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Your Career• 5 Min read

8th September 2022

Behaviour Management Strategies for Primary Schools | Engage

Effective behaviour management strategies for primary schools

Effective behaviour management strategies form the basis for successful classroom teaching and learning. But when you are teaching in a primary school, it can be hard to know which behaviour management strategies will work best for young children. This is due to the fact that they may not be able to reason as effectively as secondary school-aged students. 

Why are behaviour management strategies important within primary schools?

Teachers spend a great deal of time with their students, so it makes sense that along with creating an ideal learning environment, they are also helping children with fundamental, life-long lessons. This includes helping students to learn to manage their behaviour and regulate their emotions. 

Behaviour management strategies work because teachers and students respond to mutual respect. Through implementing these strategies, you will also be encouraging your primary school students to cooperate, make amends and problem solve, which will help to prevent any misbehaving in the first place. 

Set clear guidelines and expectations

Primary school children need to have clear guidance on how they are expected to behave in school. These guidelines and expectations will act as a foundation throughout their primary schooling and when they move on to secondary education — they are vital.

At primary school level, keep the guidelines and expectations short and simple, and easy to remember. For example:

✔ We keep our hands and feet to ourselves

✔ We are quiet when someone else is talking

✔ We never use hurtful words

✔ We are honest

✔ We are kind

✔ We make others happy

✔ We keep our classroom tidy

✔ We respect other people’s things

✔ We listen to the teacher and our classmates

✔ We always try your best

✔ We put our hands up if we’d like to speak

✔ We always ask for help if we need it

✔ We walk inside the school buildings; we don’t run 

Try counting down 

Counting down from 10 when you want your students to be quiet is a classic technique and there is a reason why we still use it. The counting allows the children time to finish what they are doing and tidy up before going back to their desks. As they become familiar with the counting down technique, they will naturally begin to speed up when they hear the numbers, and if they haven’t heard the first time, they will soon spot their friends tidying up and will copy them.

This technique prevents a teacher from raising their voice: if teachers simply say ‘quiet please’ it is often ignored or simply not heard. 

Use positive reinforcement techniques 

Using positive reinforcement in the form of praise can stop poor behaviour before it even begins. But the key is to make sure that the praise is specific and that you praise the hard work that has happened in order for them to achieve something. This way, the child knows to put in effort for praise and that the praise is about something specific that they have done (not generic praise, which is impersonal). 

You can praise them publicly in front of their class, and also one-to-one (perhaps at your desk). The public praise will allow the student to feel proud of themselves and will encourage other children to contribute to the praise with a ‘well done’. The private praise will strengthen your positive relationship with the child as you will be able to say a little more and in a more relaxed tone of voice.

Use the ‘yellow card system’

A ‘yellow card system’ is a great visual technique for primary-aged children. In the first instance of poor or inappropriate behaviour you can give them a warning, then a yellow card in the second instance, and then a penalty. By doing this, you will be giving them a chance to correct their behaviour. 

If you give a penalty in the first instance, without any warning, the child could become upset and misbehave again in defiance, rather than self-correct. 

Create a sense of classroom pride 

Getting primary school children involved in the decor and jobs within the classroom will give them a sense of pride and responsibility and will encourage them to work as a community. Allowing them to help to create wall displays and make decisions on where things are kept, will allow them to feel they have a part in the ownership of the classroom. Try setting them tasks like reorganising the bookshelves or stationary cupboard, ask for their opinions and new ideas and praise them if it’s a job well done. Do this in small groups and make sure everyone is involved at some point. When children take pride in their classroom it encourages better behaviour and they will want to keep the area neat and tidy going forward.

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