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Struggling to get children to listen/pay attention and it's affecting other pupils too

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by MCJAJAI, Sep 25, 2018.


    MCJAJAI New commenter

    Hi I'm looking for some advice on behaviour management.

    I teach a Year 2 class once a week and although I was aware of some "tricky/difficult" individuals in the class, I have found it very difficult to teach and maintain control in the classroom.

    I feel like they don't see me as the main class teacher and although they are young and I know they mean no harm, I still find it disrespectful. They constantly interrupt me when I am speaking/trying to teach, do not listen to/follow instructions and wind other classmates up. They are especially bad during PE as they run riot.

    I have tried to be calm and consistent with behaviour rewards/sanctions giving positive praise and points or giving warnings and explaining consequences if they do not listen/ follow what I say. I have tried waiting for them to be quiet and giving them "the look" but they don't care or respond to it. I am stumped! What am I doing wrong? I know not to take it personally but I can't help feel like I am terrible at getting the children to listen and pay attention without some sort of disruption.

    It's also getting to the point where, the nicer children are acting out/fed up of the "naughty" ones and can sense I am not in control. Other teachers seem to have less of an issue with the class although they are still challenging. Children just seem to interrupt more/listen less when I'm in charge. This is really wearing and getting me down. Any advice? Is it me or the kids?

    I am also going to be totally honest and say, I feel slightly afraid to ask members of staff/SMT for help as I feel like I already look incompetent at handling a class and teaching them because I can't get them to even sit still and listen for long. I really would appreciate any advice/tips. How do I get command authority and get respect? Also I am still semi new to teaching having only qualified a couple of years ago. I don't know if the kids are subconsciously picking on the fact that I'm young and inexperienced...? They don't seem to take me seriously...? Maybe I am overthinking everything but I honestly would appreciate somebody to tell me the honest truth and give some advice.

    Thanks in advance!

    N.B. Sorry for the long post! I am just desperate for help and eager to put a stop to this and make good changes so I can get back to teaching.
  2. Homeeducator2011

    Homeeducator2011 New commenter

    I am having a problem similar to yours, but with some classes of secondary students. They can talk throughout a lesson and it is exhausting for the teacher. I am sorry I cannot help much, but maybe someone will have advice. Don't be afraid to ask for help at your school, or maybe have someone come into your class and give you some feedback. (however for me, when someone comes in they all become silent, so I don't know what I am doing wrong) Don't forget that they will only misbehave as far as we allow them to
    pepper5 likes this.

    MCJAJAI New commenter

    Ah glad to hear I'm not the only one with this problem but I still can't help feeling rubbish. As I explained above, I'm afraid to ask staff/SMT for help as I feel like I already look incompetent in their eyes. And I have the exact same issue. It's like the staff can see the children disrespecting me which is embarrassing and disheartening. When I've observed the class with another teacher, they do not act out as much. I feel like I can't get a word in edgeways without being interrupted several times during teaching. :(
    pepper5 likes this.
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Many teachers are in exactly the same situation. They need assistance but are too afraid to ask for it as they are embarrassed. There are no easy full proof answers or methods - even the theories that are so called "evidence based". You can try different things.Some might work, some might not. However, that is part of the job - learning. This is what you could try:

    1. You have to take back control. You do this through your tone of voice, posture, words you use. Perhaps your tone of voice needs to be slightly firmer - not harsh but must enough to let them know you are notl pleased.

    2. Have three simple rules

    1. Follow instructions fast
    2. Stay on task
    3. Work withoutdisturbing others

    Make small red cards. If they interrupt. One red card. If they disobey in any way breaking the three rules then a sanction. If they recieve any two sanctions in a week then call the parents if the school will allow it.

    Keep to the plan and do not waiver from it. If they riot durig PE then your line manager may need to become involved and call the parents since its a breach of health and safety. You can't have 30 rioting year 2s.

    Be a lot more firmer until they earn fun lessons etc.

    You have to act like you expect them to to!!ow your instructions. I would set up routines where they have to stand behind theirs until you invite them to sit down.

    Every time they talk over you address it with a red card -not following instructions and off task behaviour plus disturbing others!

    You must,however, prepare yourself mentally that you won't give in and you must never let them know they have rattled your cage. Don't think you can't raise your voice- never shout but of you are displeased let them know it.

    Perhaps start with the ring leaders - the worst five and take it from there.

    Try a few more things, but don't be afraid to ask your colleagues for "hints". You are very new to teaching and are still learning.
    Molliecollie likes this.
  5. Homeeducator2011

    Homeeducator2011 New commenter

    Thank you so much for this, it is so helpful and relevant to me. I feel more empowered now
    pepper5 likes this.

    MCJAJAI New commenter

    Ah!!! The so-called "teacher presence".....I wish it were something easy to learn/acquire. I was pulled up for it during my teaching placements as tutors would say I need to work on it more. I find that it's so hard to define so I don't even know what I should be doing to have "presence".

    Also I don't know if I mentioned it but I think my lack of self-confidence is a contributing factor. I know that kids can pick up on this so I try to act calm but it doesn't help that I feel undermined subconsciously. Whenever staff/SMT do intervene I feel like the kids can sense that they (the adults) have the authority/power rather than me i.e. I can't handle the kids so someone else has to step in. And as I said before the kids do slightly better when in their presence but when I'm with them, they misbehave more.

    I have never heard of the red cards idea so I am very keen and excited to try that. Hope I can report back with some good news but I'm not sure how I'm going to tackle with the worst 5 kids first though Definitely will be a challenge when they don't listen and run away from you.

    Do you have any advice on how I make the children understand that I am unpleased with them and to understand the consequences? I feel like that the class (being so young) don't understand getting into trouble is a bad thing and don't care if I take away points or that I am unhappy with them.

    Thank you for your advice so far by the way! I think the 3 rules will be simple enough to follow (I hope!)
    pepper5 likes this.
  7. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    You are welcome.

    Sometimes it takes some considerable time to get confident with behaviour management. Teacher presence is a belief in your self - belief that you are the authority in the room and have expertise to make the right decisions for the well being of your class. Act like you believe it even if you don't.

    You are working with Year 2 children so they are around six or seven years old. They are old enough to understand what is going on.

    Pick out the first five most disruptive and concentrate on those. Use the red cards, give them a warning, then another and then the sanction. Use your school's policy and follow it strictly. If the ring leaders don't fall into line then ask your line manager if you can have the parents in. Once the class see you mean what you say, then the rest will follow.

    They are old enough to talk to about the how to treat others. Explain that you want them to treat others as they would want to be treated along of course with your top three rules which you should ask the class to make a poster of and then put it on the wall for all to see. If they start talking over you, just point to the rule they are breaking. If they are too loud point to rule 2 etc..

    They are also old enough for you to do a survey with them: ask them what their favourite rewards are for excellent work and behaviour. Things like: extra golden time, time on the computer, arts and crafts, board games, tea part on Friday - anything apart from sweets or material rewards like pencils etc.

    Look on the Pivotal Education site for more ideas.

    Give them plenty of praise but only when they deserve it.

    Let us know if any of the above works and in the meantime, practise your tone of voice- very firm with a slight edge if needed. You can practise at home.
    susierothwell likes this.
  8. ladylyra

    ladylyra New commenter

    Pepper's advice is fab, I just wanted to add a few things I've found work well too just to add to your bank of resources :)

    Don't assume year 2s don't mean any harm, they know exactly what they're doing! Even if they're super impulsive and can't help calling out, they will know when they can get away with it and they will run with it. Don't let them. My technique, which hasn't failed me yet in 4 years, is to treat them like they're at least a solid 3 years older than they are (in terms of behaviour expectations!) in my experience, it makes sure you don't excuse behaviour they know full well is unacceptable and it makes them feel a bit more mature and respected. I'll admit I've never worked below year 1, but it's worked in 2,3,4 and my now mixed group of teenagers!

    I personally favour being overwhelmingly positive. Consequences have their places of course and need to be used consistently but don't forget the benefits you can get from pointing out good behaviour. Make a massive fuss of the person sitting listening respectfully or following instructions. (one of my go to phrases at multiple points in the lesson is "x is ready, well done x, who else?") Start big and over the top (stickers, praise pads, reward points, whatever) and tone it down when they start getting the message. I eventually whittled my last class down to just a 'good listening' flashcard hanging off my lanyard.

    I like using a smiley face/sad face on the board. Establish a reward for being on the smiley face and a consequence for being on the sad face at the end of the lesson. Anyone who is following the rules have their initials on the smiley face. Anyone who isn't goes on the sad face. That serves as their warning. If they continue to misbehave, they get a tick and that's when your consequence kicks in. If you have ticks as ___minutes off break time then you can add them up but the great thing is you can rub them out when they start making right choices.

    I am a huge advocate of class dojo and that positive ding sound gets a whole heap of attention from a class of little ones. Give a little certificate to whoever has the most at the end of the week. We weren't allowed to use the negative ones but it worked just as well.

    If you do pick out some ringleaders or your trickiest pupils, I like a 'catch me' card. Establish a personal reward (iPad time? Lego time? Time to play outside? A smelly sticker? A colouring sheet to take home?) and set them a target personal to them to achieve that. Have like 12 boxes on their card and every time they fulfil that target, tick off a box. It's like a loyalty card for good behaviour.

    Hope this helps!
  9. Lucy2711

    Lucy2711 Occasional commenter

    Following the school's behaviour policy is critical - hopefully they'll experience some consistency.
    Also try to catch them doing the right thing and fulsomely praise that behaviour (even better if it's one of the children who tends to instigate trouble). I know it's easier said than done but it really worked for me.
    Molliecollie and pepper5 like this.

    MCJAJAI New commenter

    You mention how they are old enough to understand what is going on and they SHOULD but they certainly don't act like it. Taking away points if they have done something bad means nothing to them.

    Not all, but most parents are not very supportive at this school unfortunately and as luck would have it, it's mainly the parents of the pupils who have misbehaved. They are either too busy with work, have too many other children of their own to worry about, don't reprimand their children at home or simply can't even control their own child's behaviour at home.

    Sorry to sound like a negative Nancy but this is what I'm dealing with. I'm determined to make a change but also feel like unlikely to make a big impact.

    Also is there any reason that material rewards should not be allowed? I find that they easy since it is instant and the children don't have to wait long to receive a reward for being good. It is visual for the "naughty" kids as they see the well behaved ones getting their rewards. Personally I have always found the idea of earning/losing golden time (weekly) or special tea parties (monthly/termly) problematic as they have to wait so long to earn it that they'll forget if that makes sense? If they have lost golden time, they won't remember the reasons why or they're off that day/it's a school holiday and it rolls on to the next week. The idea of saving up and waiting so long for a tea party will be lost on them. I think I would have to do something "special" at the end of the day in the afternoon since I am only in one day a week. I have found it challenging to set up and establish my own routines for one day as the main class teacher has their own routines and set up.

    I have googled and bookmarked that website you suggested and going to look at it for further reading/research info. Thank you! :)
    susierothwell and pepper5 like this.
  11. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi I

    I see what you mean about the delayed rewards and it is more problematic if you see them only once a week. The problem with material rewards is that a lot of students have so much already.

    How about student of the day? The student or table with the best work and behaviour gets a phone call home. That way, then the parents could reward them. Or use a post card home with a praise report.

    It is difficult and not easy at all and sometimes it seems impossible.

    You are not being negative but as you say that is the reality of what you face.

    MCJAJAI New commenter

    Ah I see where you are coming from.
    Thank you for reminding me about praise cards. I used to do them and then stopped for whatever reason. I shall start them again to see what happens. I'm sure they'll like that. They'll likely show their parents and be excited to tell them rather than getting a phone call. It can be hard to reach parents even with their contact details surprisingly! It will also be more effective I believe as some poor souls will get no rewards from their parents even if a positive phone call is given. Sadly, school is the only place where they are nurtured and loved.

    I'm looking forward to making changes for next week. I already have my checklist!
    pepper5 likes this.
  13. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi again

    If I think of anything else I will let you know.

    Yes, the praise cards to their homes will be a good idea to add to your list.

    Remember a lot of people struggle with this - getting better at managing difficult classes.

    You have the children's best interests at heart so that is the first step.
    Molliecollie likes this.
  14. PotterGirl

    PotterGirl New commenter

    So glad I found this thread! Have just posted on the nqt board that I am looking for suggestions to manage a very chatty year 2 class. They just take every oppprtunity to talk, and as for indoor voices...nope!! I know they were considered a very well behaved class last year, and to be fair this is low level, but I just can’t seem to get to grips with it. Worried it will escalate if not dealt with soon and feel like I am failing if I can’t even get a ‘good’ class to behave.
    Alice K and pepper5 like this.
  15. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi PotterGirl

    You will get to grips with it. You are the "new kid" on the block and your year 2 class are testing you to see how far they can push Miss P to the limit.

    Please don't ever consider yourself a failure in connection with a class's behaviour.

    I have met teachers who have taught YEARS who have not been able to get a very noisy class to speak in reasonable tones ( this is in connection with a year 8 class). I have been in classes on supply where I am sure the noise levels were louder than jets taking off. LOL.

    Don't let them see you are wound up.

    Yes, it could be considered low level, but they are not following your instructions which they must learn to do. You just have to stop it each time and every time they make you stop, put a big tick on the board and those are the minutes they have to make up from THEIR time. If they have wasted five minutes of YOUR time, then take away five minutes of their golden time or whatever. They are quite old enough to follow your reasonable instructions and understand what they are doing.

    Basically, they are testing you so you have to appear in control although you don't feel you are and act confidently although you might feel it; however, I can assure you there are hundreds of teachers experiencing your dilemma which is quite common so please be assured it isn't you and you will get better.

    I will tell you a story about another supply teacher told and it is this:

    One day he went to a school and was covering a Year 5 class who were completely out of control. He asked them to line up outside which was winter to get ready to go into the building. They were running around and wouldn't follow the instructions, so he got a chair and sat in it until they were completely lined up in silence ready to go in. It took about 30 minutes but he wasn't going to budge until they followed his instructions. I always try to remember that story.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
    PotterGirl and Lucy2711 like this.
  16. Lucy2711

    Lucy2711 Occasional commenter

    pepper5 writes such good sense (and although what the year 5 teacher did, waiting on the playground, is very much in line with my approach, I wonder if the safety elf would complain about chills!!!)
    Even the most experienced and effective managers of behaviour get challenged and have to let the children know who's boss. And we always get told children like consistency and to know where the boundaries are.
    PotterGirl and pepper5 like this.
  17. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    I teach in secondary schools on supply and once did quite a few days in a middle school before they were closed, but hardly ever in primary schools. One day in a primary school, however, sticks out in my mind.

    I was covering either a year 5 or year 6 PE. I can't remember which. The class were wiggly and I was having somewhat difficult time getting everyone into their PE gear to go down to the hall for dance or gym or whatever. I finally got everyone ready in the gear but there was a lot of noise while lining up to go down.

    In walks another teacher ( I don't know if she was SLT or not) she gave them ONE look and it was like a spell had gone over the children: silence descended and like magic they were in a line. In moments were ready to go! LOL Seriously it was just like a mystical transformation you see in movies.

    Now when I get a group that aren't falling in, I give them The Look which I try to perfect and it does work - sometimes. I try to remember the teacher's expression. LOL.

    It is a balance of kindness and being firm - being firm for the interest of the children so they grow up having the skills they need and being happy. Never harsh.

    The problem is that goal is incredibly difficult to achieve in classes of 30 children. You have to have an incredible amount of patience and stamina to be able to do it.

    Add to the large class sizes the factors like SEND issues, poor parenting at home, a recession and all the other things that affect children and you can see that teachers are being stretched to the limit.
    Alice K likes this.
  18. PotterGirl

    PotterGirl New commenter

    Thank you so much Pepper, that is exactly what I needed to hear :) going back tomorrow with some new strategies (the 3 rules you mentioned) and a new resolve to get this issue stamped out.
    pepper5 likes this.
  19. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi PotterGirl

    Get the students to make a poster with the three rules on it and put them up around the room. When someone breaks one of the rules, then just stop and point to the rule.

    Let us know how you get on.

    As someone else said above, no matter how experienced a teacher we are, we will always face this issue - the issue of establishing rules and routines in the spirit of kindness but firmness. It is an art for sure, and takes a lot of patience and you must realise it might take you some considerable time to get good at it, but if you stick with it you will succeed.

    MCJAJAI New commenter

    Hi everyone,

    Just thought I'd give a quick update on how today went. Today was one of the better days and possibly the best I've had so far with this class...! :O

    I was very firm and specific with my instructions and expectations to the point where I felt like a robot with no emotion. I spoke slowly and calmly (like I usually do) but the children seemed to respond better to it today. I implemented the warnings if there was poor behaviour and gave/took away points depending on if they followed instructions etc. I was extra proactive with that today so the children could see points going up/down. They managed to line up more quietly (but still chatty) and although there were still a few incidents, it was mostly a good day for the class and me. I do have mention that one of the ringleaders was off today so perhaps that had something to do with it...? Haha. And we also did not have PE today and that is usually when the children run around and shout etc.

    I am not convinced that this will last. Maybe it was beginner's luck and is probably a fluke since I think I still need more fine tuning in using all the strategies. I honestly have no idea what came over the children today as I did not expect to see such instant results on the first day. It remains to be seen what will happen next week when I'm back in class. Fingers crossed the children really are genuinely responding to the new approaches!

    On a final note, I know that I should take things one at a time. I have somewhat managed to deal with individual behaviour today but I have realised that I am still struggling to manage the class as a whole. I still have an issue with getting the WHOLE class to be quieter when doing their work or listening at the carpet without interrupting/talking to their partner. I noticed myself "shushing" them or stopping my teaching to repeat my instructions/tell them to listen i.e. reverting back to my old ways. Any advice on how to get the whole class to respond? I found myself struggling to think of what to do if more than a few of them being noisy/not on task etc.

    Thanks again for everyone's responses and I am glad everyone is getting some help too and not just me!
    susierothwell and pepper5 like this.

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