Needs Focused Teaching

How to get students calm and settled at the door

In most disruptive classrooms the teacher focuses on what is going wrong and in this instance, it’s unruly behaviour that began before your students even walked through the door. It’s easy to constantly complain about students and moan at them for not behaving exactly as we want them to – but what if instead of creating this negative atmosphere, we took a moment to tune in? When you would usually become frustrated at students and demand their attention and silence at the door, pause and consider adopting the following 2 methods instead.
  1. Make general, non-confrontational statements as to the behaviour you want to see rather than confrontational rants about things you don’t want to see

If you want students to respond positively to you, reflect positivity to them. Focus on what students are doing right – thank those who are doing as you’ve asked and then calmly remind the others to do the same. By reinforcing the behaviour you do want to see, you will quickly create a positive, warm atmosphere in which the majority of students naturally start to settle, rather than an oppressive, angry situation which puts everyone on edge.

Here’s how not to do it:


And how to do it:

Thank you Jonny for standing quietly and you Chantelle, thank you. Thank you Liam for settling down. Thank you Connor. This group here is nice and quiet – thank you girls. Let’s settle down now over here. There are still a few people shouting and messing about. We can all go in as soon as everyone is standing still without talking. Thank you Wayne, nice to see you ready to go into the lesson. We’re just waiting for a few others now – we’ll go in as soon as everyone is quiet.

Notice also in this example that we don’t name those who aren’t yet quiet. There are no personal accusations here because the minute you name and shame a student you set yourself up for an argument. Instead we make general observations (‘there are still a few people talking and messing about’,‘we’re just waiting for a few others now’) and give gentle positive reminders (‘we’ll be going in as soon as everyone’s quiet’).

  1. Chat informally with individuals and small groups of students

If you try to address a noisy class at the door en masse it’s very difficult to get everyone’s attention, and if you don’t manage it you lose credibility straight away. A better way is to focus on speaking to small groups and individual students.

Teachers who are comfortable chatting informally with their students outside the classroom – in the bus queue, at lunch, in the yard and in the corridor – tend to get much more respect from them and find their students responding much more positively to them. Spending just a few minutes talking, mingling and socialising with your students in the corridor goes a long way towards helping to set the right tone for the lesson and really helps settle students down. Importantly, it lets them see that you are relaxed and in control in their presence. Timid teachers and those who worry they are going to struggle with the group avoid mixing with students and give the clear message that they are basically scared stiff of them.

One of the greatest advantages of spending a minute or two with your students at the door is that you get to spot any likely problems and troublemakers. You know the kind of thing – students who have been arguing, messing around, hyperactive, upset, mischievous and so on in the playground or corridor are highly likely to continue this behaviour in your classroom unless you do something about it. Most potential problems are easy enough to spot once we’re tuned in to looking out for them. Students who won’t remove their jackets/hoods, who are huddling in groups whispering, pointing and giggling, who are using mobile phones and carrying hand grenades are all cause for concern.

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