At the moment, I am focussing on setting and maintaining high behavioural expectations by adhering to the techniques advocated by Doug Lemov in his 'Teach Like a Champion' manual for teachers.
I am now focussing on one of the most important aspects of getting behavioural expectations right: 'Strong Voice'. This technique has been argued to be in the top four most effective teacher techniques when training new teachers which shows the importance that it has for establishing behavioural expectations.
Strong Voice teachers follow five principles in their interactions with students - or at least interactions where they are trying to establish control: Economy of Language, Do Not Talk Over, Do Not Engage, Square Up/Stand Still, and Quiet Power.
- The Awkward Stop
I've continued to employ the stopping when students are talking over me or another student. As suggested previously, it is important to stop in an awkward place in the sentence to make it obvious. Additionally, I've done this multiple times if necessary. I find that if I just wait in silence, those students are happy to carry on talking over me. However, if I stop awkwardly, they start talking and I stop awkwardly again, it makes it quite apparent that what they are doing is wrong. I know that one of the key things new teachers are told is to wait for silence, but maybe this should only be applicable at the very start of instructions? Answers on a postcard please!
- Follow Through on Instructions
This has made a world of difference. Instead of engaging in conversation with the student about anything secondary, repeat verbatim your initial instructions.
T: "Ensure you have your sheet stuck in."
S: "But James doesn't have his stuck in!"
T: "I would like you to ensure that you have your sheet stuck in"
S: "I haven't finished the other bit of work though!"
T: "I understand, but the priority is that you have your sheet stuck in your book."
Eventually, there can be no arguments because you are making quite clear your instructions of what they must do. There's no grey areas - they must follow through on your initial instruction. It's almost as if the students get bored by your repetitive instructions and, to avoid hearing your voice any more, decide to follow through on those initial instructions.
- Squaring Up for Outside Discussions
As discussed in the last post, you sometimes have to have more serious discussions with students outside of the classroom. I have developed this further to imagine that I am in an important meeting with my line manager and must convince them of something. I also expect the student to do exactly the same: stood up straight off the wall, eyes looking at me, body facing me. This is how professional adults speak and I am trying to train them for this scenario.
- Delivery of Instructions
This has been one of the most transformative changes I have made to my teaching. When delivering instructions stand up straight, looking at your students in the eye and speak quietly. As quietly as you can, but so that you are still heard. That's all there is to it. The atmosphere of the room changes, the students have to be quiet in order to listen to you and it saves your voice. Speak calmly and slowly, but most importantly quietly.
- Lightning Quick Corrections
The quicker the intervention, the quicker the cure seems to apply to ensuring students are on task. This video demonstrates how quickly you can intervene with anyone even slightly off task. The quicker you get them back on task, the less likely the behaviour will escalate. As you are delivering instructions or having a class discussion, be in a position where you can observe every student and watch to see if they are engaging as they should be. If not intervene in the least disruptive way as possible.