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Tips for managing students

1. Get the attention of the student and wait for quiet

Use a signal that everyone knows means – stop, look and listen. This might be a bell or a hand in the air. Use the signal sparingly (2-3 times a session) otherwise it will lose its effect. Wait for the students to be quiet and speak in a quiet, confident and positive tone. The lower you make your voice the quieter the students will become. Using a quiet voice is a more effective way to get a point across than using a raised voice. (NB -This only works once you have their attention)

2. Make your expectations clear and be consistent

State clearly what behaviours you want to see and praise immediately anyone following your expected behaviour. Provide a good model. Give constructive feedback and be specific about why a child’s behaviour is/isn’t appropriate. Eg One person at a time should speak in the group. It’s good manners and gives everyone the chance to hear what that person is saying.

3. Keep any instructions short and very clear

State any instructions clearly in short, clear steps. Some students have trouble following any more than 2-3 steps especially the younger ones so giving the instructions in stages might be more effective. Having written instructions will allow the older ones to get on with the task without the frustration of waiting.

4. Set boundaries and safety rules

State clearly where the task is to be carried out and have the boundaries clearly marked or identified before the students move off. State the rules in what you DO want to see, not in what you don’t want. Eg only underarm throwing, walking at all times inside….

5. Nominate who you want to answer your question before you ask

Attaching a name to the question prevents everyone calling out. This can lead to disruption. Eg, George, would you get out the paints today please.

6. Prevent long periods of inaction

Think about what the students will be doing as you plan the day. Try not to have the students sitting and listening or waiting for long periods. Plan so that while you have to work intensively with one or two, the others are working on something that doesn’t require your close attention. Where possible adapt the tasks so you can work the group together. Eg use smooth moves for the younger ones, as a break between sessions for the older ones.

7. Keep the session moving at a snappy pace

Don’t let a section of the day drag on for too long. Keep it moving so the students don’t get time to get restless. If the students are getting restless or stressed, provide support or take a break.

8. Get control back quickly when you lose it

When students have got out of control and are not listening, bring them together quickly using a game, for example, Simon says. Finish with Simon says, sit quietly, Simon says fold your arms. (Bring your voice lower and lower as you are giving the last lot of instructions.) Again this strategy will only work effectively with younger students and when it is used very sparingly.

9. Discipline those who will not cooperate

For students who repeatedly make life difficult for you and others it is only fair on everyone for these students to be disciplined following the established discipline policies. If you haven’t established them, it is important to create a set of classroom rules where the consequences for behaviour, both positive and negative, are clearly stated. You will quickly lose the students respect if you are not seen to be fair, consistent and in control. Disciplining often works best by drawing the child aside and having a quiet word one-to-one.

10. Use your personality and sense of humour

Enthusiasm is infectious. Show your excitement for learning. Use humour to diffuse or prevent escalation of a problem. Reach out to students and express your confidence and faith in their abilities. Work with them rather than against them.

11. Give  feedback

Show the students you value their contributions and participation. Younger students usually love some immediate praise and reward in the form of ticks and stickers. For older boys, give your praise in a quiet one-to –one exchange rather than in front of the large group.

12. Involve the student  in the decision making

Create opportunities for the students to make decisions for themselves. Instigate some of these actions so they feel empowered. If you have heavy travel commitments ask them to help problem solve how the work can still be completed, eg some in the car, some early morning.


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