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Managing behaviour of primary pupils

One probationer shares some of her behaviour management techniques.

Primary Teacher

As every probationer knows, it is difficult to judge being new to the profession exactly what behaviour management tactics to use.

To start with, your knowledge of both the profession and your class is limited. Also, it may well be that strategies that you have used on your placements no longer seem fit for purpose when it comes to your class.

Bad behaviour can be good experience

During my PGDE year, I was placed in exceptionally deprived areas and, by my final placement, I was tired of being placed in schools where behaviour was a real issue. Looking back now, I realised that I had been fortunate and that these experiences resulted in me banking a wealth of behaviour management techniques.

So, if you are finding that you are working with a particularly difficult class, stick with it and speak to your schools BeCo (Behaviour Co-ordinator). These are invaluable and will provide you with some tried and tested strategies.

Never assume that the grass is greener on the other side. I absolutely loved my year of placements in deprived areas, which forced me to address issues such as behaviour management. I feel that, had I not had to deal with these problems, I would not have felt as prepared as I did when entering my probation year.

I am now based in a school where behaviour is not really an issue. Of course, there is low-level disruption and noise levels are an ever-dragging issue, but I miss the challenge of dealing with difficult behaviour. It really keeps you on your toes, and makes your day that little more interesting.

Tips for managing behaviour

For those of you that are dealing with difficult behaviour, here are a few tips that I have picked up along the way. I have used these in my classrooms and they have guaranteed results.

Primaries 1/5

Each week, you choose a child that you feel has worked exceptionally hard or demonstrated positive behaviour, and over the weekend you give them a teddy bear home with them, along with a disposable camera and a diary.

On Monday, the child talks about their weekend adventures with the teddy. This gives the child a real sense of achievement, and every child tries really hard to get to take the teddy home.

You can also display the photos up on the wall, constantly reminding the children of the fun they can have with the teddy bear. I have found that this works particularly well for children in primaries 2/5.

Primaries 6/7

The upper school can be tricky when it comes to behaviour management, but I have found that the best thing to do is to really treat them like adults.

Give them a choice, and make it clear that if they want to continue behaving negatively then they will not be able to attend football practice, sports tournaments or other extra-curricular activities, and follow this through. Although managing behaviour effectively is not about punishing your pupils, it is important to show that persistent negative behaviour will not be accepted and that decision to change is theirs.

Similarly, I advise modelling positive behaviour. Try 'Star Pupil Day': on this day make sure the pupil in question is literally given star treatment. Make them a warm cup of hot chocolate at storytime and allow them to sit wherever they want. I found that this worked wonders on my final placement.

Keep it up!

I hope you find these strategies helpful. I know at times it can feel like you are pulling your hair out, but stick with it and be sure to take any help that is offered. Remember that we are new to the profession; we cannot be expected to have all the answers, but we are gaining more experience with every day.