Low-level disruption slows down teaching and learning, prevents students from focussing on their work and creates huge amounts of stress for teachers. It may be "low-level" in name, but it's "high-level" in impact.
But what can we, as teachers, do about low-level disruption? In this episode, we look at 4 key classroom management strategies that help eliminate low-level disruption AND explain how to use them in your classroom - so you can create a positive learning environment where all your pupils can achieve their potential.
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Show notes / transcription
Emma Shackleton 0:00
The kids don't know what to expect, then kids don't know how to behave, it creates confusion. What pupils will do then is try out different behaviours to see where the boundaries are. If the boundaries are consistent, they are clear about how far they can push. They know when they get to the line they need to stop. And if that boundary never moves, and it stays the same every single day, every single lesson every single week, then they quickly realise okay, this is where the boundary is.
Simon Currigan 0:29
Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast. Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to the latest episode of school behaviour secrets. listening to this podcast for SMH advice is the educational equivalent of urinating in the streets. Technically, you know you shouldn't be doing it. But when your miles from relief and the pressure starts to build, sometimes you got to follow that urge where it takes you and the shame only burns once that sounds
Emma Shackleton 1:30
like it should be one of our company values. The shame only burns once.
Simon Currigan 1:34
That's Emma Shackleton my co host Hi Emma and welcome to the show.
Emma Shackleton 1:38
Simon Currigan 1:38
So to start the show, I've got a quick question for you. According to a 2018 survey. What was the most annoying habit people found in their partners?
Emma Shackleton 1:48
Oh Crikey. That's a contentious one. Continuing down the human ating theme I'm thinking maybe leaving the toilet seat up. Oh, no, wait, hang on. That's only for half of the population. How about using up things like the milk and not replacing them or chewing with their mouths open? That's pretty annoying. Go on then enlightened me. What did the survey say? Well,
Simon Currigan 2:10
34% said snoring and I think my wife would agree with that. 26% said being ignored. 22% complained about their partners complaining all the time without any sense of irony, at 18% said not doing the housework and 16% said changing the loo roll
Emma Shackleton 2:28
so moaning about the moaning then. So what's the tenuous link between the survey and today's episode?
Simon Currigan 2:33
Well, in today's episode, we're going to be exploring four strategies for eliminating low level disruption in the classroom. And low level disruption is something many teachers complain about and find really challenging to manage because it slows down learning when you're working with a class who present lots of low level disruption. It can feel exhausting as the adult like you're wading through treacle all day long. So the strategies we're going to share today will help eliminate that feeling
Emma Shackleton 3:01
that sounds good. But before we get into that, do remember if you're finding the information in this show useful, please share with three friends or colleagues who you think would also benefit. All you've got to do is open your podcast app, tap the Share button, and your podcast app will help you send them a direct link to school behaviour secrets. It's quick, it's easy, and you'll be helping other professionals just like you.
Simon Currigan 3:26
So it's time to look closely into that bathroom mirror, pull out a razor and start shaving off that shaggy beard we call behaviour.
Emma Shackleton 3:35
Okay, so today we're going to be focusing on proactive strategies to reduce low level disruption rather than reactive strategies. So the aim is we're going to try to focus on the things that we can control ahead of time, because that will produce a calmer, more settled and focused learning environment. In this episode, we're going to look at whole class strategies, managing whole class behaviour from a group perspective, rather than addressing the needs of individual kids. In reality, you're going to need a mixture of ways of managing the group and then supporting high needs pupils with specific strategies on top. So what exactly do we mean by low level behaviour then, low level behaviour is anything that is usually constant or continuous actually, but things that are going on in the background that are disrupting the learning and the ability for everybody to concentrate and focus in the class. So it might be things like people fiddling with equipment, or tapping or talking or distracting anything really that's going on that is preventing everybody in the room from listening and engaging with the learning, not the big stuff, not the chair throwing or storming out or fight It's nothing like that. But the low level drip drip drip things that happen in many, many classrooms from day to day, but they can have a really Waring effect. They're sometimes I think, just as difficult to deal with as those big blow outs, because it's like a dripping tap, it slowly erodes your soul.
Simon Currigan 5:19
It's called low level, but it's highly stressful. Yes. So now we've identified what low level behaviour actually is, let's jump into the strategies. And the first one is to avoid any dead time in the classroom. So let's think about what dead time is, it's not as scary as it might sound dead time is any time that children don't know what they're supposed to be doing. Anytime that they're not directed to a specific task, or activity or have a specific aim, they essentially making up what to do for themselves. So dead time might be standing outside a classroom in a line waiting for the teacher to arrive for three or four minutes. In that time, they're not being directed to do anything in particular. And in those cases, the devil makes work for idle hands, after a while some of the kids will get bored, and they'll start doing silly stuff, just to pick a label out of the air, they're gonna start making their own entertainment. Another form of dead time is when a child might be waiting to show their work to the teacher to get it marked before they can move on to the next task. And if there's four or five children ahead of them, then they're going to get bored. And they're going to start talking to the children around them, and perhaps taking them off task with them. Another example of dead time might be when a child's completed a piece of work, and they're not quite sure what to do next, there's no specific extension tasks, they're not being told what to do next, there are no classroom routines about what to do when you finish your work. And then they just have sort of nothing to do, and they start talking to the kids around them or engaging in low level behaviours. And another example of dead time that you do see quite often, actually is when kids come into a room, and the teacher isn't quite ready for them. So they're just getting prepared, they might be shuffling around with worksheets, or organising the whiteboard or something like that. So the kids might be going to their tables, there's nothing for them to do there, they might be sitting on the carpet, if they're younger children just kind of hanging around and waiting. So those periods are dead time is where low level behaviour takes root, it sends the message that the children's behaviour isn't being monitored by the adult. And if you're getting lots of dead time, in your classroom, it's really important you start looking at your systems, you need to think about how children get their work marked partway through the lesson. If they need to get their work marked partway through the lesson, we need to think about our routines for providing extra work. What do we do about kids who are waiting for books to be handed out? What do we do about transitions with children coming into the room? What do we do about transitions for children leaving the room? What can we do to be more prepared to eliminate as much dead time from our lessons as possible. And this does make a huge difference. Because when kids are allocated to tasks, generally they're getting on with their work, and they're not engaging in low level behaviour. So remember, an effective productive classroom emerges from the systems that you put together. So when the children come into the classroom, is there a task out on the tables for them to do immediately and focus their attention towards? Is there a routine for getting help? Is there a routine for getting your work marked, if there's a big queue waiting for the teacher already, get those systems in place, actively teach them to your kids reduce the amount of dead time they experience, and you will nearly always see a significant reduction in low level behaviour. When kids are allocated to something. They're not making up their own entertainment.
Emma Shackleton 8:35
I think that's so true Simon. And these days, children are used to a real fast pace, they're used to being occupied and entertained all of the time at home. They're used to video games, they're continually being stimulated, they're continually doing or engaging in something. So I do think that children sometimes do need to get bored and learn how to cope with that, but not during learning time. If there's just a time when there's nothing going on, they're definitely going to make something go on. And it's probably not things that you want them to be engaging with in the class. And
Simon Currigan 9:09
if you've got their time, it's going to rob your lesson of pace. If the kids are waiting three or four minutes for their work to be handed out after your lesson introduction, you are going to get kids who are off task and then you are going to see shouting out and messing around and kids out of their seats. So it's just how we can reduce that and then you can eliminate 100% of that time. But how can we keep those transition times as short and sharp as possible?
Emma Shackleton 9:32
Yeah, I think it's about keeping the pace up and keeping things tight, isn't it and making sure that people are not just sitting around with nothing to do. Another strategy for reducing or eliminating low level disruption is to use deadlines. So deadlines are a brilliant way of focusing and concentrating everyone's mind. I don't know about you, Simon, but I know from a work perspective that I need a little bit of deadline pressure So my best work is done. When I'm up against the wire. If I've got a really long deadline, a really long time away, I will have all the best intentions, I will think to myself, yeah, I'm definitely going to start working on that way up front. I'll do a little bit every week. And by the time I reach the deadline, I'll be cool and calm and everything will be on shedule, then it'll be finished. In reality, that ain't going to happen. I'm going to think about it for a few weeks, I'm going to start to worry about it for a few weeks. And then I'm going to spend the last week cranking it out and getting it done. I don't know if you weren't like that as well, Simon,
Simon Currigan 10:40
it's absolutely true that a deadline concentrates everyone's mind, doesn't it?
Emma Shackleton 10:44
Absolutely. It makes you focus, it makes you get things done. So we can use that advantage in our classrooms as well. When we give an instruction, unless we attach a specific and clear deadline to it, kids might not necessarily have a clear idea of how hard they're expected to work or what the expectations are, they might feel a little bit lost about what you're really asking from them. And this is where we can sometimes be a bit disappointed because we've got a clear expectation in our heads. But if we don't communicate that really well, the children don't know that. And then they don't necessarily perform to the best of their abilities. We've already said, it's just the same for adults as well. Many people like to know what's got to be done, and by when and then that enables them to prioritise the tasks that they've got and focus them on what needs to be done. So they're less likely to be time wasting messing around if they know when the deadline is and what exactly needs to be done. Don't forget as well, younger children tend to have a much poor sense of the passing of time. And actually, many older children aren't much better at this, kids generally don't tend to have a very good feel for time, and you might have a clock in your room and look at you if it's got batteries in it, I see lots of clocks in primary classrooms that don't work. But if you've got a clock in your room, some children might be able to access that. But because of digital devices, many children are not so great at using analogue clocks now, and many older children tend to use phones to check the time or set timers rather than using watches. So it can be really easy for them to lose track of how much time they've got left. It's an organisational skill that we really need to teach. But using deadlines is a great way to focus people's minds. So the
Simon Currigan 12:39
way it works is after you've done your whole class intro, and you're explaining what what needs to be done, we attach that to an explicit deadline. So you might get a big timer up on the interactive whiteboard or use the clock in the classroom or whatever. But you've got that visual reminder of time, you might say to Table A, you need to complete two pages of work to Table B, you need to get three paragraphs written to table C, you need to complete three pages of work and to table D, you might need to complete this worksheet and move on to this piece of work on the computer. So they've got absolute clarity about in the following period of time exactly what you expect them to achieve. And that's going to help them understand how hard they need to work. And they're going to have this sort of ticking clock, that's going to give them a reminder of the deadline, they've got this visual indicator of how much time is left. And at the start of the instruction, make it clear to the kids that you're not just giving them a deadline, but they're going to be held accountable for completing that work. And there are lots of ways of doing that. You might just say I'm gonna walk around the classroom and make sure that children are working towards that deadline. It might be you say, when we reach the deadline, I'm going to ask three children at random to stand up and share what they've done with the rest of the class. Or another spin on this is the focus as you're walking around the classroom and making sure the children are working to that deadline is that the child on task and putting in the effort they're trying so it might not be about outcomes, it's about the child getting their head down and doing their best and achieving their potential. And you will find that by giving them the specific deadlines holding them to account, you'll create a much more productive, focused classroom where kids develop this habit of work where they get their heads down, they know what they need to achieve, and they can start to achieve their best.
Emma Shackleton 14:28
I think as well with that deadline technique. It's really useful if you've got pupils who are working on something that they don't particularly enjoy. So if maybe they're doing a piece of writing and writing is not their favourite thing. If they can see that there is a clear end to this piece of writing. Many of them will be more inclined to put the effort in work hard because they know it's a burst of hard work, and then they're going to stop and that's going to be done. And that can be really helpful. Lots of children find starting and stopping difficult called. So when we give clear deadlines, we give a little bit of a structure and a boundary around that. And it can make it more palatable and more manageable for children too.
Simon Currigan 15:09
And if you've got a class who don't have such a habit of work, they're not very industrious. And they're not used to concentrating for long periods, you can combine this technique with chunking. So you might just say in the next 15 minutes, this is what you need to get done, make sure you concentrate, I'm going to hold you accountable. And then you have like a mini break like a five minute mini plenary, where you talk about the work and give the kids a chance to recharge their attention before you shift into another chunk, which is also got a deadline attached to it.
Emma Shackleton 15:37
And just to add in there as well, you can also be sensitive to those children that find deadlines stressful, because there will be children in the class that might feel panicky, but as long as you can give them reassurance that as long as they are working to their best, there will be additional time if they don't get all of the tasks are finished. Some children get very worried and upset if they don't complete a piece of work. And it's hard for them to move past that. So we can still use deadlines, but we'll be sensitive to those individual needs. And we'll make sure that there are systems in place so that children understand this is what the expectation is in this session. And then if you need more time later, that time will be given to you.
Simon Currigan 16:20
I just like to take a pause for a moment and say that if you're finding this podcast useful, then you're going to love what we've got waiting for you in our inner circle programme. The inner circle is your one stop shop for all things behaviour. It's a comprehensive platform filled with videos resources on behaviour inspiration to get you unstuck with classroom behaviour. We've got training resources on de escalation, supporting kids with anxiety support strategies for conditions like autism, ADHD, and PDA. practical ways of helping pupils deal with strong emotions, assertive behaviour management techniques for managing the whole class setting out to a classroom environment for success resetting behaviour with tricky classes, and more. Our online videos walk you through practical solutions step by step, just like Netflix, you can turn an inner circle subscription on or off whenever you need to. With no minimum contract Plus, you can now get your first seven days of inner circle but just one pound, get the behaviour answers. And you've been looking forward today with inner circle visit to beaconschoolsupport.co.uk. UK and click on the inner circle picture at the top of the homepage for more information. Our third strategy is to use both of your oars. So here's the analogy. Here's what I mean by using both of yours. I want to imagine that you're out on a calm river or a lake and you're in a rowing boat and your rowing boat has two oars, it's got a negative or, and it's got a positive or. And in this analogy, which is whole class management. If we're going to make progress, we need to use both oars if you only use the positive or which would be giving praise and recognition and rewards for good behaviour, what you will find is that the boat because you're using one or only, it's just going to go around and around in circles, you're never going to make progress or get to where you want to go. If in your classroom management, you are only negative and you only talk about expectations and enforce boundaries and give consequences you are going to go around and around in circles because you are still only using one of your oars. If you want that boat to go from the middle of the lake to the edge of the lake. So you can escape the lake without getting wet, you are going to need to use both of your oars. If you're only using one side, if you're only using positive, however hard you work, kids are looking for where the boundaries are in the classroom. If you're only using positive praise, actually, sometimes what we tolerate stays more than what we promote kids still need those expectations and boundaries. If you only use a negative, you're gonna go around a room around in circles plus when you want to use negative what you're doing is you're damaging relationships with your pupils, you're showing you only give attention for negative behaviour which actually encourages it. So we need to use a balance of both. And what I like in this analogy is I want you to imagine you've got a positive or a negative or, and the negative or is about three or four times bigger than the positive or so we've got one big negative or and it's much smaller positive or if we want to go in a straight line, we need to be rowing that positive or much harder than the negative one, we need to be turning that positive or three or four times for every single stroke on the negative or because actually negative interactions are much more powerful than positive ones. So to keep that boat going in a straight line we have to use much more positive than we do negative and it's the same thing. classrooms, positive interactions actually much weaker than negative ones positive interactions help us build relationships. And they do all sorts of good things. But the research shows that when we have a negative interaction with someone, we remember it, and we hold on to it in a way that we don't do with positive interactions. So we have to overcome that big negative or with a positive one.
Emma Shackleton 20:22
I really like that analogy, actually, I think that appeals and I've been thinking about this in other situations, as well, is getting the balances in it and not just relying on one method or one technique, it's having a range of techniques and using them in the right proportions. So we'll have to use both oars to make the boats progress. And we have to encourage and kind of lighthouse, the positive behaviours. So look around, look for children who are engaging in the pro social or pro learning behaviours that we want. So children who are concentrating, focusing, listening, collaborating, sharing, taking turns, look for those behaviours, and talk about those, and that lets children know what our expectations are, and it sets the boundaries. But we've also got to remember, there will be some negative correction as well, if you like, but we've got to keep that proportionate. So that's a big powerful whack with the or when we use that. So there will be that balance. But we've got to counterbalance that with lots and lots of positive interaction as well. And when you look at research, the research actually says you need three to one, or maybe even five to one. So you need three times, or maybe even five times as many positives for each one negative. So the research doesn't advocate no negatives. So all groups need boundaries. And kids do need constructive criticism or correction. But it's just important that we do it in the right way.
Simon Currigan 21:57
And if you're driving and you haven't been listening carefully, we're not encouraging you to take actual oars into the classroom.
Emma Shackleton 22:05
And just thinking about that correction, what we tend to say is to praise in public and correct in private. And of course, there'll be some children who don't enjoy public praise. So we'll be sensitive to that. But on the whole, people prefer to have their shortcomings or the correction, if you like spoken about privately or quietly with them rather than broadcast across the heads of the rest of the class. Our fourth
Simon Currigan 22:32
strategy is be consistent with your behaviour management, I want to tell you a very quick story about a class that I used to work with, I used to do some work as a PPA teacher. So that's where you go in and you cover different classes while the teacher has some planning time. So you get to rotate around lots of different classes in school and meet lots of different children. And there was one class in particular, that had quite challenging behaviour, and I got the opportunity to watch them with their normal class teacher. And there was lots of shouting out a whole class time, children weren't really focusing the lesson didn't feel very productive kids weren't on task. It felt like just wading through treacle as we talked about at the top of the episode. And I thought, oh my goodness, if this is what these kids are like, for the teacher, what are they going to be like, for me, the PPA teacher you know, he's a bit like a supply teacher. So I walked in there. And I had my first lesson with him when we're doing some whole class work on the carpet, lots of shouting out. So I said, Okay, I'm gonna have a totemic issue here. So I talked to the kids about shouting out is slowing down our learning. It's disrespectful, not everyone's getting a chance to listen. The first time you shout out, there'll be a warning. The second time you'll shout out, you'll lose a minute of your play. The third time, you'll shout out, you'll lose two minutes of your play, and so on. So we started the whole class introduction again. And this one boy started shouting out and they said, Okay, which rule Have you broken? And he said, shouting it out. And it's like, what will happen? The next time you shout out and go, miss a minute of my play, okay, your only warning next time you'll miss a minute of your play. And then literally set 60 seconds later, he shouted out again, I was like, Okay, what classroom rule? Have you broken, shouting out? Okay. So now you're going to miss one minute of your play. What will happen next time you shout out, and it was almost two minutes and replacer. Then then 60 seconds later, it was almost three minutes, and we're closer four minutes, my place. And we got up to about 11 minutes. And it came to play time. And the kids were kind of lining up to go out and he went to lineup to leave the classroom as well. And I called him I said, Where are you going? And he said, Aren't going out to play? They said, You have to stop in at play time. We're going to talk about shouting out and respect and that kind of thing. And he said, Well, this is really unfair. I want to go out. I said, we talked about what would happen and I gave you a warning and you told me what would happen every step of the way. And he's like, it's so unfair, and he got really frustrated. They're almost tears in his eyes. And then he stamped his feet and he said, Because moose says she's going to keep us in and then she never does it. And he just wasn't used to adults saying something and then meaning what they say and following through It was really interesting, because actually, after a couple of weeks of going into that classroom and explaining that when I said something, I meant it, his behaviour actually became much, much better, he was much more respectful. He did learn very quickly to put his hand up. And what he had to say was interesting, but he had to learn to do it in the right way. But what he needed were those consistent boundaries, he needed to know exactly where he stood and what the expectations were to succeed in the classroom. Well, absolutely,
Emma Shackleton 25:26
because if they don't know what to expect, then kids don't know how to behave, it creates confusion. So what pupils will do then is try out different behaviours to see where the boundaries are. So if the boundaries are consistent, they are clear about how far they can push, they know when they get to the line, they need to stop. And if that boundary never moves, and it stays the same every single day, every single lesson every single week, then they quickly realise, okay, this is where the boundary is, if the boundary keeps shifting, because the adults are inconsistent, it's like we're moving the goalposts. And the kids get a bit wobbly. And they're not quite sure where the boundary is. So they keep on testing. And the way they do that is by exhibiting a range of behaviours to see what happens, will I get away with it today, I got away with it yesterday, but I didn't get away with it the day before. So they keep on testing. lack of consistency also doesn't help pupils with additional needs, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for example, because those children find it even harder to link cause and effect. So if what we do in response to their behaviour keeps on changing, that's very, very confusing for them. Because what they're not able to do is work out when I do A, B happens, because if when I do a B sometimes happens. But sometimes C happens. That's really confusing. And again, children will test the boundaries, will I be able to get away with it today? Where is the boundary today. So consistency also applies to positive things, too. So if we make a promise, if we say that something good is going to happen, if we say that we're going to have a class party for everybody doing good work, or we say we're going to send children to the head teacher to get a special sticker, or we say we're going to make a phone call home to inform parents or carers about how brilliant the child's days been, if we don't follow through with that children are hurt by that, and they remember it, and what are they learning about you? They're learning that actually, you are not consistent. And that gives the message that actually maybe you don't care. It's really damaging for the relationship with the child when we make a promise of either a bad thing or a good thing that's going to happen and we don't follow through. In conclusion, our four key strategies for eliminating low level disruption are number one,
Simon Currigan 28:01
avoid deadtime Number two, use deadlines.
Emma Shackleton 28:06
Number three, remember to use both your positive and your negative oars to steer your boat and manage behaviour
Simon Currigan 28:16
for be consistent. And do remember we've been talking about using whole class strategies here, so you may have high needs pupils, and if you do, you'll need to adapt your approach to those individual children do look at plans that have been written and use the strategies that you've been advised to use real life is a mixture of high level classroom management for the group and adapting and using specific strategies for individual pupils.
Emma Shackleton 28:43
So if you want to know more about improving your classroom management, we've got a completely free download that goes with this episode, and it's called the classroom management score sheet. Inside the score sheet, you'll find a list of 37 factors that have an impact on classroom management. The score sheet is a list of things that you are clearly either doing or not doing. Think of it like a road map to improve your presence in the classroom. The score sheet is based on 1000s of observations that Simon and I have conducted between us. So you know, it's based on sound classroom practice.
Simon Currigan 29:21
And if you're supporting a colleague with their classroom management, it can help make your feedback and action points even more clear and objective,
Emma Shackleton 29:28
get the score sheet now by going to beaconschoolsupport.co.uk. UK, clicking on the free resources tab on the menu, and you'll find it near the top of the page. It's completely free. Get it today, and we'll drop a link in the episode description too.
Simon Currigan 29:44
If you found today's episode useful then remember to subscribe open up your podcast app now and tap the subscribe button or follow as it's now called in Apple podcasts. Then your podcast app will automatically download each and every episode for you so you never miss a thing and To celebrate your mastery of podcast technology, why not prostrate yourself at the feet of the chicken gods are one true feathery rulers and Pledge your allegiance. So when the egg pocalypse comes, you'll feel confident you pick the right side as the angry chicken Gods dispense that eggy justice to non believers through their powerful clucks of righteousness. A small decision
Emma Shackleton 30:23
then that's all for today. We hope you have a brilliant week and we look forward to talking to you next time. Behaviour sequence AI for now. Bye
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)