5 Ways To Reduce Off Task Behaviour
1. Set clear expectations for your students by discussing the need for class rules and negotiating how students will learn best in your classroom. The best rules are few in number (3-5), positively stated, prominently displayed and referred to and reinforced consistently.
This does not mean jumping down kids necks every time they break a rule! It does mean giving positive feedback when students are following the rules and encouragement and additional teaching when they struggle to abide by the expectations. For how to set the game up to win see here.
2. Pick your battles. If a student’s behaviour is low level, not dangerous and is not disrupting your lesson, then either ignore the behaviour or use a low key strategy such as distraction or diversion. If you create more disruption to the teaching and learning than the behaviour of the student does, then you are guilty of wasting the learning time.
If, for example, a student has their hat or hood on in class, give a general reminder to the whole class of the rule, then speak to the student privately when the class is working. If they don’t comply, talk about it at the end of the lesson. Be aware of your emotional buttons being pushed by defiant behaviour and keep the behaviour low level.
3. Make the learning tasks interesting. Use a variety of activities to keep students interested. When students are interested and engaged they are more likely to be on task and less likely to be disruptive. For ways to add variety to your lessons see here.
4. Talk less. According to John Hattie, teachers talk 80% of the day. That is a lot of listening for students to do! When students are given an opportunity to speak by chatting with each other, interacting with the teacher, and reflecting quietly on their own, the learning becomes more meaningful and they are more likely to listen when the teacher has something to say.
5. Have high expectations for your students. Demonstrate to students that you expect a high standard of behaviour and a high standard of work and teach them how to access your support to achieve those high expectations. Students will live up (or down) to the teachers’ expectations implied as well as explicit. For more about the research behind the Pygmalion effect and teacher expectations