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Q&A session

Education behaviour consultant John Bayley answers learner questions about behaviour management.
PAUL THORNTON: Welcome, everybody, to the second instalment of the question and answer sessions, where we do our best to answer as many of your questions that come in from the comments we receive from the “Managing Behaviour for Learning” course. Today is our primary edition. And we’ve been joined by our primary specialist at STEM Learning, Tanya Shields. We have questions around rules and routines. We have some questions on teaching assistants and some very specific behaviours around SEND and ELL, and even one on sarcasm. So we will get started with question one, which is from Kelly. And Kelly’s question is, “What are the best vocabulary and techniques to use when setting expectations in the Early Years classroom?”
Now, that’s not something I’ve experienced. I’ve been a secondary specialist, but I do have children around that age. So Tanya, what’s your thoughts first on that– early years setting and–
TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah, this is– it’s an interesting, this one, isn’t it? Because it’s not just about educating the children in terms of a curriculum at this stage. It’s about helping those children to establish themselves in the classroom and understand classroom routines. And you’re dealing with a mixture of experiences. And the tone of your voice has a massive impact. I know working with some young children, if you use a sharp– a slightly sharper tone to your voice when you’re speaking to them, straight away we can have floods of tears. And that just escalates into a whole world of mess that we don’t want to be dealing with.
So first and foremost, I would say your tone is really, really important when you’re talking to young children. And getting their attention as well is something that we need to be doing in an assertive and in a positive way. So we need to have that descriptive cue to start off with. So if we see some Behaviour that we’re not particularly happy with, we don’t want to be jumping into any– and it links with your sarcasm comment there about. We don’t want to be turning in and turning around and saying, Paul, why are you sticking a pencil in somebody’s ear?
It’s because you’re going to turn around to the young child and go, actually, how do you even answer that question about why are you doing it? I just am. So it’s that descriptive of, Paul, you’re sticking that pencil in that child’s ear. So you get your attention. You get the name there. Can you stop that, please? Because that’s not a nice thing to do. So you’re explaining what you want them to do. And then you’re reaffirming it with that Behaviour that you want to see in the classroom, but doing it in a way that’s not aggressive, not confrontational. And using the name to start off with is really good.
And the common ones that you see in the classroom when children are talking– again, it’s, Paul, you’re talking a lot. Can you stop, please? Thanks. So you’re having that confident “thanks” at the end of it to say they recognise that you’ve done it. And then we can go on to describing. Can you sit nicely and look this way? So you’re constantly telling the children how to behave, because I think that’s probably the biggest barrier with young children– that some of them don’t actually know the correct way to behave in the classroom. So we need to help them to do that in a way that’s not going to raise other issues by upsetting them and what have you in there.
So, yeah, nice, assertive tone. Get their attention. Don’t reinforce the bad Behaviour by asking a question that they can’t answer, but then give that descriptive cue to actually help them do as you would expect in the classroom according to classroom rules.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, I agree on all those points. And to go further on some of them, firstly, as a teacher, you need to be clear about what your aims of the classroom are, what culture you want to set, what environment you want to set. And then you need to have those kind of key rules. And I think what you said was the way you assert those rules is key. So a positive tone– I totally agree with that. And praise when you are seeing the things you want to see as well, not just always the negatives and pointing out the things you don’t want to see.
And you also mentioned, which I think is key, at that age, you can’t just tell them this is what you want. You have to show them and almost teach them the techniques you want in the setting and the rules and the routines that you’re setting.
Additionally, the “what” is what do you want your customer to feel like? Why– so they understand the reasons why they’re doing it, I think, is key at that age as well. And so we’re teaching them the reasons why as well, and it’s not just telling them. When– the when is kind of this– there may be different times and different settings. So I’m thinking if they move to a different part of the classroom, if they’re moving– in an earlier setting, they have play stations and things like that, don’t they, where they can go to. And there’s slightly different rules. But essentially, your rules are all of the time. And you assert them when needed in a positive tone.
And then lastly is the how. It’s using them, I suppose, consistently and relentlessly, without emotion, positively. And praise when you see it. And I think that’s how.
TANYA SHIELDS: It’s just reminded me– sorry to interrupt, Paul. It’s just reminded me of that “how” can be interesting as well. So when you’re asking the children to come into the classroom and sit down quietly, and look at me, and you want to know that they’re listening, I used to say to children in my class, can you show me your listening eyes? Which to anybody coming outside the classroom, what on earth are “listening eyes?” And what’s this woman talking about? But we’d have that conversation with the class. I can’t tell when your ears are listening to me, so you need to show me through your body language and have your eyes looking at me.
So, yeah, “listening eyes” was something that I’d completely forgotten until you mentioned– explained those behaviours.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. And something very similar– and I’m not talking down in year 7– sorry, down in the early years. But I’m talking year 7, year 8, but I think it applies. If I would want everyone to stop what they’re doing and face the board or face wherever I was, then I would simply stick a hand in the air. And then I’d show them that what I would want them to do is to put their hand in the air. And doing that kind of spread across the classroom. And even puts their hands in the air and then is facing the front. And you don’t even have to raise your voice.
But you’ve shown them that what that hand means is I want your hand in the air and facing me. And that’s a way of getting their attention rather than bellowing and shouting, et cetera. So again, anyone coming in the classroom, they might just be– why’s he sticking his hands up in the air? Until they see that there’s people, other people, doing it. So there are many techniques you can use. But as long as the children know what the expectation they’re being shown, then that should help along the way. OK, we’re going to move on to question two, which is a follow-on from the question we just had, which I think we’ve answered some of it, but we haven’t answered all.
And I’ll explain that in a minute. It says, “What are your top organisational tips for creating and reviewing the classroom rules, then reflecting on your practise? i.e., do you bookend each half term to schedule time weekly for reflections?” So I think there’s two points Nicola’s making there is creating the rules, and then reviewing the rules. And I think the creation of the rules we’ve touched upon in the first question. So I’m going to focus on the reviewing of the rules. And what I would say is that I wouldn’t necessarily book time in for it. And I’ll explain that in a moment, where it might have its place. But if something isn’t working, you’ll know. You’ll feel that something’s not working.
And I think that’s, then, the time to review it. Take a step back. What is not working? And what do you need to change in order for it to work? So if you set seven key goals that you would like or seven key routines or seven key rules, and five of them are working, firstly, pat yourself on the back that five are working. As humans, we focus too much on the negative a lot. You’ve got five things right there. So you’re going to work on those two things this week. And the students know that they’re going to work on those two things this week or next week, and yet really focus on those two things.
Explain to the students why those two things remain important. It’s about the environment, the culture. We’re all here to grow. And without those two things, we can’t grow. So I think having set times may cause overthinking, trying to fix something that’s not broke a little bit. My advice would be just be self-aware, self-aware of the situation. And if it feels like something’s wrong, then step back and reflect. That’s my thought on it. Tanya, any thoughts?
TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. I think there’s a flip side to this as well to be strategic in terms of it’s what you said about reinforcing positive Behaviour earlier. So once we’ve got a set of rules– and I’m thinking particularly I had a class that was rather noisy. And that was one of our main focuses– of making sure that we could get the classroom noise down to a working level that wasn’t disruptive. And when you suddenly noticed that some of these Behaviour rules that you’ve put into place are actually working, and they’re embedded in the practise, then maybe that might be a time to say to the class, should we have a look at our rules? Are they working?
Do we still need these rules in place? But also, use it as a strategy to reward the children and to acknowledge, do you know what? You’re brilliant at this. We’ve got this classroom, and your Behaviour is great. So do we need to take off the list? Do we need to keep it on the list? And give the children a sense of ownership as well, but using it as a, “Well done, everybody. Pat on the back. We’ve worked well together, and we’re actually implementing this.” So using it as some positive reinforcement as well, I think, is a good technique.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. That 5 and 7 that I said– so not just telling the students that we’re working on these two things, but saying, look how well you’ve done with these five key rules. And reinforce on how well you’ve done. So that’s a key point , well made there, Tanya. Right, OK, moving on to the next question and a group of questions that are around teaching assistants. So they’re very similar in what they’re trying to get from us. But we’ll start with a question from Kirsty. And it says, “How do you get teenagers to lower the volume when you are left alone with them by the teacher?
Pupils are fine, but there are a few who instantly start being loud and silly the moment the teacher leaves the room.” And I’m sure we’ve all– you’ve seen this, Tanya, and I’ve seen this occur. I think it transcends key stages. It happens right through primary, right through secondary. And in fact, in me discussion with John Bailey earlier in the week, it was happening with someone in an A-level class. So it does transcend the Key Stages. So my thought before I put it to you Tanya is it’s usually a child who is assuming that the teacher is not in front of me, and therefore I can know act out. And nothing will be done, essentially.
There will be no consequence to this because the teacher is not there. And that’s generally– not always, but that’s generally the reason that’s occurring. And what I mean by “consequence” is not telling them and shouting at them to say, “Stop talking. You weren’t doing this when the teacher was there,” which is given them an audience which he’s probably after. But it’s about that follow-up. And I’ll delve into the follow-up a little bit in a moment. But Tanya, what’s your initial thoughts?
TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah, it’s about boundaries again, isn’t it? It’s the children or the students trying to figure out what they can get away with and what they can’t. Because if you’re taking a child out of a class, it might be because they’re needing extra help. And it could be potentially exposing some– what’s the word I’m looking for? Some anxieties that they’ve got around what they’re going to be doing. And it’s that the light really is on them. And if they can deflect that, then these are all classic strategies for doing that. But absolutely right.
You’d need to be clear that the consequences are in there, and they’re consistent with the classroom teacher, and that the students, the children, the pupils, know that what those actions are, and that it is going to happen. Because it isn’t just a case of with a teaching assistant now, and I can do what I like. Teaching assistants are there to educate just as much as a classroom teacher is. And the children need to be aware of that and have it reinforced. So a good working relationship with a teacher with me is– would be absolutely key. So you’ve got that back-up, and that the children can see that you are one working force.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. Exactly that. And I think the good point you made there around boundaries and structure– if they feel that that structure is being taken away when the teacher leaves, and then the boundaries have shifted, that can automatically trigger responses in children, where they get a bit uneasy, a bit anxious. And then that’s how they respond to it. So I think what they need to know is that structure and that the boundaries are still there with the person who they are left with and which, in a sense, is the teaching assistant. So I think ways in which you can do this– and this is over time. So this would not be immediately. You have to build this up.
But in terms of the follow-up, you have to follow up with the issue. So if the teacher comes back in, can you take that child to one side and just say, “I noticed that when the teacher came in, you were a bit more loud. You were a bit silly. I don’t appreciate that,” et cetera. And if it continues, then it could be that you follow up further. So you can have the conversation with the teacher or the head of year or whomever that person is within the school– head of Behaviour, head of house, or even parents. What the student or the pupil needs to know is it’s not going away.
Or they’re not going to get away with it with you. And so that relentless follow-up, especially in the beginning– and it might not need to be there all the time. But at the beginning, you say, actually, I was not there. And your mum or your dad found out, and they weren’t very happy about that. And next time, it may not occur. So that’s the first thing. And I think the second thing– I think we’ve discussed this before, Tanya, is relationships are huge in teaching. And I would make it your mission to identify the students that this is occurring to. And make it your mission to know more about them. What makes them tick? Build that relationship with them generally.
And you can put strategies in place around it. When you know the teacher is going to leave, go over, start to have a conversation with them about what makes them tick, et cetera. And get them on side so that they don’t get the opportunity for that to arise. They’re already taken aback by it.
TANYA SHIELDS: That’s a bit of a balancing act, isn’t it? Because we’re so focused on getting coverage and getting through the curriculum and teaching the stuff that we need to teach that actually sometimes, we need to take a step back and say, well, if I take some time and invest that in the people in that relationship, then I’ve got that relationship with them to enhance the learning, rather than looking on with trying to do the lessons that I’m doing and try and build that relationship. Sometimes I think we probably need to stop, come off task a little bit, and focus on getting that Behaviour, that relationship, right.
And then hopefully, for the rest of the lessons, we can pick up where we’ve– that short amount of time that we’ve missed, there. So, yeah, really key, there– relationships.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. And just to finalise this point before moving on to the next question, when I say “follow up,” I don’t want us to be thinking always about the negative follow-up, also the positive follow-up. So the next time they weren’t poorly behaved, follow that up. Tell the teacher they were brilliant today. Tell the head of year or whatever it was that they’ve actually improved and see the praise that they get from that. That will support that as well. The next two questions are also looking at teaching assistants, but this is more about when they’re actually covering classes. There’s a third question there that I might bring into the conversation, depending on where we go with it.
So the first one says, “I work as a TA and go from class to class with younger children, six to seven-year-old. I would like to know when I’m covering in class, what is the best techniques you have to get children to ‘quieten down’ when the noise starts rising?” “Because the teacher has a set of rules and ways. And sometimes you just have to look for them to be quiet. But they aren’t as quiet when I’m there.” And the second question is very much related to this. “As a HLTA, how can you have these rules and Behaviour management in place when it’s just a short cover?”
So I think they both align to the fact that students know how to behave, and they know the rules and routines from one teacher. And when someone’s covering that, how do the teaching assistants continue with those high expectations? So what’s your thoughts?
TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But again, it’s back to those relationships and that consistency, isn’t it? So ideally what you’d hope in a school setting is that the school has a standard set of rules, so that when you’re going from one place to another, that actually you’re all familiar with what those rules are. And it is, whether it’s a small group setting or a large group, that you work– a whole class that you’re working with– it’s having that relationship with the class teacher, as we’ve just said in the previous question, and reinforcing that.
Yeah, the “teacher stare”– it’s a mythical thing, isn’t it, that some people have got this teacher stare and can sort that out. But that comes down to relationships. I know when I was in school, the governors used to say to me, well, Miss Shields, you don’t have Behaviour problems in my class. And the perception was that I was a bit soft. But actually, the reality was the children knew where those boundaries were. And, yes, I could afford to be a little bit more relaxed with them. But they knew if they crossed that line, then they knew what the consequences were. So my teacher stare across the school hall to get them to be quiet was really quite effective.
As a teaching assistant, when they’re not– you don’t have that time with the children, so you have to work with the class teacher. And I think probably partnering up with your class teacher and asking about that and rewarding, again, the children that do come into the class quietly. So when you walk into the room, much like we said for the Early Years question, looking at getting that attention cue. So maybe you walk into the classroom, and you say, James, thank you ever so much. I can see that you’re ready to start learning today. And you’re sat in, and getting that and those– that raising awareness of good Behaviour and reinforcing that in as well.
And you’ll start to see other children come on board as well. But it is something that’s going to take time. And I think you need to stick to that consistent approach with the school or the class– the class rules. And work with the classroom teacher about that as well to make sure that you’ve got that in place.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. On the first point, the school hopefully has those high expectations from everyone. And that’s the first place to be. If there’s the same basic rules and basic expectations that students should be working to, then that’s the go-to. But use it as a teaching assistant. And again, I’ve come across some absolutely amazing teaching assistants are doing this. They have to have their own high expectations and what they want when they’re delivering. And they don’t let them slip. And aligning your high expectations with the teacher that you’re covering’s expectations, just to let the students know, well, Miss Such and Such expects you to do this, this, and this.
And look, I expect the exact same things, and just making that clear at the start. I think you’re right. And to Kerry, I believe, and Corinne, who asked these questions, it’s sometimes a thankless task to be having to support these students, teach these students, and not have the chance to build up this relationship, which is key. It is a thankless task, but just stick to the points that we’ve been making. Try and build up the positive relationships. Be relentless in the follow-up. Have your high expectations. And over time, hopefully it will come. I like the idea of really working with the teacher on this. And I’ve just noted something down.
What I do– as I said, I’m a secondary specialist, so I haven’t got a younger experience. But my son, who’s seven, can be a bit of a rascal if he’s given half the chance. What we do is when he goes out with family members is we in front of them say, these are three things that I’m looking for when you’re out with your uncle, as an example. And I’m going to ask your uncle to give feedback on how you’ve done. And if there’s positive feedback on those things, then he’s rewarded and praised for those things.
So having that relationship with the teacher, and the teacher can say which ones you may have issues with, and then having that kind of report back to say, listen, he was brilliant, blah, blah, blah, praise, and it’s a cycle, that may work. So yeah, I think that may work. So it was a good point you made there, Tanya. And there was a question from Kerry, which is very similar, which was, “I cover every class in every year-group in three form entry primary school on rota, working through the year-groups on a half-termly basis.
And I’ve found it very challenging to deal with the issue of creating an environment of mutual trust and positive and respectful Behaviour because we only see the child every two hours, once every third week.” So I think there’s no difference in the answers we would give to that essentially. But just so that you know, Kerry, that we’ve put that question in consideration. And hopefully those answers we’ve given so far support you in that, unless you’ve got anything else to add at this point, Tanya.
TANYA SHIELDS: I would just say don’t underestimate that two hours a week with those children, because if you’re providing lessons that the children enjoy, and they can engage in, so if you are doing practical work with them, there’s going to be some children in that class that really look forward to that two hours a week. And they might not verbalise it. You might not be aware of it. But that might be the highlight of their week. So don’t underestimate yourself in terms of the relationships that you get because the children’s perception of what’s going on is often very different to yours. I remember hearing about a child that I taught when she was in year 3.
And her sister came to me and said that she’d just won an award. And she was in year 9 at that point. She’d written something. It had to be a piece of descriptive writing about something who– somebody who was really influential in her life. And she’d written about me. And you think, she was in year 9 now, and I taught her when she was in year 3. And I had no idea the impact that I’d had on this child. And it wasn’t even a child in a lesson. She said it was at playtimes when she used to come to me and talk to me about her swimming lessons and what she was doing in swimming.
For me, it was just I was on playground duty. And I was just passing the time and having a nice conversation with a child on a topic that I was interested in. But that had stuck with her. So something that was really quite small and insignificant for me– it obviously played quite a part in that child’s life. And it stuck there. So don’t underestimate yourself, Kerry. There will be children in your class that really appreciate those lessons and enjoy them. And you’re making a difference.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, definitely. And that’s very interesting actually, because it just made me think of something else around that. I mean, not in the same sense of a TA, but we had cover supervisors in secondary. And we always had the same students who would end up in what we called the timeout or isolation that were coming from the same cover supervisors. And trying to get to the bottom of it a little bit, the children sometimes felt defeated as soon as they seen that person in front of them. And what I mean by that is they see that person and think, I’m always thrown out by this person. We don’t get on.
And it puts them in a bad mood as a student. And then they play up, and it’s an endless cycle. And where it really, really worked well was when the cover supervisors were, as you say, that role model, that actually, kids see them, and are like, “Yes, good.” And not “yes” because, oh, good, it’s going to be easy lesson, but “yes” because they really like that cover supervisor because they’re part of the school environment. They’re part of the school ethos. They’re big characters. And they have their kind of high expectations, but they’re consistent and fair with them.
So, yeah, I agree wholeheartedly with that point that there will be students who love to see the teacher assistant, or cover supervisor, in this instance, faces because of how they go about their role. So I think that’s always key. All right, so we’re going to move on now to some more very specific issues. We’ve got four of them. And the first one is from Alex, which is, “What is the best way to deal with negative forms of sarcasm in the class?” Did you ever have much of this, Tanya?
TANYA SHIELDS: Yes and no. I’m just saying this is one that I would personally– this could be one of my questions, to be honest, because when you’re dealing with students and pupils that have that sarcastic response, and I can tend to have that same sarcastic response, the gut reaction is if they catch you off guard, it’s for you to be sarcastic back. And that’s something that we really need to be aware of in terms of our Behaviour– that they’re not pushing buttons that are going to bring out the worst behaviours in us as well. And for me, for young children, it would be a case of basically saying, well, I don’t– it’s the reinforcing of the Behaviour, isn’t it?
That’s not Behaviour that I expect, or that’s not a particularly nice way to speak to people. If you have something that’s a concern, or you don’t think that that’s appropriate, can you please speak to me or speak to others in a better way? So you’re saying, I don’t like the way that you’ve toned this conversation. And this is how I’d like you to word it in future. So it’s back to that speaking– those rules, speaking to me in an appropriate way or speaking to others in an appropriate way because sarcasm is not acceptable. What is it? Is it the lowest form of humour is the myth that goes around?
I will take that note and do my best not to be as sarcastic. But, yes, it is hard, that one, because if it’s coming from an adult’s point of view or a mature student, it can push the buttons with you as well, can’t it? So, yeah, try to keep calm and stick to the rules.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. And I have to openly admit as well, earlier in my career, I think– yeah, sarcasm may have played a part in some of my responses to students and just humour that some students didn’t find nice. And I think it does start with us. We have to change. We have to be the change that we want to see. That is, essentially, we model that best practise. So I’ve seen sarcasm used by so many teachers in many lessons. And it doesn’t really help the situation. So I think we showcase what it should look like. What is kindness? What is good humour? What is positivity? What’s hard work look like? What does professionalism look like?
We model those things, and therefore, there is someone as a focus point for the students to understand that’s the way it should be. That’s the way good humour is. That’s the way we speak to people, as you said. I think sometimes it might depend on the severity and the frequency as well. So tactically ignoring it in the first instance is a key thing, just as if it didn’t happen. I think that’s a key point. But if it does become an issue, it’s consistent, it’s impacting on other students, or it’s impacting on yourself, then we can do a little bit of work around it. I think I totally agree. We basically set the expectation.
We say that this is a rule about being kind. And we put sarcasm on the list of things that are unkind because it’s often we use it essentially to make others look silly is what sarcasm can be used for. So it’s an unkind Behaviour that we basically say is unacceptable. And sometimes, it might just be that it’s a learned Behaviour. The student doesn’t really know what’s wrong with it. So there’s a little bit of work that may be done there. It might just simply be a five-minute chat, explaining to them that sarcasm is this, and this can cause this. And that’s why we don’t allow it. So hopefully, that would be enough interventions.
But again, I’d go back to the points we raised before. If it does consistently occur, and those different interventions I’ve just spoken to aren’t working, then there is, again, a point which we need to escalate and therefore have conversations with relevant people– heads of year, heads of Behaviour, heads of house or whatever it is, and then potentially parents. Yeah, it’s a very niche question, but I think we’ve maybe answered it fairly well. Tanya, anything to add? Nope? Lovely.
TANYA SHIELDS: Nope. With microphone on this time.
PAUL THORNTON: Brilliant. OK, so the next one is from Rubina, who has a question around English as an additional language, who wants to know, “How do you manage Behaviour routines and rules for children coming into a school with no or limited English language?” And it’s not something I’ve dealt with personally from my background. I did a bit of digging, and I spoke to my wife, who works in a school with over 50% ELL students in it. So I’ve got a few things I can mention. I don’t know if you’ve got anything first, Tanya, on that.
TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah, I’m just thinking of the ELL children that I had when I was teaching in primary school. I had a particular little boy who didn’t really speak any English at all– was from Russia. He came across. And you go back to maybe speaking to your EYFS teachers, because when you have young children coming into the classroom, they don’t always have the ability to read things and to be able to understand things. So you start to do things graphically.
So what you notice a lot of Early Years classrooms and primary classrooms is on the trays, if you’ve got a tray of scissors, you’ll have the word “scissors,” but you’ll also have a picture of a set of scissors next to it, so you understand that. And I would say the same with your Behaviour rules. So if you’ve got a rule about shouting, then maybe we might have a little clip art picture of somebody who looks like they’re shouting or getting cross to try and help that. Pairing children with other children works really well.
And looking back on how [AUDIO OUT] was in the class, actually, the children were the best at helping him to understand how to behave because they found different ways of speaking to him and showing how to– and gesticulating as well. It’s amazing no matter what language we speak how the tone of the conversation can be understood, even if you don’t understand the words. So one for me would be to get the graphics in there in terms of anything, any classroom rules that you have displayed in the classroom. If you see Behaviour that you don’t think is appropriate or doesn’t match the classroom rules, then we go back to that on the wall. And we say by the same name.
And we can point to the classroom rule that’s got the graphic next to it to say that this is– we need to be quieter. We’ve got lots of international sign language going on here with me when I’m talking about sound and so on. But also, pairing a child up as well to make sure that he’s got– the children have got a group of peers to work with as well, and for them to help support that transition as they develop the language. In my experience, it’s remarkable how quickly children develop their language skills. That’s obviously not to say they become fluent really quickly.
But, yeah, in my experience, children developing their language skills happens a lot better– a lot quicker than it maybe does in later years.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. And the points that you’ve raised there, a few of them, was what me wife had mentioned, so I’ll come to them in a moment. And the thing that first popped into my mind when I read this question was a lot of Behaviour management can be done nonverbally, and as you just said, those universal signs that teachers understand. And I mentioned before about hands up. Things like that can work, where you’re not actually speaking. You’re just doing a signal, and the rest of the class are doing it. That child soon then figures out that that’s what they need to be doing. So they’ll pick up on routines, and they’ll pick up on things like that, through nonverbal communication.
That was the first thing that popped in me mind. And then when I had the discussion with me wife, who, as I said, works in a school where they have a high proportion of Eastern European community, especially. What that school does is when the child arrives at the school, be it in year 7 as a primary school or in the academy as well, but wherever they come into the school, they’re put into a nurture group to start with, which helps them with the building of the basic language. But also what they do is they, as you said, Tanya, they pair them up. They pair them up within the nurture group, so that can support them.
But what they’d also do is give them a mentor. And as often as they can, they give a mentor who comes from the same– with the same language. So an example would be a year 11 student who has been through it, who has had ELL, but who can speak quite fluent English now, is mentoring a year 7 child who’s coming in. And that seems to be a system that really, really works.
The other thing that they do is they have a pastoral– and I couldn’t believe this when she told me. But they have a pastoral member of staff who can speak each of the key languages in that school. So when there is difficulties, if someone has crossed the line, and they really need to be clear on things, then they can call that pastoral member of staff to relay that information clearly in their language. So that’s something that if you have the capacity to do, I think that’s a fantastic resource to call upon. And lastly, right as you said, graphical information is key. So the school will have all the posters that they have around rules has that graphical element.
So uniform– there is a picture of the uniform, exactly how it should look. Times of the day– there is the clock with the actual time of things happening, so just two examples of that. So yeah, that’s all the things that I have on ELL. So on to the final question, which is from Kirsty, around a male SEND student who is being rather unkind to his female peers. And this is what Kirsty has to say. “We have a pupil with special needs who is very unpleasant to girls. He would deliberately stand on their charger cables, block them from going up and down stairs, push past them in an aggressive manner.
And I and other PSAs are not entirely sure how to address this Behaviour,” which is just to girls, and not to boys. And Kirsty also feels that teachers don’t even mention it because it seems to happen outside of classes during break and around the corridors. So any ideas would be gratefully received. I mean, firstly, without knowing the additional needs of that child, I would say it’s a tough one to answer off the bat because the response could be very different, depending on the need of that child. So there is a thought around un-picking it, which I’ll run through now. And then Tanya, if you’ve got anything else to add. I think the first thing to do is break it down.
We must first ask, are we meeting the needs of that child? Are we missing something, so that that child, when he’s outside of a structured lesson, then feels that that’s what he needs to do? It’s a habit that he’s in?
That’d be first thing. Is there things we can do to support the child in transition between lessons, to support that need? So be it they’re allowed to two minutes early to get to their lesson, and they start the next lesson straight away. They’re escorted potentially with a male member of staff or a female member of staff, depending on where we’re at. So that’s the first thing. The second point, I think, pulling from the question is, is he choosing who he’s doing this to? As in, is it the same group of girls? Is it the same girls? Is it young girls? What is it? And that’s just something I would want to get to the bottom of.
Is there anything underlying, causing, the Behaviour towards girls in particular? And is there a concern that needs to be raised as a safety concern around that? Because if it is particularly girls, particularly maybe young girls, then there is potentially concerns. We just need to keep that in our thoughts. And perhaps he just needs some intervention around respect and equality from senior leaders or even qualified outside agencies, I would say. And if I may at this point, I had something very similar. The boy wasn’t SEND or anything, but he did seem to have a negative outlook on girls. So as an example, he used to respond to the girls in his class by saying, you’re never going to amount to anything.
You’re going to be in the kitchen, and tell them to shut up and get back in line and things like that. That’s the sort of language he would use within the classroom. And so what I did over a six-month period is just sit with him and talk him through those points, those issues. Why are you saying those things? Trying to get to the bottom of it and trying to put my point of view around equality, et cetera. And I don’t want to go too much into that. And I like to think that I may assume he did make some improvement on those things. So sometimes, it’s just educating their mind.
But again, without knowing the needs of this child, we don’t know if that’s a possible thing. I do have a few of the things, but Tanya, do you want to jump in on any of those points?
TANYA SHIELDS: No, no. I completely agree. I’d read that, and straight away, rather than thinking of the Behaviour aspect of this, Behaviour management in the classroom, it was more to do with the needs of this child and the underlining concerns. Yeah, if we’re saying that actually, there isn’t anything underlying, then may we go back to the answers that we’ve given earlier in this video about working with the classroom teacher and talking about consequences, and that Behaviour is not acceptable. But there does seem to be something quite specific here that I think probably, you’re absolutely right, needs addressing. Maybe talking to your SEND coordinator and seeing what’s going on there to see if we can get to the bottom of it.
And educating this child that this isn’t acceptable. We shouldn’t be singling out certain members of our peer groups based on their gender. So yeah, interesting one, that one, that think needs some picking a little bit more.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, I do think it does need a picking. So a few techniques we’ve discussed that you may want to try, there. The final point on that– I think what I would like to say is that he either struggles with the unstructured time, so not being in the classroom. He struggles with that situation, and therefore there’s a need we need to fill in. And I’ll talk about how we do that. Or he is choosing to do it outside the classroom because he still has a fear of the consequences of doing it in front of the teacher. Now if that is the case, that’s a different way of solving it.
But the good thing is, if he does have a fear of the consequences of doing it in front of the teacher, there’s work we could do with him on exactly the things Tanya’s just said around high expectations. Explain to him why we don’t do that. And that there will be follow-up if he continues to do that, because then he will step back. He will know that people are watching them around that issue. So all the things I mentioned before– raise it. Raise it with relevant people if you feel it’s needed. So have you guys had behaviours? Et cetera– parents, if need be. And see if there’s any improvements.
If there’s no improvements, then we need to unpick why and go for those. That would be the route that I would take on that. So this is the end of today’s session. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope that you’ve got some techniques to take and use.

All online CPD courses from STEM Learning provide an opportunity to ask the educators more detailed questions as part of the course Q&A session.

The course educators will record responses to your outstanding questions from your reflection grids and course discussions. If there are ideas from the course you wish to explore further or issues about your own teaching context, then the Q&A provides a final opportunity to explore these with expert insight.


The Q&A session was recorded and uploaded on 15 March 2021. Thank you for the questions you asked. Another Q&A opportunity will be available in the next run of this course.

  • 00:30 Rules and routines
  • 10:20 Teaching assistant authority
  • 25:20 Specific behaviours

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Managing Behaviour for Learning

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