Archive for category Behaviour Management

Creating Hard-Working Students: Effort Tracking

At the beginning of my teaching career I, like the majority of teachers, struggled with behaviour management.  The students looked straight through my facade of calm experience and saw me for the trembling, terrified novice that I was. I don’t blame them for exploiting this: in the same situation, I would have done the same!

Similar issues crop up time and time again with new teachers; their inexperience means that they struggle to create an atmosphere in which students are pushed to work hard and learn.

In this post, I will share something that I developed to help engender an atmosphere and expectation of hard work and effort in more difficult classes.  It is something that I have also shared with all my trainee teachers who have found it effective in dealing with the often crippling lack of a “work ethic” in some of their trickier groups.

When the behaviour in a class starts getting tricky, I think that the resilience and effort of the students – even ones who are not directly involved in any of the bad behaviour – are two of the things that fall by the wayside first.  The ideas here are also useful for getting across to students the idea that time is precious and that wasting time, both for themselves and for others, is a serious thing.

In essence, the system is pretty simple, although I think that for the students to buy into it the set-up is important.  First you need to share exactly what ‘effort’ means.   I showed a video given to me by David Didau at a training event that he ran.

After a discussion about how this relates to effort, in which the students pointed out that by not trying this close to the exam they were in many ways similar to the people stuck on the escalator, I said that this was why I was introducing some expectations about their effort in class.

The expectations that I introduced are as follows:

What does effort mean?

1.Non-stop work when asked

2.Make progress every lesson

3.Try hardest at all times

4.Do not distract other students from making their best effort

These are completely replaceable, however what I like about them is that while 1 and 4 are objective (students either do or do not meet the expectation and there can be no discussion about it) 2 and 3 are more subjective and allow the teacher some room to reward or penalise for more fine-grained and debatable issues.  One example of this is a student who rushes through all their work at the last minute so has evidence of work within their book, and yet you as the teacher know that it is not their best effort, no matter what they say.  You can easily say that while they completed their work, they were not trying their hardest at all times. It is useful to have some room for qualitative and subjective judgements about effort to ensure that students don’t find loopholes in the system.

Each lesson, you use a spreadsheet to track each students’ effort against the criteria.  The tracking system works as follows: gives students a green for if they entirely met each of the expectations, a yellow if their work and effort was satisfactory but you know they could do better and a red if they did not meet the expectations at all.  This spreadsheet is then displayed and discussed at the beginning of the lesson to remind students of how they did last lesson and at the end for your judgement of each students’ effort.

I attached the following rewards and sanctions to the system:

1) If the students get three greens in a row, they get a call home to say how well they have been doing

2) If they get a yellow, they are on a ‘notice to improve’.  Two yellows in a row automatically becomes a red, leading to a call home.

3) A red leads to a call home to register concern with a parent.  Two reds leads to a parent meeting, the seriousness of this measure merited by the fact that the student in question has wasted two whole lessons of their exam preparation time.

These rewards and sanctions are of course completely subject to your own preferences.  Mine are quite severe in this instance because I ran this system with an exam group with a looming deadline.  As a result, I wanted to get across that we really could not afford lessons where effort was not at 100%.

Below is a screenshot of my spreadsheet for the class in question, with the names removed.  You can see that most instances of yellow became a green in the following lesson, while in every case a parent meeting (two reds) led to improved effort in the following lessons.  This might not seem that impressive, but this really was a challenging class!  It also allows you to see really easily who the most challenging students are, the ones who could potentially be a real negative influence on the group, and act swiftly with parental contact to nip any issues in the bud early on.


This system has really worked in moving a class in which the majority of students would get very little done in the course of a lesson to a class with a much more hardworking mentality.  In particular, students who are on either yellow or red are desperate to ensure they get a green the next lesson, and then will put in considerable effort in class to get a good phone call home to counteract the bad call.  It is the kind of system I wish I had in place in my first year of teaching which is why I shared it with all the first and second year trainees in my school this year.

The tracking spreadsheet and PowerPoint I used to share it with my class are below:

Effort resources Effort Tracking Spreadsheet



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Setting and Maintaining Behavioural Expectations

I usually give this session when we first get trainee teachers into school, often some weeks or months before they hit the classroom for the first time.  In my experience, new teachers always underestimate the lengths  they will have to go to to ensure good behaviour in their lessons.

Often, the “it won’t happen to me” attitude leaves new teachers making mistakes in their first few lessons through not setting and reinforcing their expectations clearly enough.  These mistakes can then take them the whole rest of the year to rectify (it is common to hear first year Teach First trainees say that they can’t wait until the fresh start offered by the second year so that they can toughen up), and they are actually easy to avoid: the way that a class can smell the difference between a rookie and a hardened pro is, I think, simply a matter of how clear and forceful they are about expectations right at the start.  Equally, it is vital that expectations are clearly thought through and practical; it is equally as damaging to set up an impossible to maintain system as it is to not bother at all.

This session goes over what I consider to be the fundamentals of solid classroom management: 1) entry into the room, and routines for settling down, collecting books and resources, 2) deciding on which elements of your lesson you will insist be “perfect” and so need constant practise (i.e., students walking into the room and taking their seats in silence), 3) having a solid routine for silence and active listening that is embedded in classroom practice and used consistently.  In my opinion, with these three elements in place a lot of other potential issues are completely avoided.

The session:

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov is the book that has had the most drastic effect on how I view and practise classroom management.  It contains numerous techniques that are vital to having an ordered classroom and a behaviour system which avoids unnecessary interruptions to learning.  As such much of this session is based on four techniques from this book: Entry Routine, Threshold, Do It Again and SLANT.  While I am able to post my resources and PowerPoint here, I cannot post the chapters from the book.  I would highly recommend getting a copy if you don’t already have one.

The session is composed of three elements:

1)Learning the techniques:  Participants work in small groups to become experts on one of the four techniques.  They read the chapter and condense the information into A3 poster form.  Next, one person from each group remains behind to teach and explain their technique while the others visit the other posters.  Finally, the roamers return back to their group and teach the teacher what they found out about each of the techniques.

2)Watching them in action: Using the DVD provided with the book (each copy of Teach Like a Champion comes with a DVD where excellent teachers are recorded in their classrooms using the each of the 59 techniques), participants watch and analyse the  clips, picking out and discussing examples of the techniques.

3) Designing a routine: Participants are provided with a series of questions that will aid them in thinking carefully about their own routines.  They use these questions to design the routine that they will set-up when they begin their own teaching careers.  The questions are below:


The participants then present their newly designed routines to each other.

Please find the slides and resources for the session below:

Setting and Maintaining High Behavioural Expectations Video Analysis table


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