When building a house, the foundation is rather important – get that wrong, and everything else is on shaky grounds – quite literally. The same applies in the classroom. Strengthen your classroom behaviour management practices by starting with a clean and organised floor. If you have worked in a classroom of children before (of any age), you will have noticed that the floor gets littered with scraps of paper and other little bits of rubbish. Students like to ‘accidentally’ drop screwed-up pieces of paper on the floor and everything else you can think of. You will find pen lids, sticky tape, erasers, scraps of paper, staples, pencil cases, rulers, and a million other things that you couldn’t imagine.
If you don’t stay on top of this problem, a class of high school students will turn a freshly vacuumed floor into a teenager’s bedroom in less than 20 minutes! Keeping the floor clean is the first step to building a sturdy foundation in terms of crowd control and behaviour management. When things are clean, organised and neatly in their place, everything else falls into line including students’ work ethic, behaviour, attitude, and time on task. This pedantic-like obsessiveness is actually common amongst experienced teachers because cleanliness and organisation have a direct impact on students’ frame of mind.
This pedantic-like obsessiveness is actually common amongst experienced teachers because cleanliness and organisation have a direct impact on students’ frame of mind.
Not only do experienced teachers try to stop rubbish from being strewn all over the place, they also control the placement of desks. They often get to class a few minutes early to move desks around (among other tasks) or to neaten them into perfect position. However, students tend to move desks all over the place as soon as they enter the room. They like to change the angle of their desks in relation to others and they like to move them a few centimetres here and there. Some may even turn their desk to face a completely different direction, while others will join desks to be with friends. Almost all students will move their desk slightly, accidentally or otherwise, as soon as they sit down and prepare their area for the lesson ahead.
Teachers should ensure that their students’ desks stay precisely in their original location. This means to the exact centimetre in fact. Students will often move their desk a few centimetres, then progressively keep on moving it a few more. Before you know it, a student will have moved 2 metres to be near their friend. Throughout the lesson (and especially at the very end), ensure desks are lined up with scientific and mathematical precision. Not only does this solidify your control and assert an expectation of compliance in student learning tasks, it also speaks to your attention to detail and the level of care that you take in your work as a teaching professional. By controlling desks (and even chairs), you are telling students in no uncertain terms that they are here to learn – not to socialise.
Hint: Use the need to pick up rubbish as an excuse to walk around the room. Take a small bin with you as you circumnavigate the room and ask students to pick up little pieces of rubbish. At the same time check on their progress and use proximity as a cue for on-task behaviour. You can also walk around and pick up small specs of litter yourself. Aim to keep the room looking like it was vacuumed only minutes earlier.
Teachers should also have students pick up every single piece of rubbish at the end of each lesson. Not only does this teach students to keep the room clean during the lesson (meaning they don’t have to stay back in their own time to clean it up) but teachers who use the room afterwards will appreciate the clean space. One trick is to say, ‘everyone please pick up 3 pieces of rubbish, then you can go’ – the teacher then stands at the door and ensures each student puts 3 pieces in the bin on their way out. Another option is to let students go one at a time after scanning the floor in their vicinity.
Teachers should also have students pick up every single piece of rubbish at the end of each lesson.
Hint: ‘Letting students go’ is ‘teacher-talk’ for allowing them to leave the classroom at the end of the lesson. Students shouldn’t simply walk out when the bell sounds like in the movies. Teachers can ‘let students go’ using various techniques, all requiring an orderly, controlled exit. A common approach is to have everyone stand behind their desk with chairs pushed in and all rubbish cleaned away. The teacher demands and waits for absolute silence and only then says, ‘thank-you, great job folks, enjoy your weekend and goodbye’.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.
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