Session

3. Addressing low-level behaviour

This session will take approximately 40 minutes to complete.

Session overview

You can affect and improve the wellbeing, motivation and behaviour of your pupils. When behaviour incidents occur, no matter how small or large, it’s important that you respond consistently in the least intrusive ways which align with your school’s behaviour policy or approach.

To support you to do this, in this session you will explore:

  • What is low-level disruption?
  • Using early and least intrusive interventions as an initial response

What is low-level disruption?

When teaching a carefully planned and well-resourced lesson, you may expect pupils to remain focused and engaged throughout – and some pupils will. However, some pupils may require prompts to keep them focused on their learning.

Sometimes, a pupil’s attention may drift unintentionally, and they may begin to exhibit low-level disruption. On other occasions, pupils may deliberately exhibit such behaviours to avoid engaging with work.

Whatever the reason is for a disruption, it’s important to address it as early as possible to prevent it from escalating and impacting further on pupils’ learning.

Low-level disruption can be anything that disrupts the flow of your lesson. Some examples include pen tapping, chatting, calling out, entering late, chewing gum, playing with resources and swinging on chairs.

In isolation, low-level disruption can seem harmless. But when it occurs frequently, it can become increasingly difficult to manage and this inevitably impacts on pupils’ learning.

In session 1, we looked at how to prevent low-level behaviour by creating and reinforcing routines, and in session 2 by positively reinforcing behaviour with acknowledgment and praise. Here we will look at how to address low-level disruption once it has occurred.

In response to low-level disruption, one approach we can take is to use the Least Invasive Intervention (Lemov, 2015). Lemov argues that by minimising the ‘drama’ you can correct off-task pupils without interrupting the learning. In contrast, if you confront pupils too publicly, you may escalate a situation unnecessarily, and make a pupil feel embarrassed or shamed. This makes the situation worse for both you and the pupil – and is more likely to derail the learning of this pupil and others.

Lemov identifies six subtle techniques that a teacher can use to quickly address low-level disruption, which you will explore throughout this session. These techniques are listed below in order, with the least intrusive method at the top:

  1. Non-verbal Intervention
  2. Positive Group Correction
  3. Anonymous Individual Correction
  4. Private Individual Correction
  5. Lightning-quick Public Correction
  6. Private Individual Praise

In the classroom, you may choose to address low-level disruption by employing the least invasive technique first (non-verbal intervention) and work your way down the techniques if the previous one doesn’t work. However, there may be some occasions where you choose the method you feel is most appropriate to the context and the behaviour being exhibited at the time.

Non-verbal Intervention

‘Non-verbal Intervention’ is when you use gestures or your proximity to a pupil to mitigate low-level disruption in a non-invasive way.

The advantage of this technique is that the teaching does not stop while the disruption is being addressed, so the flow of the lesson is not interrupted in any way. It is also a respectful way to refocus pupils because it gives them an opportunity to self-regulate their behaviour without being shamed or embarrassed in front of their peers.

Example 1 – Using proximity

If you notice a pupil no longer following the text during whole class reading, you might walk closer to where they are sitting whilst continuing to read, to prompt them to follow the text. Here, you’re using your own proximity to the pupil to redirect their attention, without needing to say any words. Other pupils are unlikely to even be aware that you are intervening.

Example 2 – Using gestures

If a pupil is fiddling with their pen or whiteboard during a phonics lesson, you might use a downward hand gesture to signal to the child to put their pen down whilst the rest of the pupils continue to read sounds that you point to on the board.

These are great ways to refocus off-task pupils without stopping teaching. However, such interventions can become invasive if not performed correctly.

Non-example

A pupil is fiddling with their pen or whiteboard during a phonics lesson, so you use a downward hand gesture to signal to the child to put their pen down and wait, looking at them intently with a frown on your face until they do.

In the non-example above, the teacher stops teaching. Therefore, the rest of the class has stopped learning and are now watching the non-verbal communication between the teacher and the off-task pupil. This may embarrass the pupil and causes lost learning time. Always aim to use non-verbal interventions discreetly whilst continuing to teach your lesson.

‘Non-verbal Intervention’ in action

Watch a video of a teacher using non-verbal interventions.

Consider the impact this has on the individual pupils and on the class’s learning.


Non-verbal Intervention – Primary – Reach Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Non-verbal Intervention – Primary – Reach Academy [AD]


Non-verbal Intervention – Secondary – Tilly Browne, Reach Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Non-verbal Intervention – Secondary [AD]

What happens if the pupil does not correct their behaviour?

If the pupil still hasn’t refocused after you have used a non-verbal intervention, then you may need to employ the next technique: positive group correction.

Positive Group Correction

‘Positive Group Correction’ is a quick verbal reminder addressed to the whole class.

Why address the whole group rather than individuals?

There are two reasons for this:

  1. Saying the names of pupils who are not complying with your instructions may cause embarrassment or escalate the behaviour to a confrontation that further disrupts the lesson.
  2. In addressing the whole class, you may prompt others to check their behaviour who may also be off task – but you hadn’t noticed.

This intervention is best framed in a positive way – by describing the solution rather than the problem. For example, ‘Everybody should have their pens down and eyes to me’. The correction needs to be short and direct so as not to disrupt the flow of the lesson.

If you want to increase accountability of individual pupils, you could non-verbally indicate to a specific pupil whilst still speaking to the whole class.

‘Positive Group Correction’ in action

Watch a video of a teacher using positive group correction.

Consider the impact this has on the pupils and the classroom environment.


Positive group correction – Primary – Reach Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Positive group correction – Primary [AD]

What happens if the pupil does not correct their behaviour?

If the pupil still hasn’t refocused after using positive group correction, then you may need to employ the next technique: Anonymous Individual Correction.

Anonymous Individual Correction

‘Anonymous Individual Correction’ is similar to the positive group correction in that it is anonymous and solution focused. However, it additionally informs the class that there are some pupils who are non-compliant. For example, “Eyes on me. I am still waiting for two more pupils”.

Anonymity reduces the level of disruption caused, as it prevents pupils from being tempted to turn and face the individual being addressed. It addresses the behaviour in a respectful way, helping to maintain an environment of mutual trust and respect.

This technique also gives pupils more ownership over their behaviour as they identify for themselves that they are one of the pupils who isn’t ready. This has the added benefit of encouraging independence and self-regulation.

‘Anonymous Individual Correction’ in action

Watch the video of a teacher using anonymous individual correction with their pupils.

Consider the impact this has on the class’s learning and on the pupils’ sense of autonomy and independence.


Anonymous individual correction – Primary – Francesca Reid at Reach Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Anonymous individual correction – Primary [AD]

What happens if the pupil does not correct their behaviour?

If the pupil still hasn’t refocused after using anonymous individual correction, then you may need to employ the next technique: Private Individual Correction.

Private Individual Correction

‘Private Individual Correction’ is when you address a pupil’s behaviour discreetly whilst the rest of the class are working independently or with peers.

What happens if the behaviour occurs during whole-class teaching?

If you notice a pupil is off task whilst you are addressing the whole class, you might give the class a quick task to complete.

For example: “Turn to your partner and tell them what you know about insert topic being covered”.

Whilst they are doing this, you can approach the pupil, crouch down next to them, and quietly address the behaviour.

For example: “Sunita, it’s important that you understand this method of subtraction. It will help you work independently later. Make sure your eyes are on the board, thank you.”

Why is this effective?

  • It describes the solution (“Eyes on the board”)
  • It emphasises the purpose to the learner (“It will help you work independently”)
  • It is done respectfully and privately, rather than in front of the rest of the class

These features help to create a culture of mutual trust and respect which supports the development of effective relationships.

‘Private Individual Correction’ in action

Watch the video of a teacher using private individual correction with their pupils.

Consider the impact this has on the class’s learning and on the pupils’ sense of autonomy and independence.


Private individual correction – Primary – Sophie Emms at Reach Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Private individual correction – Primary


Private individual correction – Secondary – Reach Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Private individual correction – Secondary

What happens if the behaviour is repeated?

This will depend on the behaviour policy of your school and the rules you set in your classroom but if you have asked a pupil to correct their behaviour twice already and you have to return to them again, you may need to issue a consequence.

For example: “Sunita, you need to watch and listen so you can learn. I am going to have to (insert consequence e.g. move your name down, move you to yellow, ask you to come and practise at break). Now please show me your best. Thank you”.

Consequences are something you will explore in more detail in the next session.

What happens if I don’t have time to privately correct a pupil’s behaviour?

If you don’t have time to address an individual pupil’s behaviour privately, you might instead adopt the next technique: lightning-quick public correction.

Lightning-quick Public Correction

Sometimes it will not be possible to correct a pupil’s behaviour privately. In such instances, it is important that the pupil under scrutiny is in the spotlight for as short amount of time as possible. This avoids overly embarrassing the pupil or disrupting the focus and attention of other pupils.

This type of public correction should be made as quickly as possible: preferably lightning-quick!

Here’s how to do this:

  1. Name the pupil
  2. Name the behaviour you want to see (rather than stating what they are doing wrong)
  3. Bring the class focus back to the positive behaviour that’s happening in the classroom
  4. Reinforce the pupil’s now on-task behaviour (if it occurs)

Example 1 – Singing a counting song in Early Years:

“Javed, I need to hear you. Brilliant singing at the back… Much better Javed.”

Example 2 – Independent task in Primary or Secondary

“Arfaan, pencil moving. Brilliant concentration Toufika and Samantha… That’s much better Arfaan.”

It is of course important that you only acknowledge the now on-task behaviour if the pupil is exhibiting it. Don’t be tempted to praise an individual if they have not shown compliance.

‘Lightning-quick public correction’ in action

Watch a video of a teacher using lightning-quick public correction with their pupils.

Consider the impact this has on the pupils’ and the class’s learning.


Lightning-quick public correction – Early Years – Ark John Keats Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Lightning-quick public correction – Early Years [AD]


Lightning-quick Public Correction – Secondary – Phil Fowkes at Reach Academy
If you require an audio description over the video, please watch this version: Lightning-quick Public Correction – Secondary [AD]

What happens if the behaviour is repeated?

As before, this will depend on the behaviour policy of your school and the rules you have set in your classroom. If you have asked a pupil to correct their behaviour twice already and you have to return to them again, it’s likely you will need to issue a consequence.

For example: “Lizzie, I need to see you writing. I am going to have to (insert consequence e.g. move your name down, move you to yellow, ask you to come and practise at break). Now please show me your best. Thank you”.

Private Individual Precise Praise

One final technique that you may use, not so much to address low-level disruption directly but rather to encourage optimal behaviour and learning, is private individual precise praise.

‘Private Individual Precise Praise’ is when you go over to an individual pupil during independent work and whisper some positive praise for the good work or behaviour they have exhibited.

Example

You walk over to a pupil, crouch down near them and whisper, “Tom, the explanation you gave to the class just now was outstanding – well done.”

This is a strategy that can help you to build effective and trusting relationships with pupils by balancing correction of behaviour or work with praise.

Reflection

In your next mentor session, your mentor will observe you using positive and least invasive behaviour management strategies. To help you prepare, reflect on your current teaching practice.

Think of a time when you have intervened with an off-task pupil to correct their behaviour.

  • Did you use the least invasive intervention possible?
  • How did this impact the pupil?
  • How did it impact the class and their learning?
  • What could you do differently next time?

Related ECF strands

High Expectations

1.5 A culture of mutual trust and respect supports effective relationships.

Managing Behaviour

7.5 Building effective relationships is easier when pupils believe that their feelings will be considered and understood.

7a. Establishing a supportive and inclusive environment with a predictable system of reward and sanction in the classroom.

7e. Using consistent language and non-verbal signals for common classroom directions.

7f. Using early and least-intrusive interventions as an initial response to low level disruption.