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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds I was working with a school– a specialist school for children who had been thrown out of every other school. And this school was in real chaos. The head teacher phoned me up and said Paul, we’ve got to do something drastic here. We’ve got children who are spiraling out of control. We’ve got violent incidents erupting all over the place. We are really worried that the school is in a state of collapse. And she said to me, Paul, I’ve got an idea of something we could do to really have a huge impact. She said, Paul, what I want you to do is to teach my teachers and all the adults that work with the students a script.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds At which point I said, what do you mean? She said, I want every single adult that works in this school to use the same script when they’re trying to intervene with poor behavior. And it worried me. It seemed a little bit too restrictive. And I always want teachers to have and to use their professional judgement as much as possible. And yet, here we were in a school in chaos with children from very chaotic lives who have no consistency at all. And the idea was the script. So I worked with the staff for a couple of days. And we created a script in four parts.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds Every single member of the staff had the script, and we were determined to make it work. Although at the time we didn’t quite know what the outcome would be. We put the script up on the projector in assembly, and the children laughed. Well they would. These are children that have collapsed every behavior management approach that people have tried to use with them over many, many years. And here, another group of adults, trying something different– they laughed. We gave them a copy of the script. And they went home that night and they learned that script off by heart, quite simply so that they could come in the next day and say to their teachers, oh, you missed that bit.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds And aren’t you supposed to say that bit before that bit? For two weeks they tried as much as they could to try and disrupt the script and stop people from using it. To be honest, they hated the scripts– the students. They really, really hated it. They were very good at shouting. They were great at open confrontation. They were very experienced at stand-up rounds with adults. And yet here were people using the same monotonous mantra with them with the same boring monotonous voice behind it. They really didn’t like it. The school was inspected a month after the teachers started using the scripts.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 seconds And the inspection team wrote in their report that there had been, over four weeks, a seismic shift in behavior. I couldn’t believe it. I went back to the school to visit. And what I found was quite remarkable. The students have tried to disrupt for two weeks, but when they realized that the staff had stuck together and were determined to be consistent, they started giving up. They were getting no response from the adults. And so they tried to find other ways of feeling important, of feeling valued, of finding their place in the school. They started behaving. There were no longer shouting matches in the corridor, running battles, students locking themselves in cupboards.

Skip to 3 minutes and 48 seconds Actually what had happened was, that these students who had spent their whole school careers getting real pleasure out of baiting teachers had given up. That school is still using those scripts five years later. Now look, I’m not suggesting that the only way to deal with poor behavior is through a scripted approach. In fact, on a Monday morning I’m quite capable of improvising my way through the discussions around behavior without using a script. But on a Thursday afternoon, when I’ve had the same issue over and over, the same class four or five times, the same rude and disrespectful response from an individual, I really need a script. It keeps me calm.

Skip to 4 minutes and 34 seconds It keeps me focused on the discussion that I need to have, and it protects the child from the force of my emotion. A script is a really powerful way to get your message across without losing your temper. You may not need a script on a Monday morning. But on the Thursday afternoon, it’s extremely useful to have one in your back pocket. What if you had a micro-script that you used with students when you were tired of improvising, when you needed to keep that interaction safe? I wonder how you’d start? What you’d say to get in, deliver the message, and get out with your dignity intact and the dignity of the student intact? For me it’s quite simple.

Skip to 5 minutes and 21 seconds I use a 30-second intervention script that starts with, I’ve noticed. I’ve noticed that you’ve had a problem getting started this morning. There’s no judgement there. There’s no accusation. Just, I’ve noticed. Then I make sure that that student knows why I’ve come. I’ve noticed you’ve had a problem getting started this morning and you know that our focus is on resilience. I need you to be able to join in with the group. The third part of the script is to tell the student what the negative consequence is. I’ve noticed you’ve had a problem getting started this morning, and you know the our focus is resilience.

Skip to 6 minutes and 0 seconds You are going to need to speak to me at the end of the lesson for two minutes. At that point, some students will protest. They’ll try and defend themselves. They’ll try and take you off course. So what you need is a way of landing that negative consequence softly. I take the student back to a previous example of their good behavior. And I stop the emotion bubbling up in the student. I stop the defensive response by simply taking them back to that moment. So my script, in full, goes like this. I’ve noticed you got a problem getting started this morning. Am I right? And you know we’re working on resilience. I need you to join in with the group.

Skip to 6 minutes and 51 seconds You are going to have to speak to me for two minutes after the lesson today. Do you remember last week? Do you remember last week when I sent that note home to mum? I remember it. You did some outstanding peer assessment. The write-up of your investigation was extremely accurate, and you came to science club on Wednesday. That– that is the student I need you to be today. Thanks for listening and I’m off. I won’t take more than 30 seconds to intervene because I’ve got 30 other children to deal with, and they deserve my attention just as much as the child who’s disrupting. My script is repetitive. It’s calm. It sends a clear message.

Skip to 7 minutes and 38 seconds And I give that learner take-up time so they can think about their next response. A really good micro-script leaves the student, not angry with the teacher, but thinking about their own behavior, and thinking about what they’re going to do next. A repetitive use of a micro-script starts to take out the panic from behavior interventions– both your panic and that of some of the students.


‘I didn’t know what to say, how can that be?’

Video Summary

We’ve all had days and specific times in a lesson when we feel exasperated with a student and we find it difficult to know what to say in the moment. Even worse, we say things we don’t mean when going on a rant as we lose control of our emotions and finally, our dignity. We suffer and our students suffer - unnecessarily.

Fortunately, the answer is in our own hands - the ‘micro-script’.

Learning the actual words to say seems wrong for some staff as they feel it’s too restrictive and doesn’t let them use their personality when dealing with inappropriate behaviours. However as we both know, teaching is sometimes an act, brief exchanges between teacher and student that make up a longer journey.

Students don’t like scripts. Many are used to living and hanging around with adults and peers who shout, rant and rave just like they do. They need a different model to follow. They need to hear a calm dignified voice using language delivered with a deadpan, monotonous voice whilst seeing an unemotional face. It’s outside their comfort zone and acts as pattern interrupt. The script need be no more than 30 seconds and has 3 parts:

  1. An opening line … ‘I notice that … ‘
  2. The message delivered … ‘And you know that we need to … ‘
  3. The consequence … ‘If you choose to … I will need to speak to you after the lesson … ‘

When delivering the consequence the student will often defend themselves or deny their actions: ‘but it’s not me it’s … ‘ and this is when we take them back to their previous good behaviour.

‘That maybe so and do you remember last week when you completed that assignment and came to the after-school club? That’s the ‘you’ I want to see today.’

At that point you walk away and leave them to choose their next actions; teaching students about choice and consequence is a vital part of the script process. Your dignity is intact and the brief interrupt means little effect on learning for the whole class as you move away to help other students.


You have heard Paul talk about using micro-scripts - scripted interventions to use when students chose not to follow the rules.

It is now your turn to create a micro-script.

Consider the situation when you have to intervene with a student for a second time in one lesson. You have already spoken to them once. The first time you spoke to them, you gave them a verbal warning. You walked away and gave them some ‘take-up’ time. Unfortunately, the student needs further intervention.

Draft a script to use when you approach them for a second time.

Think carefully about the language you use. Try to script the intervention so that you can get in, deliver the message and get out with everyone’s dignity in tact. Share your script in the comments below.

Things to remember, things to help you create your script:

  • Attack the behaviour not the child
  • Don’t ask open questions that encourage a longer conversation
  • Consider how you can leave the student in a reflective mood rather than angry with you
  • Remind them of the rule they are breaking
  • Explain what will happen if they continue with poor choices
  • Resist the temptation to threaten with meaty sanctions
  • Try not to linger on what has happened, instead focus on what will happen when you walk away

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing Behaviour for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre