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Don't smile until Christmas

Miss J shares her approach to behaviour management.

Primary Teacher

“Don’t smile until Christmas” is one of the many pieces of advice I was given by dozens of well-intentioned teachers during my PGDE year. The theory behind it being that you need to gain authority and respect as soon as you meet your class and by smiling, joking and trying to be funny, this will never happen.

I took this advice on board over the summer. No more dreams of being Miss Honey, instead I would be a slightly less terrifying, less mad version of Miss Trunchbull. However being faced with 15 smiling, chatty children every day, these grand plans soon flew out the window.

Having a P1 class, I knew that it would be so important to set out the routines, rules and discipline right from the word go. We have a lining up chant, clear rules about how to sit on the floor and discuss the class rules each morning.

We are now pretty well settled into the term and whilst the children are quite good at following the routines and rules of the school, I’m not going to lie to you, behaviour management still is an uphill battle.
I have several pupils who find it hard to share or take turns, many excessively chatty children and also a few who can be physical.

I thought I might share some of the tips I have picked up from various sources and that seem to work in my classroom:

  • Ensure the children know that when they enter the classroom they should be quiet and sensible. (This one took a while!)
  • Have a morning task that the children can quietly get on with whilst you sort the admin out. I use name handwriting cards
  • Depending on your classroom set up, I find it easier to ask the children to do things, such as put away their jackets/homework/bags in table groups
  • Have a point system that can act as an incentive for quiet, obedient behaviour
  • Have responsibilities for children who, left to their own devices, may cause disruption. This could be handing out water bottles or collecting the register
  • Make some tasks a competition – which table can come to the carpet the quietest? Who can tiptoe back to their seat the most sensibly and start their work?
  • Follow the same routine everyday

These are the basic rules that I follow and my class are becoming accustomed to their routine and I do not have to remind them to do certain things.

I have tried taking the advice of the “don’t smile until Christmas” gang, however it just does not suit my teaching style. I have found that a far better way to control my class and gain the respect I require is to be friendly, firm and have a reliable routine in place.

As one of my CPD targets I am observing the morning routines of other infant teachers to see if I can pick up any further tips. I have already gathered lots of useful phrases and morning tasks from them.

I’d love to hear if anyone has differing opinions or other strategies that might help!