Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Setting and Maintaining High Behavioural Expectations

For the following weeks, I am focussing on creating a strong classroom culture by adhering to the techniques advocated by Doug Lemov in his 'Teach Like a Champion' manual for teachers. When I posted on Twitter that I was starting this experiment, Doug kindly tweeted me asking for me to let him know which techniques I was going to focus on first. Although I have been teaching my current classes for over a term, I still feel that some of them don't have the kind of classroom culture that I expect. Establishing this is vital for any relationships to exist and develop, so this is the first 'section' of the techniques that I will focus on.

Week 1 of my 'Teach Like a Champion' marginal gains experiment and I am concentrating on '100%' and 'Sweat the Details.


There's one suitable percentage of students following an instruction given in your classroom: 100%. Less and your authority is subject to interpretation, situation and motivation.

To gain the attention of the students and to give them the chance to get ready to pay attention, my current school employs the method of the teacher holding their hand up (a method used by many). I have employed methods similar to this at previous schools, but have never particularly worried if not all the students had their hand up; as long as they were listening that was OK. That has now changed. Every single hand must be up; every single pair of eyes must be on me; and every single mouth will be shut. No exceptions. Otherwise, that is telling my students, "it just depends on what mood I am in whether I sanction you or not". Now the expectations are extremely clear. Everyone, every time.

At the start of the week, a couple of mutterings of "but I'm listening". This does not matter - every hand up and up properly, otherwise it shows me the teacher that their learning does not matter to them. This is not going to be an overnight change, particularly with the students I see less often, as these expectations cannot be embedded to become habitual as often as the students I see more consistently. One target for next week is to ensure that the pens are down and eyes are also on me. Pens will be easily visible, but the tracking might be more difficult to spot. If you have any tips or suggestions, please do let me know.

Another part of 100% which Lemov recommends (and could have its own name attributed to it!) is to employ the least invasive intervention. I am finding this particularly difficult to employ, as I currently have a method of ticking names for positive and negative behaviours in the classroom. Lemov suggests a scale of interventions, minimising the disruption to the class so that they don't get distracted. I am finding this method is slowly starting to have a positive effect on my students, but need to try and employ it more consistently, which is sometimes difficult to do if I am teaching in a didactic method. I'm unsure how to go over to the student for a private individual correction if they are mumbling to their partner or shouting out as I want to correct the behaviour instantly. I'll continue to think of ways past this, but again, any suggestions are more than welcome!

Sweat the Details

To reach the highest standards, you must create the perception of order.

This one, I have never been a particular stickler for. I am a 'naturally' messy person; therefore my classrooms have traditionally been slightly messy. Not horrendous, as I've previously always had to share. Now I have my own classroom, but now I am adamant that my classroom will at least have the perception of order. First task was to tidy my own desk which was no mean feat. Next, cupboards on display were put organised. Dictionary and thesauri were, where available, neatly put onto students' tables and distributed equally. Next to the task of keeping this order when finishing any lesson. I allowed an extra five minutes for every class to create the perception of order at the end of the lesson. No matter what age/class, every lesson the classroom would start and end looking the same.

I have started to give the instructions to the class as I want them to do it and counting down using short, sharp limits. For instance, it starts with:

"Put your worksheets in your book and close your books. 5-4-3-2-1"
"Pass your books along to the end of the row. 5-4-3-2-1"

Combined with the language that Lemov recommends in least invasive intervention, this is having a huge help with the time it takes them to 'pack away. Traditionally, packing away would be a long, loud drawn-out process. Now, it is (gradually getting!) orderly, quick and efficient.

I'm also 'sweating other details' such as uniform, desk position and worksheets in books, which I hope will drive up standards and behaviour of the students as well. As always, this isn't an overnight thing, but something that I will continue to work on. Any other tips/adjustments send this way!


  1. I've started reading this book myself and am very interested to follow your experience! I too started with the 100% tip. I actually think I started doing it at the beginning of the year but slipped and have just realised there were certain children who were continually not stopping and listening. It feels much better to wait and make them ALL realise they need to stop as it is important for everyone's learning!

    Nicola Darling

  2. Unfortunately, it will slip unless we are constantly reassessing our use of it until it becomes naturally consistent. Let me know how you get on with the other techniques!

  3. Great stuff. I've seen Lemov's work in some schools in the USA. Fantastic to see what can happen. Be very interested in your future blogs.