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Behaviour problems in a very mixed ability class

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by PSK, May 16, 2012.

  1. PSK



    I'm hoping you can help with an ongoing situation I have in a Year 10 Media Studies class.

    This is the only Media Studies class in the school and it is unstreamed. Half of the class are comfortable B-A* students, the other half are around the D and below mark. A couple have quite drastic literacy needs and really require 1-2-1 support, although there is no TA available. Four or five are flagged up as having behavioural issues within the wider school context. To make things even more interesting, the class should take place in a computer room, but due to a timetabling error it has to happen in a classroom with a teacher computer only.

    Since the beginning of the year I have found behaviour in this class very difficult to manage. The lower-achieving half of the class are becoming more and more aware of their shortcomings in comparison to the higher achievers, and seem to be trying to compensate with bravado and bad behaviour. I clamped down on behaviour pretty hard at the beginning of the year, getting my Curriculum Area Leader, Heads of House and parents involved: as a result, two students were moved to a different subject. This shocked the others for a while, but the bad behaviour is creeping back in. Although I am very strict about implementing our school's behaviour policy, I feel the students are now wise to this - they allow themselves to get to the second "strike" and then stop misbehaving before the third "strike" can be imposed (removal from the room). This means that it can take 20 minutes of a fifty minute class to get them settled and working.

    Incidentally, by "bad behaviour" I don't mean swinging from the chandeliers - it's all low-level: swigging from drinks bottles, interrupting, chatting, giggling, straying off task, not working, etc.

    I have tried four different seating plans. I am running myself ragged producing differentiated resources (although some of them turn up their noses at these as they don't like the stigma). I've tried creative "fun" tasks, text-book tasks, group work, independent work, working in silence, lots of praise... the list goes on. I am very worried that the higher achievers are getting fed up and I am not able to spend as much time stretching them as I should, because I am fire-fighting with the lower achievers, who are not learning as much as they should because of their behaviour.

    Apologies for the massive missive, but any help or guidance would be much appreciated.
  2. PSK


    Sorry - don't know why my paragraph breaks haven't worked. This post now looks even more dauntingly long!
  3. Ruthie66

    Ruthie66 New commenter

    Are you posting in Chrome?
    If you are you need to put open pointy bracket p close pointy bracket (those ones on the comma and full stop key) where you want paragraph breaks.
  4. Poor you! Have you tried any of the inclusive teaching techniques which are designed to enable all pupils, whatever their ability to feel included? Things such as random name choosing for answering questions, (there are a few on the internet you can use on your whiteboard), response partners, numbered brains and more. They need to know that they can make a contribution to the lesson and that it is expected of them. You also need to make sure that you have a class culture where it is ok to be wrong, role played by you, possibly. No one should feel that they can't contribute.
  5. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    I have had this exact problem many times. Experience has taught me that wide gaps in ability, particularly in gcse classes, makes a class impossible to teach as a single group. The only strategy I have found that consistently works is to set different work for the different ability groups in the class. One class I had required three different sets of teaching materials. I had illiterate students in the same group as A* students. You cant teach them in the same way. Its always the higher ability students who suffer. There is always a critical point where explaining complex stuff to the high achievers sets the lower ability students on edge because they just dont get it and never will and they know it. Thats when they kick off. My suggestion is to keep everybody busy. Be realistic with your expectations of the lower ability students. If you know they will never achieve a pass, give them simple, short pieces of work which you can give instant praise for and then set them another task, or give them a reward of free time. Make it clear that if everybody does as they are required life is fine. Crush mercilessly any deviation from expectations. This works. Clever students still get their As , lower ability students achieve expected grades and no-one needs to involve senior management.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I must comment on ncman1's last post. The underlying assumption in your post is that a class containing A* and illiterate students can be taught as one unit. This, in my humble opinion, is simply not true. The brighter students always suffer because of the disproportionate time the lower ability students require. The last time I heard this was from a manager who was trying to justify to me that any teacher can teach any range of abilities in any class by simply differentiating. Differentiation only works in a smallish range of students,for example A-C, D-F. That way you can present the same teaching materials to the whole class. The lower ability groups need to be small to allow the teacher to spend the extra 1-2-1 time required by the students. The manager was using differentiation as an excuse NOT to have setted groups which require more classrooms and more teachers which would add to his budget. I understand this motivation, why not just tell me that he wasnt prepared to spend extra money for the benefit of the students.
  6. Hi - we have a similar behaviour policy at my school and I have found that by issuing an automatic detention for those students who <u>persistently</u> push it to a second warning and then behave for the rest of the lesson to be most effective. I always make them copy the behaviour code for conduct during the detention because I am of the opinion that work should not be used as a deterrent/sanction for poor behaviour.
    I will also speak to these offenders individually and make it clear that I will call their parents and invite them in for a meeting to discuss their son's/daughter's behaviour in my lessons with a view to issuing a subject report. I would ensure that HOY are involved at this stage, not only as support for me, but also so that the child knows that if they fail my subject report that I will insist that a HOY report is issued. They are also made aware of the fact that the subject report is photocopied, sent home and a copy placed on their file.
    I ensure that I e-mail form tutors, so that they know how their tutees are behaving in my lessons; as they are supposed to be the first point of contact for misbehaving students where I work and as such they might have a better picture of the behaviour of their tutees across the whole curriculum. The form tutor might then place them on a form tutor's report. It all depends how your pastoral system works. I won't say that this process is a panacea for all types of misbehaviour, and it is a tiresome process, however it works well for me. I think it's just a question of grinding down those students who misbehave by constantly following through on all that you have said that you will do.
    Having said all that however, this may not work with those students whose parents aren't overly concerned with how their child behaves at school in which case I would keep raising the issues I'm having with pastoral managers and SLT.
    Good luck and I hope it all works out for you.
  7. PSK


    Hi all

    Many thanks for all your input - much appreciated. :)

    I do use random name selection for answering questions, I pair up able with less-able students, and I tend to be very big on praise; none of the lower ability students have an issue with contributing - they just tend to combine it with plenty of misbehaviour. In fact, the problem is more the other way - the higher ability students aren't contributing unless prompted!

    I love the idea of a detention if they reach their second strike - I will definitely try this. I'll also copy in Tutors, although my experience of this in my school is very mixed, sadly. I did have meetings with trouble-makers earlier in the year, but maybe I need to do this again to refresh their memories! I do think you're right - I just need to log everything and repeatedly put it under the noses of relevant parties.

    I agree about differentiation only working within smaller grade ranges. I think it's unfair to all involved if the range is too wide. The majority of my teaching is in English, where the school streams very well, thank goodness - I can't imagine teaching a core subject to such a broad range of abilities. How to even start choosing set texts, etc, would be a nightmare!

    Thank you!

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