Beacon
Behaviour Support for Schools

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December 2015: Managing classroom behaviour at Christmas.

We all know how difficult times of change can be, especially for young children. Throw a sprinkle of Christmas excitement into the mix and teachers can rapidly reach the ends of their tether before the festive season even begins.


Here's our simple, three step guide on how to minimise disruptions and keep school fun and productive, right up to the end of the Autumn Term.


1. Stick to the routine


The routines and training that you have been working on with your class since they started with you back in September are vital. Just because Christmas is coming, don't be tempted to throw out all of that good work and go completely off timetable. Sure, organise fun festive activities, but embed them into your existing structure as much as possible. If you normally do English and Maths in the morning, stick with that and work your activities into that existing format.


2. Pre-empt change.


In school life, there will inevitably be changes to routines. To minimise the disruption they cause, it's crucial that you pre warn children about what is happening throughout the day. Use your daily visual timetable, and add in pictures to represent new activities such as Christmas play rehearsals. Let all children know at the beginning of the day that some things may be different today, but reassure them that lots of other things will stay the same.


Many children (and adults!) prefer the security blanket of predictability and routine. They like to know what is happening next and how long it will last. Unexpected changes in routine can cause anxiety and distress which may manifest itself in poor behaviour choices.

3. Time all activities.


It can be really useful to give pupils a visual indicator of how long an activity will take on the interactive whiteboard.


A few minutes before a change, provide a countdown, use visual prompts such as a sand timer or whiteboard clock. (You can find some good ones here.) Visual strategies like these can often help children with autism manage their anxieties about change.


Look out for children who may be showing signs of anxiety, so that the adults can offer additional explanations and support.



The outcome.


Helping children to manage change by giving warnings and support will strengthen their trust in you and enhance their ability to cope in an ever changing world. Lessons will run more smoothly and everyone will gain maximum enjoyment in the run up to Christmas.



Staff meeting activity


This activity will take approximately 15 minutes and will empower staff to: pre empt changes in routine; understand and identify anxious behaviours; and discuss pupils who may need additional support. To use this activity, download a PDF version of the newsletter, using the links at the bottom of the page.


Requirements


You will need the following materials:


  • Flipchart paper or a whiteboard.
  • Pens.
  • Copies of page 1 of the newsletter (download the PDF version of the newsletter below). At least one between two members of staff.
  • Access to the internet / the facility to show this month's Beacon video (4 minutes, optional)
  • An example of a visual timetable.
  • School calendar of events for December.

The activity


  • Organise staff into year groups or phases. Explain that you will be focussing on minimising disruption to learning during December by supporting pupils as they experience changes to their routine.
  • Show the video clip that accompanies this newsletter (available below) or share our newsletter.
  • Ask staff to look at the timetable of events between now and the Christmas break. Work out the dates and times where changes that affect each class will occur. Make a note of the additional symbols that each class will need to add to their visual timetables (here are some Christmas visual timetable pictures to get you started).
  • Plan in calm activities to help manage the flow of excitement during busier days.
  • Ask staff to make a list of potential behaviours that children show when communicating to us that they are anxious. (Scribe on whiteboard / flipchart) e.g. calling out, tearfulness, drawing attention in negative ways, withdrawing, aggression, silliness.
  • Finally, ask staff to think about particular children in their class, who they know find change difficult to manage. Share this information with all staff, including lunchtime supervisors, to enable maximum support to be offered.

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




Downloads


Don't print this page! We've produced a much more attractive version for printing and sharing. Use the links below to download a copy of the newsletter in PDF format, and use this for print and distribute the information to your staff.




PDF version of newsletter (colour)


PDF version of newsletter (black and white)


Christmas visual timetable pictures

 


Our YouTube channel




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