Starting Strong: Creating a Positive Classroom with the REECH Framework

Starting Strong: Creating a Positive Classroom with the REECH Framework

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Looking to start the school year on the right foot? Join us in exploring our REECH Framework√Ę€"a blueprint for a thriving and purposeful classroom.

In this episode of School Behaviour Secrets, we unveil how routines, environment, and pupil connections lay the foundations for achievement and success.

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Show notes / transcription

Emma Shackleton  0:00  

Not having clarity around routines increases anxiety, especially where it feels like the routine changes from day to day. It feels like shifting sands. So from day one, focus time and effort and energy on explicitly teaching routines exactly what you want and how you want the children to do it.

Simon Currigan  0:26  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to this week's episode of school behaviour secrets. Whereas other educational podcasts are like fine Adonis's who have spent the summer proudly walking the beach with chisel bronzed physiques. This podcast has been causing trouble at the back of the arcades for seeing how many 40 Something adults we can squeeze into a Postman Pat kiddie ride before getting into a fight with some seagulls at the beach and heading straight for the donut shop, muffin tops out. And proudly on display. There'll be two of your finest vodka slushies. Please barman, I'm joined today by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.

Emma Shackleton  1:40  

Hi, Simon, are you reliving your youth there?

Simon Currigan  1:43  

I'm reliving the summer, the summer that we've just enjoyed. I've got a quick question for you. Do you regret anything over the summer, Emma?

Emma Shackleton  1:52  

Absolutely not. What about you, Any regrets?

Simon Currigan  1:57  

None that I'm willing to bring up on the podcast

Emma Shackleton  2:00  

Why did you want to know if I regretted anything then?

Simon Currigan  2:03  

Because this episode is all about starting the Autumn term off on the right foot and setting yourself up for success with your class. And we're going to use something called the REECH framework to help us get it right.

Emma Shackleton  2:14  

Ah, hold on. I know that your links are sometimes a bit tenuous in these introductions. But I do feel like you just wanted to know if I got into some sort of trouble over the summer.

Simon Currigan  2:25  

Moving swiftly on, as any teacher will tell you how you set up expectations and routines and build relationships with your students in the first month are so super important. And we're going to guide you through how to do it today.

Emma Shackleton  2:40  

Excellent. But before we get into that, if you haven't done so already, please open up your podcast app and give us an honest rating and review. When you leave a review. It tells the algorithm to share school behaviour secrets with other podcast listeners too. And that helps important information reach other teachers, leaders and parents who would also benefit

Simon Currigan  3:02  

That said it's now time to open our mouth wide grab the toothpaste of SEMH knowledge and scrape off the stinking layers of plaque we call behaviour.

Emma Shackleton  3:12  

Okay, so in today's episode, we're going to look at our reach framework for setting yourself up for success with a brand new class. And by the way, that's REECH spelt with double E. So R.E.E.C.H. We could have gone with CHEER, but we like to REECH because it's all about reaching out to your new students and helping them to reach their potential. 

Simon Currigan  3:38  

So we're gonna go over each part of the framework letter by letter, and explain why it's important and some practical tips, tricks and strategies for implementing the framework with your new class.

Emma Shackleton  3:49  

Okay, great. So I'll kick off with R. And R stands for routines, and bedding routines early on is absolutely essential for classroom success. routines, help the children know what to do, and most importantly, how you expect them to do it. And you'll be able to tell if you've got this wrong, because you'll give a set of instructions to the class and then you'll just witness absolute chaos. So let's imagine you've asked the class to start a new piece of work. Do they know where the books are? Do you have a routine in place for handing books out? If not, you're going to get some children going on a book hunt, others putting their hands up and asking if they can be the monitor. Others just sitting there not knowing what to do or forgetting the instruction. What does getting the work out actually mean? Do they need to write the date? and if you're in a primary school, do we mean the long date or the short date? All of these fine nuances are really really important to get right from the start. They reduce anxiety, and they cut down on wasted time.

Simon Currigan  5:05  

Yeah, we can't just assume that kids have knowledge that they don't have. So even something as simple as asking the class to line up can go very, very wrong. If you haven't explicitly taught your students what you expect, and what that routine looks like in your room. And when you don't teach that routine, well, you can ask them to line up and then we're all charged to the door to try and be first. And then you got scuffles and accidents and fights and people competing. And when that routine isn't working, that makes teaching painful for the teacher. And it makes learning painful for the students. And having watched and observed in lots and lots of classrooms. What I've noticed, and I think this is really interesting is actually a big part of what makes a classroom successful is how well embedded and how well taught the routines are and a successful classroom that sort of works like clockwork emerges, out of all these tiny little routines that have been taught by the teacher.

Emma Shackleton  6:05  

Absolutely. And of course, this is even more important to children with SEND, or a background or history of trauma and ACE's, for example, because many of those children, for them, the unknown feels scary. And it's unsettling to them. Not having clarity around routines, increases anxiety, especially where it feels like the routine changes from day to day, it feels like shifting sands. So from day one, focus some time and effort and energy on explicitly teaching routines exactly what you want, and how you want the children to do it. So you could start by making a list of the essential routines for your classroom. And to some extent, of course, that's going to depend on the kind of age range and the subject that you teach. But for most teachers that's going to focus on what's the routine for entering the classroom really, really important. We don't just let everybody run in like a big rabble. We stop at the door, we welcome the class, we have a little reset moment because we're transitioning between out of class to into class. What's the routine for getting out resources? What's the routine for starting a piece of work and stopping? What's the class routine when the teacher wants us all to stop working and bring this together for some whole class input? And what's the routine for lining up at the end of the lesson? Those are the kinds of key points really.

Simon Currigan  7:42  

Yeah, for younger children, you might also want to think about what's the routine for coming to the carpet for whole class instruction? or then returning to the tables afterwards, what's the routine for putting away coats and bags? and then getting them back again at the end of the day. So make a list of the key routines for your room and your children and your subject. And when you've got your list, start breaking down your expectations for how you want that to happen into step by step detail. And then explicitly teach this to your students. If you haven't communicated exactly what you want, then they won't be able to give it to you. So you want to communicate this verbally by talking them through what the expectations are. But also visually for some students, you might want to draw pictures or use almost like Comic Strip Conversations or write it on the board as a task list. So they can follow the instructions through step by step. But of course, ideally, you want to do this teaching before you ask them to engage in this routine for the first time. Now, that's not always going to be possible because the first time you meet them, they're going to have to come through the door. But when you're thinking about embedding routines in the first days and weeks actually thinking about okay, if this is the first time we've done art, say in the classroom, and they never got the art materials out before, what do they need to do step by step to set them up for success. It's also really important to explain why the routine is important for everyone's success, the difference it will make to the child as an individual about how they feel in class, and how these routines will help the class learn and complete their work and make progress and take care of the group. When kids understand the why they're more likely to engage in the routines because they understand the purpose.

Emma Shackleton  9:26  

Absolutely. And just backing up what you said there about reinforcing routines verbally and visually. I love photographs of the kids. So let them roleplay let them act. Let them show you what it looks like to be lining up in their lineup order all standing smartly. Really, really spell out your expectation and then get a photograph of the class being successful doing it the way that you want them to do it and have that photograph on display near your classroom exit door For Example. That means every time you ask the children to get into the line, there's a clear visual of what that means. If you're away, somebody else can step in, they can glance at the photograph, it's a real quick visual so that other adults can maintain consistency in your room as well. And then, of course, in the early days, relentless recognition and reinforcement for all the kids who are getting it, right, everybody who's trying to do it the right way, and a little bit of extra coaching and support for the ones who are getting it wrong. Remember, we always say this, you are going to get more of the behaviours that you focus on. So choose, are you going to highlight and draw attention to all the kids who are lining up beautifully, or are you going to choose to draw attention to that one kid who's out of the line. So choose to focus on the stuff that you like, choose to draw attention to the behaviours that you want. And I know it feels exhausting, and it feels intensive. But this is really a case of a stitch in time saves nine, do it now. Do we get the start getting it right, and everything else will learn a lot more smoothly, and you'll save yourself a lot of time across the rest of this school year, I promise.

Simon Currigan  11:22  

Now let's move on to the E in the reach framework, which stands for environment now the classroom environment has a huge impact on student behaviour. And there are lots of things we can do to set up our classroom environments for behaviour success and on task behaviour. And the first thing you need to think about is your seating plan. Seating plans are massively underutilised in terms of managing behaviour. And we should be as teachers be very intentional about where we want each individual student to sit. You see, there's no such thing in my mind as a bad child. But in my experience, there are definitely bad combinations of children who impact poorly on each other's attention and focus on behaviour in the classroom. So a key thing to do is speak to previous teachers who have had these children in the past, and find out which combinations of kids impacted badly on each other's behaviour, and where there are positive combinations to and then exploit this by drawing out a map of the room where the chairs and tables will be and planning out where every single child will sit, separate out those poor combinations of pupils, putting them on separate tables, and bringing together positive ones.

Emma Shackleton  12:41  

And don't forget when you're doing this, don't just think about whether certain children are on the same table or not. But for some children, it will be important to note whether they have a line of sight to each other too. Because for some kids, simply being able to engage in nonverbal communication such as smiling or waving is going to be enough of a distraction for them. The bad news is if you're sitting children in alphabetical order, for example, your seating plan is entirely random, and you won't be able to take account of those social relationships.

Simon Currigan  13:19  

And if you're seating kids by say, ability, then be aware that the majority, not all, by any means not all, but often the majority of children with social emotional and mental health needs or behaviour needs tend to be at the lower end of the academic scale. Which means if you're grouping by differentiation, you're putting all your SEMH kids together on one or two tables, which often is not good for them.

Emma Shackleton  13:45  

Another thing with the environment to consider is can everybody see the board without turning around? Or can they see where the teacher presents from? or the whole class input is given without having to turn around? Imagine if you were having to turn around 7,8,9,10,11 times every single day just to see the speaker or look at the board that's wearing after a while, that's quite grating and annoying. And over time it leads to off task behaviours can they get in and out of their seats without bumping into somebody else and check to see if you've got any glare on the interactive whiteboard in certain spots of the room. It really is beneficial to actually go and sit in every seat in the classroom to see what the child's experience will be like in that seat.

Simon Currigan  14:37  

And the last thing to think about is can you the teacher freely walk around the room? Or is the way the desks and chairs are set out kind of pinning you in at the front of the room. This is really important because there's something called proximity control, which essentially means if the adult is a long way away from me, the pupil may believe that their behaviour isn't being monitored and that then leads to low level behaviour because they think they might get away with trying something. So when we're teaching, we want to be able to freely move around the room, especially when you're doing whole class input. And that lets all of the children in the room know you are aware of what's going on, you've got good situational awareness, and just this ability to move and walk will actually stop a lot of low level behaviour before it even starts.

Emma Shackleton  15:22  

Yeah, so that's R and E. Now we're going to move on to the second E, which stands for expectations. So just as with routines, the explicit teaching of expectations is incredibly important. If the kids don't know what your expectations are, because they're locked away in your head. As the adults in charge of running and organising the room, you are definitely going to see behaviour issues cropping up. Firstly, because unless there's clarity around boundaries and standards of behaviour, we're kind of leaving kids to learn what's acceptable in our classroom from their behaviour choices. You know, we're kind of inviting them to test out a few things to see what you as the adult will tolerate. This is social learning by trial and error, and it means that you're on the backfoot from day one, because you will continually be responding to and correcting pupils behaviour, rather than you setting out ahead of the crowd, and letting them know how you want things to be done from day one.

Simon Currigan  16:30  

The second thing to be aware of is not giving the pupils that clarity can drive anxiety in those kids who have SEND or  SEMH needs which will reveal itself as emotionally driven behaviour in class with pupils not being able to concentrate or worrying about coming into class. All of which means they won't be learning at their true potential they'll be unsettled and on edge. So just as we said with routines from day one, explicitly teach what your expectations are, make no assumptions about what the children know before they walked through your classroom door. Now, you may be listening to this and thinking, but we have whole school expectations for school behaviour. That's excellent. But here's the problem. Children instinctively contextualise their behaviour and that means they know that whatever the behaviour policy says, in the real world, people are not robots, people are human beings, and human adults all have different tolerances for the same behaviours and will react in different ways to the same behaviour. We are not all the same kids know this, and they adapt their behaviour for the adult in front of them. And this is why often the same child will behave well for Teacher A, but engage in more challenging behaviour for teacher B, even though there are a whole school expectations for behaviour. 

Emma Shackleton  17:56  

So we need to explicitly teach what our expectations for behaviour are in our classroom, we need to say what the expectation is what will happen when children follow those expectations. And what they should expect to happen if they don't follow the expectation. And this can be done in a warm friendly way. He doesn't have to be delivered in a cold or bossy way. Of course, you might just be restating what's in the school behaviour policy books, you're making it clear from the get go, that these are the expectations in this room when I am here, and actually also when other adults are covering in this classroom too.

Simon Currigan  18:42  

In some classrooms, especially in primary schools, you might want to talk about what our class expectations are because in some schools, you have whole school expectations. And then individual classes are allowed to develop their own rules or expectations. And you might want to work on developing those expectations together with the children to produce a class charter or class set of rules. This can be really powerful because it harnesses pupil voice. If the pupils themselves have said that a certain role or expectation is important to them, they are more likely to follow it they are invested in the classroom rules and whether the expectations are straight from your behaviour policy or produced in consultation with the children. And don't forget to explain why the expectation is important and connect it to the child's own experience of learning in the classroom or being in school. So if you're asking children to put their hand up in class, you can talk about what can go wrong, what the expectation is, what the routine is, and how everyone putting up their hand in class is actually respectful and helps everybody to be heard. You're explaining the why and the because just as we talked about with routines,

Emma Shackleton  19:53  

okay, so we've covered our E now looking at our reach framework, we've moved on to C which stands for connection and culture, make it your aim to connect with your students and build a culture of positivity and respect. Connection is especially important for all of your pupils who have SEMH needs. In fact, a relationship is often the thing that will make a real difference about their behaviour in the classroom. Lots of challenging behaviour, as we know, is actually driven by stress and anxiety. And that leads to heightened emotion driven behaviours. When we are in an emotional state, we're more likely to seek control, refuse, say no to adults, overreact to criticism, or the behaviour of other children explode for no apparent reason, or disengage from tasks with any risk of failure. And we know that that list goes on. But a protective factor, a buffering factor against all of this is having a positive relationship with the adult in the room. So make it your priority to invest in relationships with all of those children. Now.

Simon Currigan  21:16  

Yeah, definitely think about finding common ground with the children look for common experiences, or common people, if they're interested in a football team start investing in those conversations, because a trusting reciprocal relationship is formed from hundreds and hundreds of tiny interactions, which by themselves mean nothing, and it takes time to develop that relationship. So we have to set out to do this intentionally. The payoff here is if we then have to correct a child's behaviour, we can do it from a position of having already invested in them in a positive way. And when we do this, kids are more likely to accept boundaries and conversations about their behaviour. Because we've shown in the past, we care about them as a human being and that we want the best for them. There's a saying that goes dig the well before you're thirsty. And that applies 100% here. 

Emma Shackleton  22:06  

And classroom culture is also massively important. Most schools nowadays have a set of core values or something like that, your job should actually be to coach and translate those values into concrete actions and behaviours in class. Talk to your pupils regularly when you reinforce positive behaviour. So the trick is to connect your school values to the culture in your classroom. So for example, when someone holds the door open, and you say thank you, don't just stop there, actively relate your praise back to your school's value of kindness. For example, if the expectation in class is that children will put up their hands, when they do that, link that back to your school's value of respect. And if someone's not following the expectations, for example, if they keep shouting out, now see this as an opportunity, quietly and discreetly and privately away from the glare of the rest of the class. But here's your chance to have a coaching conversation with that pupil on how to implement the value of respect in future. So it's not just you telling children to do stuff, because you're the boss, it's helping children to understand how they embed the school's values into the school's culture.

Simon Currigan  23:33  

So now we're on to the last letter of the REECH framework, which is H and that stands for home. Making connections with families is always important, whatever age you work out, but especially if you have kids with significant SEMH needs in your classroom. Because it's true that when home and school work together, effectively, everyone's on the same page pulling in the same direction more positive behaviour is nearly always the result, make it your aim to have regular positive contact with families about their child's positive behaviour in class. This doesn't have to be a formal meeting where you invite the parent in for a lead or like a 20 minute consultation. This could be a 30 second chat on the door at the end of the day in a primary school to say that their daughter was really crying when she saw someone fall over and took them to the office for help. Or if you don't have access to the parents, maybe you're teaching in secondary school or the student goes to a before or after school club or some other wraparound care, then a 30 second phone call or a two sentence email can be equally impactful. These kinds of interactions are really powerful, because their personal ones, their interactions from human to human, which means much more than a child who's getting a house point or Dojo or something like that. You've taken the time, however short to share their child's positive behaviour with them. 

Emma Shackleton  24:55  

Yeah that's really important and it can be hard to do these inner consistent way, if you're just relying on memory or doing ad hoc interactions, so a little tip for you is to communicate with parents in a planned and intentional way. So make it your aim, particularly at the start of your time with a new class, to do one or two of these interactions every single day for the first month. If you're in primary, you might have a class list and make it your mission to have some sort of positive first contact with every parent on that list within the first three or four weeks. And what that does is it immediately changes how the parents see you and see school because we know that first impressions last, and if their first contact with you is a positive one, that's going to impact on how they view you as a teacher, and how they view the whole school

Simon Currigan  25:57  

With children with SEMH needs, there's an element here as well. And we're gonna go back to this phrase of digging the well before you're thirsty. Because if you're teaching a child who's got a history of challenging behaviour in school, then it's likely that you're going to end up having a lot of conversations with that parent about future negative behaviour. So if the first conversation you have with a parent is a negative one, what we've done is set the tone for a future negative relationship. First impressions last. And if that's repeated over time, what you see is parents becoming disengaged from school because every time the teacher asked to speak to them, or send them a letter, what they're expecting is a negative interaction. So by intentionally making sure they get to hear positive feedback about their child in that mix, especially if that's the first contact you have with them, then you're putting any negative messages in context. And that is our reach a framework for creating positive classrooms. From day one. R stood for routines,

Emma Shackleton  27:03  

E was all about getting the environments right.

Simon Currigan  27:06  

E was about setting expectations.

Emma Shackleton  27:09  

C stood for culture and connection.

Simon Currigan  27:12  

 and H was about home school relationships.

Emma Shackleton  27:15  

And if you've got new staff in your school, if you've got ECT's, you could do them a little favour here. I think this would be a great gift to somebody at the start of their teaching career to really set them out on the right foot. So don't forget to share this podcast with colleagues or friends in other schools. And if you're working with a tricky class where the behaviour doesn't quite work or gel, and teaching lessons feels exhausting, you know, like wading through treacle, then we've got a completely free download that can help.

Simon Currigan  27:47  

It's called the classroom management score sheet and inside your download, you'll find a checklist of 37 factors that can have an impact on classroom behaviour.

Emma Shackleton  27:55  

So the score sheet is a list of things that you can mark off that you are either doing or not doing. So you can think of this as like a clear roadmap to improve your presence in the classroom. And the score sheet is based on 1000s of observations that Simon and I have conducted between us. So you know, it's grounded in real classroom practice.

Simon Currigan  28:17  

If you're supporting a colleague with their classroom management, it can help make your feedback and action points even more clear and more objective for them to work on to

Emma Shackleton  28:27  

Get it now by going to clicking on the free resources option in the menu. You'll find that near the top of the page. It's totally free, get yours today. And we've also put a direct link to the score sheet in the episode description. 

Simon Currigan  28:42  

And if you haven't subscribed already, what have you been waiting for? As soon as this episode finishes open up your podcast app hit the subscribe button and you are done. Your App will download each and every new episode as it's released so you never miss another thing and it won't cost you a penny. And to celebrate subscribing. Well, why not take a dip into a pool of jelly and call yourself the jiggly king or queen, ruler of all wobbliness Of course your friends and family seeing you smeared in jelly and wearing a shiny wobbly crown will instantly recognise your newfound high status and cede to any of your demands. Plus your smell divine sweet as!

Emma Shackleton  29:22  

However you celebrate subscribing. We hope you have a brilliant week and we look forward to seeing you next time on ABC prints. Bye for now

Simon Currigan  29:30  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)