Prevention is better than cure


This week I thought it would be good to think a little bit about classroom management and, in particular, how to pre-empt issues arising. Now you have had some experiences of teaching it is important to start thinking about behaviour for learning at the planning stage, so I offer ideas that you can embed into lessons you are planning for this coming week and your return to school after half term.

I recall a time when I walked into my twelve year old’s room and told him we needed to leave straightaway to go to his football match. Instantly conflict blew up, I was ‘the worst mother in the world’ and getting out the door became a frustrating battle!

 Why am I telling you this? Basically, because I could have foreseen this happening and prevented it. Who likes to be told that they need to stop what they are doing instantly and leave? If someone asked me to do that I would find it frustrating!

Normally I would have given my son a ten minute, and then five minute, time check and we would have had a very smooth exit from the house. This time I was doing other things and assumed he would be keeping an eye on the time – a fatal mistake:

Why would a twelve year old keep an eye on the time??

I would like to suggest that one key to successful classroom management is pre-emption. As a teacher if you decide in advance what behaviours you would like to see, and think about how you will make them happen, success often follows. In the example of my son, the behaviour I would have liked is:

  • he would have been fully dressed and ready to leave the house;
  • he would leave calmly!

How could I have planned to make that happen?

  • given him time checks;
  • asked questions about whether he had all the equipment he needed (i.e. kit, shin pads, etc) ready.


So how does this translate to a lesson?

Before the lesson

Visualise the next lesson you are going to teach. What would a perfect lesson look like with this class? How can you plan for this?

For example:

How would the lesson start?

You want the pupils lined up outside the classroom…

Where do you need to be when pupils start arriving?

If you need to be standing outside ready to greet them, what must you have already done?


  • how you are going to arrange the classroom and set out resources before the pupils arrive;
  • what you are going to say to the pupils as they start arriving;
  • the point at which you will direct the pupils into the room;
  • what you are going to do about late arrivals.

You want the pupils to come in quietly as they arrive, get sat down and start on a task…

What needs to be ready for this to happen?

What do your actions need to be to make this happen?


  • the task that the pupils will do as they arrive – can they get on with it without your help?
  • what you are going to say as pupils appear so they come in and get straight on with the task;
  • where you are going to stand to greet arriving pupils and ensure others are on task;
  • what you are going to do with late arrivals.

What would transitions in the lesson look like?

How would the class behave when you set them off on a task?

Perhaps you would like them all to get straight on with the task and no one would need to put their hand up and ask a question as soon as they begin?

If this is the case how will you plan for it?

You need to make sure everyone knows exactly what they have to do. Perhaps you could:

  • ask one or two pupils to explain what they must do to the whole class?
  • talk to pupils about what they must do before they put up their hand – e.g. look back at the example/identify the exact point at which they are stuck/ask a friend/etc?

Whatever you decide, you need to plan for what you are going to say, and do, to make a transition smooth.

During the lesson


I think the key here is that you need to develop your skills of noticing what is happening, and intervening before a problem arises. To do this, however, you need to know what you see as acceptable behaviour, praise it when you see it and spot behaviours that are veering towards unacceptable before they reach that point.

For example, what sort of atmosphere do you want in your classroom when pupils are working on a task?

Perhaps you want a calm working atmosphere where pupils talk quietly to each other about an activity whilst staying on task? What does this look like? Sound like? Feel like?

Spend time thinking about this.

What might the signs be that the class is shifting away from what you desire?

It is at the point that things first start shifting away from your desired behaviours that you must intervene as this enables you to pre-empt any unacceptable behaviour.

Reflect on some of the experienced teachers you have observed in the last few weeks. How did they do this? For me, key tricks are to intervene with praise, time checks and signposts and to make pupils feel you have eyes in the back of your head!





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