Over the decades, teaching strategies have evolved and progressed to support and enhance the quality of learning taking place in classrooms. This is usually due to research or professionals innovating their approaches and seeing the gained impact on the children. This results in the new idea being shared with other professionals. However, some small strategies are still used in classrooms today, even though they don’t always support student development. This is usually because teachers don’t even notice they are using them. They become ingrained by accident. Dave Brailsford, as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky, stated that if you change 100 things by 1%, you improve yourself by 100%. To get you started, here are 5 small changes every teacher should make to have a positive impact on the children.
'Do you understand?'
When explaining a task, most teachers fall into the trap of asking the children 'Do you understand?' which is great, and it is important that every child is clear on the task in hand. However, for a child to put their hand up in front of everyone and claim that they do not understand is a big ask. They may fear being laughed at or may even worry about being in trouble for not listening properly.
Instead, try to take the ownership of understanding away from the children and place it on yourself. Use the phrase, ‘Have I explained myself well enough?’ or ‘Did I share that information clearly?’. If a child does not understand, it is your fault, which takes the pressure off the children. You may find more children willing to ask questions in order to clarify the task. This will help their learning too!
Weekly Spelling Tests!
Spelling is important. Learning to spell supports strong reading skills and fluent writing skills. However, you have to ask the question, does providing children with ten spellings to learn, test spelling skills or memory skills? How often do we find children who score 100% on their spelling test but, the next day, spell the same words wrong in their 'big write'.
Instead, research shows that students should be encouraged to use inventive spelling – to sound out words in the best way they can and write what they hear, even if it isn’t close to the actual spelling. Also, kids need to discover word patterns. Activities like sorting words into groups based on patterns and similarities help kids internalise spelling rules.
To really understand and use words correctly (and spell words correctly), pupils need to have purposeful investigations with words. students retain lessons better when there is a sense of fun and discovery embedded into them. Playing with words, manipulating letters to turn one word into a new word, learning where words come from and understanding the meanings of words gives students a much better chance at developing spelling skills than simply memorising word lists.
Highlight Negative Behaviour!
Most negative behaviour is an act of attention seeking. The more you respond to it, the more attention they receive. It is very easy to notice bad behaviour and focus in on it. However, research would suggest that turning your attention to positive behaviour can actually tackle negative actions.
Positive reinforcement is the encouragement that follows good behaviour and effort. It is done in order to emphasise the positivity of the action. As a consequence, the child feels encouraged to repeat the positive action that earned the praise in the first place. Not only this but it attracts other children to copy the same actions.
Try and catch the poorly behaved children doing the one thing that is positive and praise them for it whilst consistently praising the well-behaved children. This will both make you feel much more positive about your class but will create a group of children that strive for positive attention.
Saying 'Is it?'
This is a trap that most teachers, including myself, fall into. Picture this: You are guiding the class through a written mathematical method and you ask a child a quick-fire question and expect a quick-fire correct answer. Except the child throws you back an incorrect answer. It is every teacher's gut instinct to respond with a raised eyebrow and blurt out, 'Is it?'.
The issue here is that the words ‘Is it?’ instantly tells the child that they are wrong. This leaves the child in a sticky situation. oNE, knowing that they are wrong and, TWO, currently havING no way of escaping THE CLASSROOM IN A PANIC!
Instead, if a child answers incorrectly, try responding with a few different strategies.
Missing lunch Break!
Taking away play time has become a common practice among teachers trying to rein in unruly students. A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 77 percent of school principals reported taking away play time as a punishment, while a 2006 study found 81.5 percent of schools allowed students to be excluded from play time. While teachers may think taking away play time is an effective way to punish students for bad behaviour, play time plays an important role in children’s development. Research shows the value of play time: It gives kids a much-needed break from intense studying, teaches them social skills, encourages them to use their imagination, and allows them to exercise. On top of this, the students that are kept in at play times for misbehaviour are usually the students that need it most. The children that can’t sit still and focus are usually the children found being stopped from doing this at play time.
According to Mike Anderson, a developer for Responsive Classroom, their approach distinguishes between logical consequences and punishments. Logical consequences are directly tied to the behaviour and are aimed at teaching students the skills to channel their energy in more productive ways. In addition to being directly tied to specific instances of misbehaviour, logical consequences should be respectful of both the student and the teacher and developmentally appropriate. So, a logical consequence for making a mess in the lunch hall might be to clean up that mess, but not to clean the entire cafeteria. it would make sense to have a logical consequence related to play time if the misbehaviour is related to play time. For example, if a student has been pushing other kids on the playground, that student might miss play time for a few days in order to meet with a school councillor to talk about safe behaviour on the playground. punishments, in Anderson’s view, are less effective in the long-term because they are not directly related to the misbehaviour and often aim to humiliate or shame the student apposed to countering the negative actions.
While the Responsive Classroom offers concrete suggestions for ways to teach students more positive behaviour, it is not just about classroom management, but also about making learning more engaging for students. As Anderson points out, “If students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they’ll misbehave.”