Image courtesy of Bankrupcy Litigation Blog.
Often it’s not what you do to stop unwanted behavior when it occurs, but what you do to prevent it that really counts in creating a classroom environment productive to learning.
There are 3 main things I look at to prevent problems occuring in the classroom: clear guidelines & expectations, classroom awareness, and engaging activities.
Guidelines and expectations are something that need to be set right from the beginning. For many young learners, school is a new environment and it’s often not clear to them what they are doing there or what is expected of them while they are there.
This is especially true if your school’s program has a different environment from other schools they are going to. In Asia, schools are very disciplined and structured, so when students come to classes at my school, they are very unsure of how to behave. The play-type atmosphere and more open environment makes many young learners feel like they can do anything in our classrooms. In fact, they don’t know what to do with themselves because they’ve never been in such a free environment before and this often has them bouncing off the walls the first few classes .
Not only should expectations be set early, but they should also be discussed with the students. As teachers, we should be careful not just to set rules and expect students to follow them. We should reach a level of mutual understanding with the students and explain the reasons for rules. Explaining to students that it’s important to respect each other, so we should listen when others are speaking is better than simply saying “Be quiet and listen.” Even learners as young as 3 years old can participate in a discussion about the reasons behind most rules.
This goes equally for activities as well as the general class. Whenever a new activity is being introduced, the rules and expectations for that activity should be explained clearly beforehand.
Being aware of your classes’ needs is another easy fix for preventing students from acting out. If two students are always picking on each other, move them to different seats. If students can’t sit in a circle without fidgeting, give them chairs.
It’s also about reading your class. If students are getting bored with an activity, change to a new one. If students have a lot of energy, get them up and moving. If they can’t focus as a group any more, move to an individual craft.
Out of all these preventative measures, I think the most important and effective is engaging your students. As Simon mentioned in a comment on my last post, the primary reasons most children act up are because they are bored or the task is too difficult. This is something I commonly see in classrooms and remember from my own schooling. When students are bored, they lose interest and start to behave in ways that are unproductive for learning.
Making engaging lessons comes down to asking and answering the right questions. What is the age and developmental level of the students? What are their interests? How long are their attention spans? If you can answer these questions, it’s pretty easy to create activities that are the right level and length that match your students interests. Engaged learners are active learners and don’t have time to get distracted.
Also, one thing I’ve notice is the number of students an activity involves has a huge impact on how interesting it is. Designing activities that have all the learners participating are much better than ones where only one or two at a time participate.
What other ways do you use to create a positive learning environment and prevent disruptive behavior in your classrooms?