Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Classroom & Behaviour Management: What Secondary School Teachers Can Learn From Primary Teachers

There's no doubt about it: teaching in London can be challenging. It doesn't matter what you teach, or who you teach, you're going to have good days and bad. Some days you'll hold back your giggles in class, until you arrive in the staff room & share your story about the funniest thing that happened in class that morning. But other days, your students will fidget and their finger tapping, foot stomping, pencil flicking, rubber throwing (erasers, not what you think of as a "rubber"), will drive you up the wall.

So what should you do?

Well, to start, check out this video with John Bayley on Teachers TV. Then, read the comments that other teachers have left and share your own thoughts.

One thing to note is that primary teachers deal with this kind of behaviour all the time, but in secondary we often assume that students already know how to behave in class. The reality is that grades 7, 8 and even 9 are not all that different from grade 5 and 6.

I really had to change my own teaching style when I worked in London, England. For example, in Canada, I assume that by grades 5 & 6, students know how to enter the classroom calmly & quietly. So, when I was observed by an Ofsted inspector in London, she offered me some very simple advice: sing to them. She wanted me to fix my "transitions" and help the students to enter the classroom after break (aka recess) and from other classes. I laughed. I was teaching grade 5, not kindergarten!

You see, my class was energetic. Our playground had virtually no activities, resources nor games for the students. Not even a soccer ball. (This was unusual for UK schools. I was just in a very different school in my first year.) So when the students went out to play, they were bored & fights broke out. When they returned to my class, it always took ages to get them to calm down, sit in their desks and get on with the learning.

So, I followed the inspector's advice & reluctantly started to sing. You know what I sang? "The more we get together, together, together...The more we get together, the happier we'll be. Cuz your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends, the more we get together, the happier we'll be."

If you know the song, you also know that it's usually sung with kindergarten students. My class didn't know that, and they loved every minute of it. It reached a point where they entered my classroom singing the song every time they came in, and all told, it only took about 1 minute to get them in, sitting & ready to learn. It was amazing!

I learned to use primary age transitional activities for my junior classroom. Secondary school teachers find the same issue. Grade 7 & 8 teachers look to primary teachers for advice, and guess what? It works!

So, if you want my advice, check out the Bayley video & watch all the others on Teachers.TV. You can also read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians by yours truly.

What about you? Do you have any good classroom management tips for energetic classrooms? Please share them in the comments section.

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