5 ways primary schools promote positive behaviour in the classroom

What does positive behaviour in schools look like? Is it just a way of getting better behaviour out of students, or is there some deeper goal that will benefit the children for life? Let’s have a look at what it means, and give some tried and tested ways of delivering it.

“Positivity” became a buzzword sometime in the 1990s, and it entered the public consciousness as a fluffy “can do” attitude – if you believe hard enough, you can make anything happen. More recently it has taken on the meaning of being accepting of all groups – not just tolerating them, but actively encouraging them to be themselves.

These interpretations are undoubtedly helpful when it comes to letting kids express themselves and stamp out self-limitation. But clearly, letting children do whatever they want will hardly promote better behaviour in the classroom. There are ways to blend discipline with encouragement, and the result should benefit the whole class. Here are our top five.

1 Listen without judgement

This is probably the most important of all the tips, because nothing destroys confidence like feeling you’re being ignored. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 50; feeling like your views are being taken on board makes you more likely to share them. Inevitable classroom conflicts are best defused when both sides are listened to on a case-by-case basis. It might turn out that the “naughty” child is just provoked more often, and this can only get worse once the other kids catch wind of his or her reputation.

2 Give praise

A lot of people who think they know how to make children behave in class focus on the punishment, not the praise. But the classic carrot and stick principle applies in the class. Kids can feel incredibly proud when an authority figure says they’ve done something well. Most teachers are good at giving out praise, but it can be devalued if it’s overused. Child A seeing child B receive praise for a job that’s no better than their own might make them wonder what they have to do to receive some praise of their own.

3 Don’t say don’t

Negative language makes kids resent authority and can make them feel picked on if they’re often at the receiving end. Instead of telling them what not to do, tell them what they should do. Say “walk”, not “stop running”, for example. It shows there are rules and that the teacher knows them – it’s nothing to do with the kid.

4 Let rewards be earned cumulatively

We pointed out how praise has a value in Tip 2 above, but you can take it one step further and put and actual value on the various actions children perform. For example, one point for sitting quietly, two points for good test results, three points for exceptional work or helping others. Only when the points reach a threshold are actual rewards triggered. Tokens and stickers are perfect rewards systems in primary schools. If they see themselves approaching a reward, it’s amazing how good they can be!

5 Challenge them

Finally, don’t forget that they’re in school to learn, and that can only be achieved by taking them outside of their comfort zones. But there’s no feeling of achievement like tackling a task that seemed impossible when it was first introduced. And that’s the kind of positivity that really feeds back into a real change in attitude.

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