How to have a calm, controlled and effective classroom.

Great blog from @ASTsupportAAli for both new and experienced staff.

Here are our top tips to having a controlled and calm classroom.

I tweeted the below thread out a week or so ago, I wanted to expand on the comments and highlight the work the leadership team has been doing to establish effective T&L and behaviour and culture in our school.

Routines:

Establish a way of doing EVERYTHING.

From entering to leaving the room, to handing out worksheets, books, resources and so on. There should be a procedure. A well practised, set of methods to getting those things done. They should be reminded every time those things are going to be done to ensure they are done smoothly.

We line our students up, outside their classroom, greet them, inform/remind/emphasise the routine on entry and expectations and they enter our classrooms. The first 5 minutes of a lesson are crucial, create the environment where the expectation is to learn.

DNA:

Every lesson should begin with one. A Do Now Activity.

This should usually be a talking or thinking one, as the books are being handed/taken out. Get your students thinking about your learning instantly, give them a challenge as soon as they pass the threshold.

Let them know in your lesson, every second is a learning opportunity.

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My procedure for handing out books is that I always ask 5/6 people to hand out 5/6 books each so the books are handed out quickly. As soon as you get your book, They have a task to do.

This is writing down the title (we call it a Big/Learning Question.) The date. And THUD in the margin.

Title

Handwriting

Underline

Date

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Start your lesson with a THUD. Give the responsibility to the students. Give them the criteria and expect it. I wander round with a red pen. I place a red dot next to anybody’s work that is missing something, or something is not done correctly. Students then instantly correct.

Students should also underline off last lessons work, and start reading what was covered, to aid with their recall check, if they have finished the DNA.

Praise:

Ensure you engage with proximal praise at this point.

Notice who has done what they should be doing rather than who hasn’t. I personally use my VIP method here, and hand out a cushion to students who are doing the right thing! See here.

If a student hasn’t started the DNA or opened their book when they’ve got it, don’t ask

“Why haven’t you done what I have asked!”

Just state the instruction again, with a thank you.

“Sylviana open your book, write in the big question and THUD. Thank you.”

Continue with proximal praise.

DON’T overpraise basic expectations. Well done & thank you for things that are simply required is fine. But only praise formally when students have exceeded (their) expectations.

When you want the classes attention; do it in the same way.

Notice the bright spots!

Attention:

Have a system, be it a countdown or count up!

We use a 5-0 countdown system. The Pivotal way. Include instructions in between each number. For example.

“Right, when you’re ready. 5,

Facing the front 4.

Thanks to those listening 3,

Pens down and looking up 2,

OK, great let’s begin 1…”

Silence should and is always expected at this point.

I use Mary Myatt’s method of ‘When you’re ready’ to alert students attention.

Retrieval- Education is the best therapy:

Start the lesson with a 5 question recall check.

No matter how many times they’ve done it. Remind everybody of the routine or procedure for your recall checks. I will ask students-

How many questions? 5 questions Sir.

How long do you have? 5 minutes sir.

How do you answer the questions? In Full sentences sir.

What does that mean? It means including the question in our answers sir.

What do you do if you can’t remember the answer? If unknown write down question & leave space. Then we will fill in the answers later sir.

Ensure there is at LEAST one answer that EVERY student can answer! This is to enable students to instantly feel like they can participate in the lesson.

Let the students know how long they have by using a timer. I have now phased this out, for some classes, as I want them to practice using the clock to manage their time.

Continue to use the countdown from then onwards. Any time you want the classes attention, use your countdown.

Stand up, be seen, be clear.

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Instructions:

When explaining a task, after you have explained ask at least 2 students to explain back what they’ve been asked to do. Then still go over to any other students who you think may need another round of explanation and re-explain! Don’t get upset by that fact!

  1. Every task should have a sequenced set of instructions.
  2. Every task should have a time frame. Ideally both available, visually.
  3. Every task should have the opportunity for you to check/model/support/reaffirm. That could be sat at your desk.

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All your visuals should be clear. The font should be large enough to read. Avoid confusing backgrounds.

Use bold to emphasise words and keep colour coding consistent.

Organisation:

Here, we do not cut and stick sheets into our books. We hole punch every book and treasury tag the sheets in. This way sheets can be used for multiple lessons, without students flipping backwards and forwards and if a student misses a lesson, there work can be added in, with ease. It also saves time!

 

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Image by Heather Mary James (@LDNHumsTeacher)

 

See here for more details!

Noise Levels:

And be clear about expected noise level from/for each and every task. Spy Talk, Low Flow, Formal Normal. If they can’t differentiate, then revert to silence.

Again proximal praise at this point, but not just for doing the right thing.

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Do not be worried, or afraid or insisting on Zero Noise or Silence for a task.

Anchoring Effect:

Do you give students unconscious opt outs? Instead of saying:

Right here’s an quick, easy, simple task.

or

Here’s a challenging, hard task.

After the quick, easy, simple task, there could be a few students that thought, wow, that was meant to be quick, easy and simple and I could not do it! Or, a few that thought, why am I wasting my time with easy work. Those students could then be put off the next task, which is more challenging and harder.

Instead say:

Here’s task 1 and here’s task 2.

Reduce the chance for students to be anchored out of a task. Avoid using language that may make students feel like a task is unachievable.

Expectations:

Remind students of what you expect, by explaining why it’s beneficial. Be clear about expectations and beliefs. Have high expectations and clear beliefs about students progress and intended goals. Let students know everybody is going to complete all the tasks and you will help WHEN needed.

I expect calm, structure and respect so we can learn as much as possible, so you can concentrate and challenge yourself. So we can all feel the benefits of school. That’s the language I use.

If a student is off task, ask them,

“Eric, are you clear about the task I’ve asked you to get on with?”

“Sebastian have you made a start? Can I give you any suggestions?”

Avoid,

“Why aren’t you working? Doing as I asked.”

If this is repeated.

“Alisha can you come and show me your work pls.”

If noise levels get too high, then knock it down to silence. If people talk whilst the task should be completed in silence, speak to those students individually.

Use mini whiteboards and post it notes to attempt work before writing it down in books. (Sometimes.) Allow students to talk through an answer first too. As Mart Myatt says, writing floats on a sea of talk!

Your seating plan is vital. Another thread about that, another time.

Displays:

What do your displays say about you? Your classroom? Are they too busy? Are they updated? Do they support learning. Here, we all use the same colour background and border colours to not make them too ‘loud.’ We are given dedicated time to update them and encourage them to be used as learning tools. As guides to help with recall checks.

Do not afraid to be you in your classroom. I share a few photos of my baby boy, by my desk. Showing students the diversity of us, might be the only diversity they hear/see/feel.

Being “strict” doesn’t mean you are boring or unliked.

It doesn’t mean you shout all day.

It means you have clear routines, procedures and possibly an assertive tone of voice when need be. Don’t fear breaking off task every one in a while to simply have a little joke/giggle with your class!

You will also notice I have not used the word relationships in the entire blog, this does not mean I feel we can have quiet, calm, controlled, effective classrooms without relationships, I just feel whilst we can achieve the above we are creating and building those relationships. I have written about relationships here too.

Remember, you may be really great with all of the different types of students, but ensuring you follow the schools behaviour policy is vital. Whether it is needed for you or not, it helps the teachers that it is needed for. Consistency in approach is vital. Students should not have to second guess what each teacher will do. It should be clear.

Also, do not feel you have ‘nothing to learn’ from those who have well ordered, controlled classrooms, just because ‘they can do it.’ I feel there are the above characteristics in their rooms which enable the calm and control. Go check it out?