Behaviour For Learning in Drama (B4L)

'Mrs Smith, you're free p4 - you have to cover Y9 Drama'

A classroom with no tables and minimal chairs screams chaos to most teachers. The thought of children bouncing off walls, no structured seating plan and a potential noise warning against your record are often thoughts rooted into the minds of anyone who doesn't teach Drama.

For me, turing up to cover a lesson where students are confined to a desk and a chair scares the living daylight out of me.

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Managing students in a Drama classroom

For students and teachers alike, a room with no desks is foreign and goes against what many pupils have have experienced in their previous schooling and contradicts many conventional styles of learning. B4L emphasises the fundamental link concerning the way in which children and young people learn and their social knowledge and behaviour. In doing this the focus is upon establishing positive relationships with each and every one of your pupils.

With any lesson, there is no instant way to learn or teach behaviour management, it is a case of sticking closely to the school's behaviour policy and not smiling before Christmas; believe me on this one, it is easier to go softer after starting tougher, rather than the other way around. Every class is different, each pupil is an individual and any lesson can change as quickly as the weather; we need to be ready to improvise and adapt.

Even though I am relatively new to the teaching profession, I would like to think that I'm pretty 'on point' with my B4L. After some tough times during my early years and some horrid times in my training, I have previously questioned my career choice. However I have tried and tested many successful strategies, all of which are pretty simple and easily accessible for any teacher and any subject. We just need to make sure these are consistent and apply to every student.

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What can I do?

  • Behaviour starts before entering the classroom – This is essential to ensure students are not going into the room unfocused. Luckily, the school I work in starts this on the playground when the bell goes! Stand at the door and check them one by one, uniform, personalised questioning, compliments, target setting, positive praise etc. Stop them if they haven’t met yours or the school's expectations and make sure all is correct before letting them enter. It’s also a really nice way to greet everyone individually before you start the lesson.

  • Establish habits and routines INSIDE the Classroom – This is common sense in every classroom, if not, you're in for a tough ride. Lessons need to be structured with careful planning allowing familiarity amongst students. Follow things through, place those warnings on the board (even to your favourite students), don't let the small things slide, do it again until they get it right and be a teacher - not their friend.

  • Establish positive behaviour expectations in the Classroom – Here you can combine your school’s discipline policy with your own expectations, but not just the behaviour policy but also the rewards policy. People are often quick to connect behaviour and negativity. In fact rewarding students often eliminates needless behaviour. Give out positive praise, thank students for a fantastic lesson last week, inform them that you have received an email about certain members of the group who have been working hard across the school, even if you haven't (students won't know this, but some students will think you're talking about them), give a reward early, take it away, then make them work hard to get it back.

  • Set yourself behavioural targets - I know I can be quick to sanction a student, it's often easy to remember negative behaviour than it is the positive. Nonetheless, I have set myself a target. Each day I secretly select a student who has excelled in a lesson. I don't tell them, I just write their name down in my planner and a quick justification. Then at the end of a week I make 5 positive phone calls home. This surprises the parents and students, they tell their friends and before you know it, everyone wants to secretly impress you.

My 3 rules in Drama are:

  • As soon as I countdown from 10, that is pupil's warning. Anyone talking after the 0 receives an instant 15 minute detention. Does it work? Yes
  • Follow theatre etiquette when others are performing (no talking, clapping at the end). If this isn't followed then it breaks all of our 'Pillars of Excellence' or our vision. Instant 30 minute detention. Harsh? Tough.
  • Have a go. As long as you try, that's the least I can expect from you.

I am by no means an expert and I am not attempting to tell you how to manage B4L in your lesson. However sharing good practice and knowledge from other subject areas can often help and support in any lesson. You may read this and think 'I know all this already', that's fine. However sometimes we forget, sometimes we become complacent and sometimes we need that extra kick up the bum to be that outstanding teacher we once set out to be.

Establishing a safe learning environment through B4L creates positive working relationships. Students feel safe to learn and secure in their own trust over you. Creativity can breed, learning can take place (for everyone), students know their limitations and in hindsight, they'll respect you more as a teacher, a mentor and a role model.

If you want even more inspiration, check out this TED talk from Rita Pierson. Any time I am feeling stressed or down with teaching, I remind myself of this talk. A truly fabulous educator. R.I.P Rita Pierson 1952 - 2013

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion