how they will make sure it will not happen again.
One final note…
The way you speak to children is hugely important when dealing with certain children. You are not out to scare a child or make them feel inferior. You do need to be firm but fair with children. Some children can make you angry or even upset but the minute you shout or scream you will lose a lot of respect.
When communicating with a pupil think about body language and facial expression. Make sure you do not invade personal space, keep a good distance, get down to their level and side on. Remember that some children with ASD struggle to understand facial expression when you are happy or angry, so you need to be a skilled communicator.
One thing to consider is the language you use when talking to children. Some children may have speech and language problems and why questions can be difficult to comprehend. Try changing your question from “Why did you do it?” to “What should you have done?”
Just try all you can to support ALL children with their learning journey. Do this by making your class feel secure and happy in the environment you have made for them!