When trying to manage student behaviour in a primary classroom, it is always easier to be proactive than reactive. Proactive strategies encourage teachers to establish behaviour standards from the first day of school and consistently reinforce them, whereas reactive strategies focus on changing behaviour after it occurs. Primary-age children respond best to routines and guidelines so they are aware of what is expected of them in the classroom.
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Discuss good behaviour with your students. Ask the children how they think they should behave in the classroom, and be specific about certain situations. For example, what do they think good behaviour looks like during circle times? How about in the library or gymnasium? By involving students in the process rather than dictating how they should act, you increase the chances of their following the rules.
Make a classroom contract together. Write a list of the behaviours your students have suggested on a large piece of chart paper. Laminate the paper so it lasts through the year, and place it in a highly visible part of your room where students can be reminded of the rules they set for themselves. In "Intervention in School & Clinic," Andrea M. Babkie suggests using no more than five rules in a contract to keep things simple for students to remember.
Model for students the signs, signals and songs that will be used in the classroom to help them remember expected behaviours. For example, show students that they are expected to be quiet when a teacher raises his or her hand. Or, when the teacher sings the cleanup song, students are expected to put away their toys and come to the circle.
Give positive reinforcement to students who demonstrate appropriate behaviour in the classroom. Comments such as "Thank you for tidying your desk this morning, Sarah" and "I like the way Tommy has his books ready for math" encourage students to behave appropriately and reward them when they conform to expectations.
Whenever possible, use non-disruptive cues to manage behaviour that doesn't conform to the classroom contract. Non-disruptive cues are ways teachers show students they need to change their behaviour without disrupting the rest of the class. They can include looking a student in the eye or moving toward a student so she knows she is being observed. In an article for Guardian.co.uk, Paul Dix suggests that teachers avoid getting into lengthy discussions about behaviour and instead get their point across to students quickly and quietly.
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