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Primary Education News
News 10 ways to deal with low-level disruption in the classroom
Whether it's passing notes or tapping a pen, low-level disruption is a challenge in many schools. Tracey Lawrence offers some strategies to help
Lately, the most effective professional development I have undertaken has been free and extremely valuable. It has taken place on Twitter, every Monday night during term from 8 to 8.30pm on the #Behaviourchat hashtag. Often, advice given during these sessions looks at violent pupils or more extreme behaviour; however, it can be the low-level disruptions that can have a high impact on the learning atmosphere within your classroom. We have all experienced low-level disruption in class; chair rocking, humming, pen tapping, note passing. Just disruptive enough to slow the pace of your lesson but not dramatic enough to draw it to a halt.
During a recent Monday night slot of behaviour chat, a variety of professionals, including teaching professionals, learning support assistants and consultants, devised some tips to deal with low level disruptions. Here's a summary of them.
Adjust the volume
With loud classes, avoid raising your voice. It only increases the noise. Lowering your voice can be much more effective. If the volume of your voice is always high, it loses its effect and doesn't help to control the situation.
Your presence is extremely powerful. Don't stay stagnant at the front of your class. Move around and don't allow the children to become distracted. Talk to them about their task. Give them deadlines. For example say: "I'd love to see two more ideas by the time I come back as your ideas are really interesting." Then walk and visit another child/pair but make sure you come back.
Shut out negativity
Don't allow negativity to enter your classroom. If a child isn't ready to come in, stop them and provide a distraction. Allow the child to calm down so that they can enter in a calmer frame of mind.
This one is a basic one but doesn't always happen. Prepare your resources before you start teaching. It allows you to challenge the children's energy as much as you can. Rustling papers and setting out resources while children wait only encourages low-level disruptions and sets the mood for the lesson.
It's your classroom
Control your space. You are the decisive element in your classroom. Stand at the door as they enter. Talk, change moods. Say hello to the children regardless of whether you have their eye contact or not. Always say goodbye.
Have a calm outlook. If you can't leave the room but are getting annoyed, flick through your assessing pupil progress (APP) sheets or walk away from the situation to calm yourself down before returning.
Don't deviate from teaching
There is no need for an excessive response to low-level disruption. Don't interrupt your teaching to deal with it. It can be corrected by including the child's name into your explanation, a look or a signal of some sort.
Deal with low-level disruptions by using positive language. "We sit in our chairs so that our handwriting is beautiful." It doesn't give the child the opportunity to opt out but also sets the expectation.
Share your expectations
Don't assume children understand what your version of acceptable is. Tapping, shouting, and throwing could be acceptable at home. A child needs to have reinforcement of your expectations.
Have a routine
Having a routine in your classroom can help. Children can be uneasy when they do not know what is going to happen in the day. Children need to feel secure in their classroom and with their activities. They like to know what is coming up in their day so if things are going to change give them warning that something different will be happening and explain what to expect.
All of these tips are not guaranteed to work. But having said that they are all tried and tested ideas from someone else's classroom. Try them, amend them, adapt them and make a comment to let us know of any other methods that have helped your with low level behaviours.
Tracey Lawrence is a primary school teacher and a specialist leader in education (SLE) with a focus on behaviour and attendance.