Managing my behaviour management part 1 (5 strategies) @mathsmrgordon

Follow @p4ssionform4ths project for progress and news on our maths year 5-8 transition development and upskilling of maths teachers and leaders.

This is the first of two blogs on how I manage behaviour:

Part 1: 3 agreed rules, SLANT, Golden iPhone, micro-scripting, show call.

Part 2: Lateness, Low level disruption, Key routines, “Picking up your own tab”

Behaviour management is not something I have seen a lot of teachers blog about. I really liked Ben Newmark’s blog about how he deals with a new class at a new school. These raw, personal blogs really help other teachers. I think behaviour management as a skill is something that people are ashamed to admit they need help with. “What… you can’t even manage your class?” is probably one of the things that a teacher would be ashamed to admit. It is very personal. The truth is, that it IS a skill. It can be practised. It IS something you can better at but you must be very conscious about it and very deliberate. Some of the strategies are completely counter-intuitive and go against your sensibility. If Dweck’s work is important for a teacher, it certainly is in this area.

A lot of behaviour management training is poor. We suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect as novices – we think we are better than we are because of our lack of knowledge – we can always get better and we must seek this all the time. I fail everyday in some way. That is why I love this job. I have habits, some good, some bad and biases that I want to challenge.

I have been lucky enough to twice experience behaviour management training from Jason Bangbala. Yes, it is an experience! It is very humbling. He is an incredible presenter with great strategies. I have also read “What does this look like in the class room?” (WDTLLITC) by Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson with a chapter on behaviour where they interviewed Tom Bennett and Jill Berry. “When The Adults Change, Everything Changes” (WTACEC) by Paul Dix is a phenomenal piece of writing and I have learned so much. I appreciate Paul giving me permission to share some of what I have learned and my experiences in the class room. Some of them are my personal preference, some of them from Paul, some of them from Jason Bangbala. Hope there is a golden nugget for you.

Before I start I have made sure I do 5 things really well:

1. Notice everything, praise publicly, reprimand in private!

2. Talk to all my students at least once per lesson

3. Deal with behaviour myself. Don’t shout. Be calm.

4. Apologise to students if I get it wrong

5. Don’t let one off day from me ruin the rest of my consistencies – we all have them – get back on the wagon!

SLANT – this has really transformed the behaviour of one of my year classes.

It is displayed on my wall outside my door, and next to my board.

Sit up


Ask and answer questions

Nod your head

Track the speaker

Helps to set very clear expectations during teacher talk that means that students are safe from distraction – “OK, class this is a SLANT period! Eyes on me, one voice, mine, I am going to cold call for your responses and I promise you, you will learn something.” Silence is not a form of oppression. Kris Boulton advocates giving new teachers a license for silence. It is not a soundtrack to disengagement!

3 agreed rules on the front of books

Ben Newmark talked about this in his recent blog. 3 rules are easy to remember – any more and students get overloaded. Focus on your main 3 – this will be different for each class depending where you are with them. At present, mine are:

a) Silence, stand behind chairs at the start and end of the lesson

b) SLANT during teacher talk

c) If I make a mistake, speak to me at the end of the lesson

The third one is particularly powerful. No more, “I wasn’t turning round” or “What you on bout sir? I wasn’t drawing on my whiteboard!”

Ask,”does anyone think this is unfair? I am going to remind you of these each day for a few weeks and then every Monday and the start of every half term!” Nobody disagrees.

The Golden iPhone

I often use the text message service on PARS to send personalised texts home. The EEF research showed regular contact home increased attainment by 1 month. While this is not ground breaking, there is more to calling and texting home than improving grades.

It shows what Paul Dix refers to as “deliberate botheredness” – going the extra mile to show you care.

I have set up a template to give to children that allows them to write their contact details on it in lesson. Then you have a pile that gathers during the week (about 5 or 6) and you can call them at your leisure. I find calling from a withheld number in my car on the way home makes the journey home much more pleasurable.

Key point: only give out such rewards for going over and above. Use this phrase. “Michael you have completed your work, helped Gemma and now you’re on the extension, that is over and above what I expected. Here’s a golden iphone.”

A Friday night after school is perfect to call home or the day before you have the class on a period 4 or 5. The student may get rewarded from home but just the “triangle of recognition” is important – you, parents/carers and the pupil themselves. “Achievement often leads to motivation but motivation doesn’t always lead to achievement!”


The idea of anything being scripted for some teachers is repulsive and takes away a sense of their freedom and autonomy. I think it does the opposite in certain situations. When? I script my parents evenings, my explanations, what I say when kids say, “dunno” visits to SLT meetings, I script what I say at the door of my class, at the end of lessons, how I answer the question, “why are we doing this?” I think the way you react to certain behaviours with certain children should also be scripted. Why? Certainty. Children crave it and we must display it. Certainty even when you’re not certain. It doesn’t mean I’m any less creative. In fact I can be more creative in the safety of preparation time and prevent myself from freestyling and waffling at key relationship-defining moments.

I love this 30 second intervention from WTACEC, done in private with a pupil:

“I notice you have chosen to… (turn around during teacher talk, get out of you chair without permission, refuse to begin the task”)

“That was the agreed rule about …. that you have broken”

“You have chosen to… (answer back, refuse to work)”

“Do you remember when you were brilliant… last week or last lesson” or “Look at the rest of the class – perfect silence all working hard)”

“That is the ___ I want to see today!”

“Thank you for listening.”

Then walk away and don’t look back. The students eventually can even complete your sentences for you when you are consistent. Very important to finish by bringing their attention to past positive behaviour or the current good behaviour of the class. Normalising compliance and hard work. Culture eats strategy for breakfast!

Show call

This is a strategy gained from Teach Like A Champion 2.0. by Doug Lemov.

You use a visualiser or take a picture of student work on your phone and email it to yourself live. (You can also email it to parents) It is important to explain why you are doing this to students.

A) you want to show it on the screen

B) you want their best presentation

C) you are looking for outstanding work

D) you are looking for misconceptions that are going to help the class

This is is so powerful. It heightens expectations, creates opportunity for whole class peer assessment, creates a bank of student work on your phone for the future to show, it shows classes that excellence is within their grasp by someone their age rather than just the teacher modelling the work and builds the self esteem if the “chosen one.”

I am not the best at anything in teaching but I can always strive to be the best at getting better!

Part 2 to follow on:


Low level disruption

Key routines

Ideal instructions

“Picking up your own tab”


8 thoughts on “Managing my behaviour management part 1 (5 strategies) @mathsmrgordon

  1. Thanks for the mention. I am by no means a behaviour expert (as Tom is!) but I was happy to share my views with Robin and Carl based on my years of experience. And, like you, I am a huge fan of Paul’s ‘When the Adults Change’, and I like what Doug Lemov has to say about behaviour too.

    Good luck with your ongoing learning. I also love the fact that we have never ‘cracked it’ in teaching!


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