It is about thoughtful planning and preparation for the lesson. It is about structuring the learning into manageable chunks with clear goals, reflection slots and end products so that learners stay focused. It is about considering how group work dynamics and your room layout could help or hinder your lesson. It is about having enough variety in your lesson to generate interest and maintain energy levels without exhausting your students. It is about considering how to engage individuals with the content and tasks on offer.
Here are a few tips for planning lessons to minimise the likelihood of disruptive behaviour:
1. Make sure the learners are clear on what they are learning and why at each stage of the lesson. Get the main objective of the lesson over to the learners at the outset but then break it down into mini objectives for each section of the lesson. Introduce these as you go along, encouraging the learners to formulate a question they would like answered or something they want to find out in each section. A quick peer conversation about what they already know on the topic helps them attach new learning to prior knowledge.
2. Make group activities purposeful. When you break them into groups, set a task with a tangible end product such as a poster, flip chart or target number of post it note key points or PP slides. Then allocate roles within each group, e.g. Note-taker, Time-keeper, Observer, Group Leader, using your knowledge of the class to form groups that should work well together and foster good behaviour. It can help to think about the best grouping before the lesson or while they are occupied in a task, so you can encourage the dynamics you are seeking.
3. Plan your use of time management to control pace. Set time limits for activities and time warnings to keep them on track. Count down clocks on the Smartboard can help with this. Think about the length of each stage of the lesson, as long blocks of presentation or written activities can lead to restlessness and then bad behaviour. Try to break these up with more dynamic and engaging activities, questioning etc. Include some slots for reflection and identification of learning points as these are critical to deeper learning.
4. Vary the pace of activities in the lesson. If a lesson is too static for too long or lacks variety in terms of activity type, it can be harder to maintain energy and focus. For younger learners in particular, I ensure that there is a chance to move around the room at some point within an activity and that something tactile is often included such as a card game. I have found that adults also respond well to such variety as long as content is relevant and not childish in format. What I have also observed is that younger learners can be less forgiving and more disruptive if lessons are not structured thoughtfully!
5. Look for opportunities to engage individuals and motivate them through personal points of interest or experience, so that they really connect with the learning. Sometimes your lesson could include a degree of choice (different tasks or different ways of completing the task) so that learners can find a way through the work that suits them.