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Behaviour management strategies for primary teachers

12/10/2018 Anthony

Regardless of whether you’re a newly qualified teacher or have decades of experience working with primary pupils, there are always challenges when it comes to behavioural management – particularly at the start of the school year when a fresh crop of students arrives in your classroom. For teachers, effective behaviour management underpins almost every teaching and learning success. Indeed, primary schools with behaviour judgements ranked ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ have better outcomes in maths and English at key stage two than schools with behaviour judgements that are satisfactory or inadequate. And while Ofsted reports show that English schools are by and large orderly, well-behaved places, even low-level disruption in schools can lead to disastrous results for both students and teachers. This makes it essential for teachers and teaching assistants to have tools and strategies up their sleeves to ensure behavioural standards are maintained whenever possible. Here are some of the best approaches:


The CASPER approach is a handy tool to help you remember key steps and ideas when approaching and dealing with behaviour management. It can be used before taking any action:

  • Calm: Appear calm, even if you don’t feel it. Take a breath and stop to think
  • Assertive: Maintain your authority and remember you’re in charge. Maintain eye contact
  • Status preservation: Reprimand pupils in private to remove them from their peer group
  • Empathy: Try to understand how the pupil is feeling. Avoid asking challenging questions
  • Respect: Always show children respect, even if they are being disrespectful. Reinforce your expectations by modelling appropriate behaviour

Establish a countdown routine

Show pupils you’re prepared to give a little by using a countdown system to call for attention. Rather than abruptly stopping classroom conversations and work on the spot, instead count down from 10 to give pupils a chance to finish what they’re doing and be ready for the next instruction. This is a polite and fair way to establish silence and attention, and acknowledges that some children may need a few seconds to get ready. Pupils may join in on the count down and you can use praise to reinforce the importance of adhering to this rule.

Primary school children

Reward and reprimand

There’s a reason why the carrot-and-stick approach is used in industries and professions the world over: it works. Research shows that education is not exempt from this: schools with good standards of behaviour use a balance of rewards and sanctions to motivate and penalise pupils. Before implementing any new reward or penalty systems, check with your school to ensure your approach is consistent and in line with policy. Detentions, removal from classroom and exclusion from social or ‘treat’ activities can all be used to deter students from inappropriate or unruly behaviour, while those who demonstrate good behaviour can be rewarded with praise, stickers, small treats and opportunities – for example, handing out resources to the classroom or acting as a teacher ‘helper’ during a lesson.

Set clear expectations

Pupils have less of a chance to misbehave if they know exactly what is and isn’t acceptable in the classroom. In order to create a well-managed, structured classroom environment that caters to a range of different learners and attention spans, you must put in the effort to establish rules, guidelines and expectations. Not only should you map out ‘house rules’, you should also be clear on the repercussions of not following the rules – and the rewards for those pupils who are consistently well behaved. A good set of primary classroom rules may look like the below:

  • We listen to each other and only have one person talking at a time
  • We are quiet by the end of the 10 second countdown
  • We put our hands up before speaking
  • We don’t touch each other or each other’s things unless we are invited to
  • We take care of our belongings and the classroom belongings
  • We use kind words to each other
  • We finish our work on time
  • We say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
  • We keep our classroom tidy
  • We always try our best

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