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Behaviour management: Practical tips

Written by: Alex Quigley
2 min read

Behaviour management remains a critical matter that can cloud the working day for too many teachers (NFER, 2013). The advice below is for teachers who, like me, struggled for longer than they would care to admit with behaviour management.

  1. Meet them at the pass. Students are incredibly quick in forming judgements about teachers, so all the small details of meeting them matter – positive, open gestures, direct eye contact, smiles and assertive body language. Be at the doorway – even when you are desperate to set up the computer or whatever else. Confidently allocate jobs: ‘lower the blind’, ‘hand out the books’ and so on.
  2. Confident leadership (and faking it if necessary). If the teacher doesn’t lead then students will quickly fill the void. Your tone and body language matter. Move about the room, plotting a confident path (Lemov, 2010), diffusing low-level misbehaviour before it even happens.
  3. Sweat the little details. We need to follow through with every sanction. Maybe letting some small, seemingly insignificant misbehaviour – a rude comment or a missed homework – go would be the path of least resistance. But beware – seeds are sown in the collective consciousness of a group.
  4. One rule to rule them all. No-one speaks whilst the teacher is speaking. When a student is speaking the same rule applies. To everyone. No compromises. No let-up or allowance for low-level chatter or the smallest of distractions should be accepted.
  5. Silence is golden. Too easily ‘mental engagement’ is mischaracterised as ‘physical activity. Our brains can be buzzing with activity as we sit and listen. We should consider in every lesson where are those spots when students will work in tranquil, golden silence, building their capacity to work in those conditions.
  6. Make good behaviour visible. We can too easily forget those quiet, more introverted students who plough on regardless of distraction. These quiet students not only need praise for their commitment, but they can play a crucial role in improving the behaviour of everybody in the group.
  7. Avoid conditional language. Clumsy, vague instructions can beget misbehaviour and distractions of our own making. To combat this, develop shorthand phrases that signal to students a whole list of responses in just a single word or phrase. For example, ‘active listening’ might be a key trigger phrase that means ‘put your pens down, look this way, don’t have anything in your hands, stop speaking and listen.
  8. Teach them to listen, communicate and behave. Sometimes, we forget that our expert assumptions about how we and others should behave isn’t so automatic for many of our young students. Don’t assume students know exactly ‘how’ they should behave. Do they understand how to listen actively? Make the implicit explicit. Spend some time establishing the ground rules.
  9. The Three Rs: Rigorous, relentless routines. Routines help students feel secure. Following through on routines (like checking rigorously for homework) also makes students value their learning more. Bennett (2017, p. 64) describes routines as ‘a fundamental source of high expectation, a scaffold for conduct, and a community vision of optimal habits and behaviour.’
  10. Relationships matter. We create calmness and control because we value our students more than anything. No student has a right to detract from the learning of others. When we establish firm parameters and high expectations, we can focus on developing great relationships.


This article is based on a blog originally published on


Bennett T (2017) Creating a Culture: How school leaders can optimise behaviour. London: Department for Education.

Lemov D (2010) Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

NFER (2013) Teacher Voice Omnibus May 2013 Survey: Pupil Behaviour. Slough: NFER.

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