As we start the summer term, don’t forget how the teaching and learning atmosphere, environment and temperature can be influential on the behaviour of your pupils… and yourself. This week we provide some practical tips to help minimise summertime disruption

IntroductionIt’s not just the weather that shows a marked change at this time of year. Winter school uniforms with shirts and ties, long trousers and ‘school shoes’ often make way for a less formal style of uniform, with open neck shirts, summer dresses, etc. Indoor teaching areas can become hot and stuffy, particularly if you have a number of electrical items in use. As any member of staff will recognise, any changes can lead to misunderstandings, arguments and challenges to authority. There is an inextricable link between thoughts, emotions, perceptions and behaviour. It’s important to recognise those links and to evaluate how you, your teaching and learning areas, school routines and expectations are impacting on the behaviour of pupils. It’s probably time to tidy up, evaluate and make some changes.

Practical tips

Classroom environment

Some of the very practical and yet effective changes you can make involve a simple check of fixtures and fittings in your teaching areas.

  • Do all windows open properly?
  • Is the heating/air conditioning system working?
  • Do you have blinds fitted to windows where necessary?
  • Do all pupils have easy, yet not disruptive access to drinking water?
  • Is the storage for pupils belonging adequate?

All of the above can be easily checked and monitored and, where necessary, reported and rectified.

Classroom management

Update your classroom organisation, review the seating plans, reward systems and continue the transition preparations for those pupils moving on in September. Essential to maintaining on-task behaviour is the absence, at least reduction, of distractions. As more classes take the opportunity of working outside during the good weather, it is possibly the time to look at your classroom seating plans. Perhaps the more distractible pupils should not be seated near a window or in proximity to the door and corridor. Changes to seating plans are best presented not as a sanction or reprimand, but simply as a change to the organisation. As the better weather makes outdoor break times a much more pleasant experience, so pupils begin to arrive back at lesson times just that bit later and usually hotter and more excited than when they left. Are you able to make changes to your daily routine to accommodate such problems? How do you manage to calm pupils in readiness for the next lesson? It is worth looking at the timings of breaks and lunchtime and seeing if a little more time, if only a couple of minutes, could be allocated to enable hot, thirsty and excitable pupils to come in and settle down before starting work. This needn’t be a strategy affecting the whole school timetable, just a simple recognition that pupils, and possibly you, need the time to readjust to the classroom. Allow extra time for a drink, a cool off and a chance to get organised.It‘s also probably time to refresh those displays on your classroom walls and communal areas which have been there all last term.

Managing activity changes

A simple technique, which is easily modified, to teach younger pupils how to move from one active scenario to another more calmer situation is to give timed reminders (Behaviour Matters October 2007). This gives pupils plenty of warning of what is coming next and teaches the skills necessary to cope with the changes.

Give pupils the opportunity to practice, in a timed situation, changing activities, reminding them of how you expect them to look and behave when undertaking the next activity. There will also be the need to remind pupils to be aware of the needs of others in such situations. Ask them to think about:

  • reduction in overall noise levels, particularly talking
  • what does ‘calm’ actually look and feel like?
  • the requirement to be organised and to have all the correct equipment.

All of the suggestions above may seem trivial and common sense. However many of these building blocks to good behaviour can be easily overlooked. Setting the scene and meeting individual needs (including yours) is absolutely essential in adopting the appropriate ethos and atmosphere within the classroom to emphasise and reward positive behaviour.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2011

About the author: Dave Stott has 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools, and Local Authority behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.