Sometimes you may feel that yelping at a class is the only way to improve their work ethic and behaviour. Is it actually just a sign that you have lost control?

When are you expected to shout in life? In an emergency. Although year 9 throwing a pencil across the room may seem like an emergency, it’s not. Singling out a pupil to shout at can cause the child to feel belittled or can lead to a power struggle. Is this going to build a positive relationship in the long run?

Six ways to avoid shouting but maintain control

Number One: Speaking quietly when giving instructions lowers the volume of your class. Pupils realise that they must quieten down to hear your voice and instantly they are more focused to listen. 

Number Two: A quiet word with a pupil can avoid confrontations in lessons. If you are introducing a new seating plan and you have a pupil with BSE needs it really is worth speaking to them beforehand. A colleague once gave me some great advice in my first year of teaching. She said that making time in my day to speak to a pupil one-on-one before a lesson, perhaps in the corridor, or even pulling them out of another lesson for two minutes, can change their behaviour in the long run. For example: “There will be a new seating plan today, you will be sat near Pupil X as I believe this will benefit your learning. Now that you know this I expect you to enter my room calmly and be ready to work hard. Will you enter ready to learn?”.I have found that interactions like these lead to a positive relationship. Asking a question gives the child a choice, this is key to motivating them.  This is a better alternative to shouting at the pupil for kicking up a fuss about their seating plan as they enter the lesson. This preempts any problems and ultimately avoids confrontation. 

Number Three: Focus on the good things. I once found myself feeling very negative about a class I taught after I spent the lesson dealing with silly behaviour. Again this was in my first year of teaching. A colleague had a chat with me after the lesson and gave me some simple yet extremely helpful advice. She told me to verbalise and praise the good behaviour  when I notice bad behaviour happening. Drawing attention to other pupils with ‘Well done Pupil Y you are working independently and quietly’. She advised that if a pupil had to leave the classroom so I could speak to them about their behaviour, I should enter by saying ‘Thank you everyone for staying focused there’. As simple as this seems it made me more positive about the class, it trained me to never raise my voice and due to this it made sure pupils had nothing to retaliate against. 

Number Four: Brag. This may sound strange but I have found that sharing what you have done for pupils helps them realise that lessons are a team effort. Stating ‘It took me an hour to create this revision guide so I want you to make sure you spend a minimum of an hour completing it to your best ability’. This may sound silly and many may disagree but with a challenging class I found this very helpful to motivate them and to view the classroom as a fair place. Creating a dialogue in the classroom of ‘we’ begins to breakdown this idea that the teacher is unfair. The same can be said for behaviour. Make it personal. For example: “I don’t like to be shouted at therefore I won’t shout in your face. Instead I expect you to have honest conversations with me about your behaviour.”

Number Five: Verbalise your warning system. Telling the pupil you are giving them their first warning is much less hassle than having to announce that the pupil has detention when they have reached the final stage of the system. You avoid the ‘that’s unfair, what did I do’ chat because the pupil can fairly see that you spoke to them at every stage of their behaviour choices. 

Number Six: Using body language effectively is a silent yet helpful management tool. There are many ways to use signals in the classroom to manage the class. See my previous post on noise levels for more ideas. Opting for a double tap on the desk if pupils are not focused when reading as a class, holding your fingers up to signal a child has been given a warning or watching a child for a few minutes to ensure they are on task can be just as effective as speaking to them. Often you do not need to say that the child is off-task they realise this immediately. The same can be said for rewards. Simply placing a raffle ticket in front of someone without saying anything causes pupils to be curious and motivated to do well. 

Every teacher has their own approach to classroom management, with every class you need to adapt your style. These strategies have proven successful with the pupils I teach. Establishing a positive relationship built on mutual trust between the teacher and pupil is the best form of behaviour management. Ofcourse using short term incentives is helpful, but creating long standing relationships is what leads to intrinsic motivation. Whether the child lacks confidence, has anger problems or just needs a clear routine; showing the class you’re a team really can end the need to raise your voice.

Conduct is more convincing than language

John Woolman