One of the most effective classroom management strategies is teaching your learners good behaviour.
The way it works is simple. When you notice certain behaviours being repeated . . . like “Pushing in line”, “Calling out during lessons”, “Side-talking” and so on… . . . you mirror those behaviours right back at your learners.
Not immediately, mind you. It’s best to wait until the next day or at least a couple hours later. But basically, you’ll model the exact behaviour(s) you’re noticing in your classroom.
It’s an effective strategy because when learners see themselves in your modelling, they become less likely to repeat the behaviour. This is because their personal pride will become questionable.
It makes engaging in the behaviour awkward, even embarrassing.
One of the keys to making the strategy work is to have fun with it. It’s your exaggeration and humour that cause learners to rethink taking part in the behaviour again.
When disrupting the class is reframed as unreasonable and even absurd, and is coupled with consistent accountability, it tends to disappear.
When using the strategy, however, it’s common for teachers to deviate into lecture and reprimand. We’re so conditioned to view misbehaviour in a negative light that it’s easy to get worked up.
The solution is to personify the behavior in an imaginary learner.
When it’s attributed to someone who doesn’t exist—Bobo or Lulu, for example—then it naturally adds a light-heartedness to the lesson.
“Yesterday, Bobo and Lulu were running in the hallway.”
“Lulu left a mess in the class library.”
“Bobo and his friends were off-topic during group work.”
It can be anything.
Using imaginary learners also lends itself to exaggeration. The behaviour seems more ridiculous as learners picture a crazy classmate acting out in ways they know are against the rules.
They also think it’s funny. Yes, even high school learners—as long as they like and trust you. You’ll get questions like: “Is Lulu absent today?”, “Can Bobo eat lunch with us?”, “Are Lulu and Bobo having a good day?”
It’s fun. But more than anything, it makes the how-not strategy more effective. It keeps the tone upbeat and less personal—as you’ll never single out a specific learner.
However, as long as you continue to follow your classroom management plan as it’s written, there will always be an undercurrent of seriousness and truth. Your learners will know that beneath the humour.