The topic of the week is Low level Disruption.
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Low level disruption is in the news at the moment. Paul describes it as a ‘hardy perennial’ of the behaviour management world.
However, the term annoys him because the disruption is only ‘low level’ to those looking in from outside and can be easily dismissed as such. To classroom teachers, it’s just disruption and needs to be addressed.
Paul points out that the problem of low level disruption has been talked about for many years, in similar ways. There seem to be two main approaches identified. The one the outsiders want teachers to use involves ‘stamping down’ on low level disruption but this is, for Paul, is rather like stamping on a cockroach – it feels good at the time but you are really just seeding more problems for the future. Those in the classroom realise it’s so much more to do with establishing a connection with young people first.
Teachers who bore their classes need to see low level disruption as a comment on their teaching.
Variety in your lesson is the key to eliminating low level disruption – using a range of activities. 10 minutes of standing at the front should be enough to get your point across, not 50 minutes – and certainly not as a default every lesson.
There are teachers who can tackle low level disruption in an intelligent way. They are keen on engaging children, developing and using their curiosity and helping them to develop self-discipline. Paul says that he doesn’t have a problem with being strict or tough – he just has a problem with ‘being nasty with it’.
A planned approach to reducing low level disruption over time
As always, meet and greet is essential – set your standard at the door and make sure you have clear expectations of the behaviour you want. Low level disruption almost always centres around children who wander off task.
To tackle low level disruption, the rule to enforce is ‘Stay on task’.
The key is to enforce the rule with all children, not only those who are likely to break the rule a lot – even with those who generally go unnoticed who may just be hiding their off-task behaviour through being seemingly well-mannered. This means there is a fairness which runs through your actions. Some children may moan that this rule is not for them but the point is that the teacher’s expectation is a lot higher than the children might expect.
However, this is best done in small chunks. The children should be allowed to experience this silence, or real, concentrated focus on the work for as little as 10 minutes. The class will have this 10 minutes every lesson for the next week. This works much better than trying to demand it for the whole 50 minutes of the lesson.
This can then be extended in 10 minute chunks. The children are asked to reflect on how it feels. Do they feel like they can get more work done in that 10 minutes? This promotes a dialogue between learner and teacher. Unless children have experienced this concentrated period of dedicated work – and some classrooms never achieve this – they are aiming towards an expectation they have no experience of.
Paul recalls how he had to build up silent reading periods from 5 minutes upwards when he first started teaching. A lot of the children had no experience of silence but they very quickly built up how it felt and what the expectation was all about – they became comfortable with it.
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