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Behaviour article

How to create a happier dining room:

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Do you dread the afternoon drama that follows fractious lunchtimes?

For many children, such as those who can only just cope with managing themselves during lessons, unstructured times of day like lunchtimes are bound to be flash-points for poor behaviour. Not only does this cause everyone stress during lunch, but the tension often carries over into afternoon, wasting valuable lesson time.

So, to help your lunchtimes be happier, we've created the Lunchtime Masterplan to help you transform your lunchtime provision using our step by step approach.

Here are a few ideas to get you started along the road to more harmonious lunchtime provision, simply by modifying your environment.

Waiting times

Look carefully at the flow of the dining room. How long do pupils have to queue to get their food? Time them and find out!

Hungry, bored and restless children can always be counted on to behave at their worst. The longer the queue to be served, the greater the impact on behaviour in the dining room.

The next step is to analyse what you can do about it. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What could be changed to cut down on waiting times?
  • How could the flow of traffic be more efficient?

Seating arrangements

Look at your seating arrangements and address the following points:

  • Are seats easily accessible for children of all ages?
  • Are seats too far away for your younger students to carry trays (without spilling food, water or trays)?
  • Are tables set up to maximise ease of movement and minimise running, which might cause accidents?

Sometimes making minor changes to the environment can have a huge positive impact on behaviour.

Grouping

Experiment with different groupings of children. How you sit children together will affect how they socialise and interact with each other. Decide what you aims are and deliberately adapt your seating plan to achieve your desired outcome.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can children choose anywhere they like to sit?
  • Do they have to sit in year groups?
  • Could social skills be improved by mixing ages of children together at the same table?
  • Could they sit in houses or teams?
  • Could you try mixing sandwich and hot dinner seating?
  • What other solutions might work for you?

Conclusion

These three factors alone can have a significant impact on behaviour in your school dining room. Don't be afraid to try out new ideas.

If your changes don't work, think about what new information you have learned and get creative about trying something else.

Top tip: hive mind - involve everyone in school in coming up with suggestions for improvements, rather than relying on one or two individuals. After all, it's in everyone's best interests to make your lunchtimes the finest they can be.


Staff meeting activity

This activity will take 15 minutes and will encourage all staff to think creatively about improving lunchtime provision in your school.

Requirements

You will need the following materials:

  • Large sheets of paper and pens
  • Access to the internet / the facility to show this month’s Beacon video
  • A timer

Activity

Tell staff that you are going to investigate your current lunchtime arrangements and then work together to think of modifications and improvements to the environment. Behaviour at lunchtimes is everyone's responsibility and it impacts on the whole day.

Split your staff into two teams; make sure that they are sitting in their teams. It's best to mix staff up, rather than sit in their phases for this activity.

Explain that one team will focus on the playground environment and the other team will focus on the dining room environment.

Ask each team to draw a plan of the current layout of their area (playground or dining room). Include as much detail as possible, for example, playground markings, storage shed, serving hatch, salad bar, bins etc.

Now ask them to spend 10 minutes coming up with constructive suggestions for improvements that could be tried. Explain that they must not use the time to complain about the current set up, only to think of ways forward. Draw or list all of their ideas.

At the end of the ten minutes, ask each group to feedback their suggestions. As a whole staff, pinpoint one or two modifications that can be put into place from Monday. Decide who will do this and who will support them. Discuss how we will know if the changes are working.

Remember to put up copies of the first page of the newsletter on display in the staffroom, so staff members can refer to it at a later date.




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