Behaviour suffers when teachers don't get to their classrooms on time, as pupils take advantage of the lack of supervision. Teachers' timekeeping is therefore important, and can be made more efficient by planning and communication with colleagues
If you have tried any behaviour tracking or screening of the teaching and learning environments, you will no doubt have noticed a range of issues which need attention. Your behaviour tracking information should have helped you to identify not just who is regularly involved, but also when and where. Lesson changes, first thing in the morning and straight after lunch-break, are often key times for difficulties to arise.
Resolving the problem areas and times can prove difficult. There will be changes that you can make immediately and which only involve your own practice. However, due to the whole-school nature of some of the problems, it may be necessary to make fundamental changes to organisation and timetabling – clearly not something you can easily do on your own.
Best practice dictates the provision of a welcoming and positive teaching and learning environment. This means that you should be in the classroom at the beginning of the lesson, with work prepared, and able to greet pupils as they arrive from their previous lesson or break-time.
The classic secondary school timetable can make this almost impossible. If you are working in a school that uses a system of bells to denote lesson changes, you will probably be aware of the generic difficulty if the sound of the bell means both the end of one lesson, and also the start of the next. How do you – never mind the pupils – manage to change rooms, collect the necessary materials and still be in the new room ready for the next group? Incidentally, this doesn’t include managing the behaviour of pupils in the corridor while moving from lesson to lesson! The issue of timing is exacerbated through additional problems, such as:
- speaking to your teaching assistant
- dealing with problem pupils at the end of the lesson
- filling in your tracking sheet or individual reports
- personal needs
- split site schools
These issues may have a major impact on pupil behaviour. Although movement around the building is perhaps not such a concern in Primary Schools, carefully planned timing is essential if transition from activity to activity and the start and finish of teaching times are to be a positive experience rather than a barely-organised disruption.
As mentioned above, many problems can be addressed by the individual teacher, but if your tracking information has pointed to major disruption and challenging behaviour during lesson change or break-time that leads to a negative effect on behaviour in the classroom, then it’s time to look at whole-school organisation.
No one solution can work in every situation, so it is not possible to give a definitive answer to lessen behaviour problems for every school. It is worth, however, giving a brief overview of some practical solutions that schools have produced.
Schools working on split sites will have great difficulty in solving the problem; commitment, creativity and persistence are the order of the day. In schools operating on one site, effective solutions have included:
- an ‘early warning’ bell (3-5 minutes before the end of each lesson) indicating that both staff and pupils should be finishing and preparing for the move to the next lesson
- two bells, with a short (2 minutes) gap between, indicating end of lesson and start of the next but giving pupils and staff 2 minutes for the changeover
- dispensing with the bell system altogether. Responsibility now rests with all staff to ensure consistency and timing for the school day to run smoothly. Teaching assistants and teaching staff may also be deployed during lesson change
- named staff to accompany groups of pupils during changeover
- lunchtime supervisors are an integral part of the change over form classroom to dining room and also at the end of the lunch break. Lunchtime supervisors come into the classroom before the end of the lesson prior to lunch to ‘pick up’ pupils from teaching staff and also accompany pupils back into the classroom at the end of lunch, thus ensuring a smooth handover (including any essential information) back into the classroom
Whichever solution or set of changes you decide to embark on, there is clearly a need for all staff to recognise the need for consistency and shared responsibility when making a positive effect on pupil behaviour. Try to ensure that your organisation actually allows you to arrive at lessons on time and fully prepared without feeling pressured, rushed and stressed before the lesson even begins.
This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2009
About the author: Dave Stott has nearly 30 years' teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools and Local Authority Behaviour Support Services, and is now a writer, consultant and trainer.