A-Z of Behaviour Management Strategies – The Play Book

Behaviour management

A list of effective behaviour management strategies, plays, tips and tactics to support behaviour management within the classroom and outside it.

Designed for new teachers but also applicable to all. This collection of strategies from experienced teachers who teach day in day out. Clearly not an exhaustive list (what is?), however, here are some suggestions from 20 years of collective experience.

  • Originally written to accompany a 6-week early career teacher (ECT) program
  • Then extended to include PE specific strategies 1-10 at the end of the play book. 


  • Analyse – Reflect on what has worked and what has not for each situation, repeat what works, remove what does not.
  • Arguments – Students do not always agree with you. Do not try to argue to get them to. Say it once (twice at most) then allow time.
  • Attention seeking – Students want your attention — give it for what you want.


  • Back down point – The point at which you give in to a student’s demands is the point that they will go to next time.
  • Be calm – Being calmer improves behaviour. Be confident in the schools’ systems, implement them calmly and remember you will always have support.
  • Behaviour is taught – It can be changed. It is about persistency and consistency. We need to teach students behaviour in the same way as we would teach a subject.
  • “Better before” – If a student tells you, it was ‘better before’ then you are on the right track. Follow through with your actions and behaviour will continue to improve.


  • Care (enough) – To challenge behaviour. The standard you walk past is the standard you except.
  • Charisma – People feel that it is easier to deal with a class if you have charisma and a good personality. Nonsense – Anybody, by applying the correct techniques can achieve the desired result with any class.
  • Choices – Succeeding in changing behaviour is giving the student a chance to make a better choice in the same situation next time.
  • Credibility – Always follow through with what you say you will do. If you say you will contact home- do it!
  • Clean slate – Each lesson, everyday start with a clean slate for each student, you are the adult in the relationship.


  • Decisions – You are the adult and the expert in the room. You decide the order of interaction, when they happen, where they happen.
  • Detentions – Follow the school systems. Be persistent and insistent. The length of detention is usually not the main factor, ensuring students lose their time is. Do not jump to the ‘worse’ detention – follow the system and have a reserve.
  • Don’t care – ‘I don’t care’ means they are trying to provoke a response. Ignore this, all children care and want to be noticed.
  • Don’t like you / Don’t like me – Similar to you are not fair. Always be calm and fair and this will go away.
  • Do not accept -There are certain things which we should never accept or ignore. Rudeness, unkindness etc. Challenge the student and help them to understand that will never be accepted by you.


  • Everything/only thing – If you remove everything or the only thing the student cares about, what have they got to lose? Do not use up all your sanctions in one go, think about ways students can make it right (Sports teams are a classic example of this).
  • Excuses – Do not give yourself reasons why behaviour will not improve. Consistency of good strategies will improve behaviour.


  • Feelings – Always try to detach your feelings and the sanctions you apply. Sanctions are to achieve positive outcomes.
  • Fights and arguments – Do not arbitrate. A fight taking place is the issue and needs to be resolved. Trying to solve in the moment could undermine what you are trying to achieve. Follow the school’s procedure and pass to appropriate people.
  • Firm and positive – Always firm, always positive, never personal. Expectations should always be around the objective of the lesson-to learn.
  • Follow up/through – If you say you are going to do it, do it. If a student tells you ‘Another teacher said….’ Always check and follow up, if they have made it up, you will support your colleague. If they are telling the truth, you have given a clear message that you will check up.


  • Goodbye – Try to finish each interaction positively so that the student knows that in the next interaction, if they meet your expectations they will be accepted.
  • Grey areas – Behaviour is not always black and white but try to avoid grey areas. Use the policy and try to have clarity…’if you do this, then this will happen.’


  • Human – Be human, listening to students, talking kindly, being respectful is not being a soft teacher. We can work with students but still follow the systems, be at your kindest when you are saying no.
  • Hard work – Ultimate goal for all students is to work hard in your lesson. Therefore, recognise when it is happening! Praise the behaviours you want, if you only notice bad behaviour, that will be their go to.


  • Initiative – Take the initiative with children, if you allow them to take the initiative you will lose control of the situation.
  • Instigator – Behaviour is controlled by the instigator of the reaction. The teacher should instigate and be in control.


  • Jargon – Speak with clarity and conviction to students, avoid jargon and ‘teacher talk.’ The more sense it makes to students the better chance you have of them choosing the right option.
  • Jokes – Tricky. Teachers can have a sense of humour, however, think very carefully about joking with students and certainly not joining in with an ‘in’ student joke. This will cause offense. Remember professional, never personal


  • Key students – The key students in a class are not the ones that are trying to get your attention. Ensure you give attention to the right students for the right reasons.
  • Keep going – Behaviour improvement may take time with some students. Use the strategies, stay positive and professional, utilise support and it will happen.
  • Keeping records – Although this can be time consuming at first……create good habits of keeping records and logging behaviours. Most schools now have great systems for this. Use it. It will support you (and the school) but also show you the progress you have made.


  • Toeing The Line – To achieve consistency, you need to maintain your expectations at your line, focus on the small things daily so they do not become big things.
  • Low level behaviour – low level sanctions. This can be frustrating but match the sanction to the behaviour. If you threaten too big too early, then you leave no room if the behaviour escalates.


  • Model and Mirror – Model the behaviour you expect, be polite, expect politeness back, talk calmly, expect to be spoken to calmy back. Students will mirror what you show them.
  • Mimic (1) – Do not mimic students, behaviour strategies should not be personal or patronising.
  • Mimic (2) – Although it is good to learn from other professionals, do not mimic them. Establish your own style that you can consistently deliver.
  • Mistakes – If you make a mistake (wrongly accuse etc) admit it, speak to students and or parents, most people will appreciate the honesty and move on.


  • Never – Never give up on behaviour improvement, it will get better, never undermine yourself or the system, it wont work in the long run and will undo the good work so far.
  • Names on the board – Different schools have different views on this. In my opinion putting names on the board promotes poor behaviour and distracts from the content you want to deliver *If you must write a name down, have a piece of paper on your desk.
  • Negative recognition – Poor behaviour is to get attention. Do not reward poor behaviour with instant recognition and attention. Remember, interaction on your terms.
  • Negotiation – Students are the experts in negotiation to suit their agenda. They will try to play adults off each other. Remain consistent and follow the systems.
  • Non-negotiable – Some things are non-negotiable and should not be accepted or ignored. These include rudeness, racism, sexism, unkindness, breach of health/safety etc. Your school may have others-always enforce this.


  • Observe (students) – Teachers need to observe and notice everything. You then can decide how to deal with it. (Instantly, delayed, publicly, privately etc).
  • Observe (teachers) – There will be brilliant, experienced teachers in your school. Make time to observe them, notice how they deal with incidents, how calm and consistent they are.
  • On/Off Task – Students are great at getting off task, but not behaving badly. (Getting paper, writing a fancy title, sharpening a pencil). Focus your attention at getting students on task and remaining on task- attention for the right reasons.
  • Own your space – Take control of your teaching area, you decide the rules, where students sit, lay out of the room, how to enter/exit. Spend time on getting this right and change if you think you can improve learning.


  • Panic – Students will mirror and react to your response. If you are in a panic others will copy. Think fire bell, if you walk, they walk, if you run, they will run.
  • Parents – Behaviour improvement works best when school, parents and students work together. Good, calm, factual communication with parents is important. Remember, parents and teachers usually want the same thing.
  • Passing on – There will be times when it is very appropriate to ask for support or pass a situation on to another member of staff. This is the right thing to do! Follow the system, this shows strength not weakness.
  • Positive and positives – Always try to be positive, students mirror you. Use positive/rewards/praise for the behaviour/work ethic you expect to see.
  • Policies – Understand and follow the school behaviour policy.


  • Questions – An effective behaviour technique is to ask questions, this gives the student a choice and stops accusing them. Are you choosing not to work? Is your uniform correct? Are you working hard?


  • Rights – Students have the right to learn, be safe and be respected, therefore your behaviour management strategies should aim to deliver this.
  • Raising expectations – Over time you should raise what you expect from students, once students are behaving well, they will produce more work and you will cover more content- plan for it.
  • Refusal – This can be hard. Refusing to work is a concern, it is the reason to be in school and should not be ignored. Refusing to follow basic instructions requires support. Use the systems in place. Do not accept it.
  • Responses – A student’s first response is often not what they really mean, decide when to ignore this to get the actual response desired.
  • RIP and PIP – Reprimand in private, praise in public (where possible, as appropriate).
  • Routines – One of the most effective behaviour strategies. Design and develop a classroom routine (inline with the school) that works for you. This includes, seating plans, start and ends of lessons, entry and exit into your room. You are the adult in control of your space.


  • Secret sanctions – These should not exist! Students should know if you display this behaviour then this sanction will apply, it is then a choice.
  • Social time detentions – Never keep a student in for the whole social time. All students need time away from the classroom. Follow the school system. Avoid whole class detentions!
  • Seating plans – Particularly important, always have one, letting students decide does not work. You know where students will learn best, sit them accordingly.


  • Teacher talk – Aim to talk about behaviour through the work you want the students to do, do not make it personal.
  • Teaching assistants – If you have additional support in your room- work with them! They will have strategies that work for different students and will have seen students performing well in other subjects/lessons.


  • Up for discussion – If we spend too much time persuading students to do the right thing, they will think the rules are ‘up for discussion’ and they can change them. Be clear, firm, and positive.
  • Upscale – It is likely your school will have an upscale system. Use this in the correct order. Try not to jump scale (unless unsafe). This will help keep your responses proportional to the action.


  • Very rare – It is very rare the whole class are in the wrong. Always find students who have done the right thing, praise them and show others if you make good choices, it will be noticed (avoid whole class detentions).
  • Voice – Think about how you use your voice. Shouting at students does not usually work. Being calm, talking clearly, lowering your voice is usually much more effective.


  • Warm but fair – Being kind (warm) is not a weakness, we can show empathy and consideration when required and maintain our fair, consistent standards.
  • Warnings – Think about the number of warnings you give; your school will have a policy but if every student can get a warning without action, you could spend a large amount of time warning students with no action and no work completed.
  • Where… (1) – Think about your position, standing at the back of class when students are working is immensely powerful. If a child is out of their seat, going to it, will draw their attention back to the right place.
  • Where… (2) – Be consistent with position, meeting your students at the door is a strong routine, standing in the same place to give instructions creates familiarity and students will know what to expect.


  • X-Factor (1) – Your lessons do not need to have the x-factor to be a good lesson. Consistent routines, clear expectations and students working hard is a great lesson. Learning over entertainment.
  • X-Factor (2) – Some students will want an audience and expect you to be the judge. Think about what you want to give attention for, do not forget to praise the right acts not the wrong ones.


  • Hard Yards – You may have to put some hard yards into some classes, including phone calls home (good and bad), following through with sanctions etc. However, eventually this will pay off and the students in the class who want to learn will respect you and appreciate your efforts.
  • Yelling – Try to avoid. Shouting and yelling rarely works and you have nowhere else to go, save it for when you need attention across the playground (fire drill etc).


  • Zero tolerance – Some things require a zero-tolerance approach (rudeness, racism etc). Be clear about what you/the school will not accept and stick to it.

PE Specific Behaviour Management Considerations

1 Changing rooms, starts of lessons

  • A priority. Good lessons start well and end well here. Like a classroom, design and develop a good routine.
  • Be clear on the expectations and reiterate them regularly.
  • Over communicate the behaviour you expect and your non-negotiables. Follow the PE departments approach on supervision. Be constant on your placement. Students need to feel safe in this area.
  • Restart or reset the lesson if changing room behaviour is not being met.

2 Health and Safety (1) Student’s attire  

  • A non-negotiable, students need to be safe for all activities. Follow the PE department policy and sport specific guidance
  • This may include, footwear, protective kit, removing jewellery, hair tied back. Do not comprise on any situation that puts the student at risk.
  • Focus on the small things daily, be consistent with your approach.

3 Health and Safety (2) equipment

  • Ensure you have excellent routines around setting up, carrying, using, and putting away equipment, so that students are always safe.
  • Teach the students how to complete these routines and make sure they are conducted to your standard.
  • Setting up and ‘knowing’ the equipment, before you try to use it, will support the lesson, and increase your confidence when teaching with it.
  • Develop your system to give out and return equipment and make sure your students know how you do this.

4 Health and Safety (3) Techniques and rules

  • Be the expert on this (this is part of PE subject knowledge).
  • Teach correct techniques and never let poor techniques or breach of rules put other students in danger.
  • If there is any doubt, there is no doubt. Do not do it and do not tolerate students who cannot follow your instructions on this
  • Be confident when officiating games in lessons and fixtures, you are the adult. Stop students from contesting your decisions, this breeds poor sportsmanship and allows them to question your judgement.

5 Teacher participation

  • Generally, avoid. Teachers should demonstrate, support, and assist activities if it enhances the learning experience.
  • ‘Joining in’ will reduce your capacity to see and hear everything, it will create opportunities for poor behaviour and will reduce what students learn.
  • Too often this blurs lines when later dealing with students’ behaviour.

6 Fixtures

  • Important aspect of a PE teacher that needs careful consideration.
  • Be clear on PE department policy conduct when on fixtures. Be consistent with the application of this.
  • Communicate your expectations of fixtures, when travelling to and from them and when participating in them.
  • Fixtures are an extension of the school day and not club sport. The same school expectations should apply.
  • Do not accept any behaviour in a fixture that you would not accept in lessons. Follow through with sanctions in the same way.
  • Students are representing you and your school and should demonstrate the same culture and ethos.

7 Mobile phones

  • Student mobile phones: should follow the whole school and department policy. This is incredibly important during changing times and is a PE teacher non-negotiable.
  • Teacher mobile phones: It is good practice for PE teachers to have charged mobile phone with them for professional use.
  • When teaching outside (away from main school) or on a fixture they are beneficial.
  • In lessons they will support you for being able to call for support (have school number in contacts).
  • On fixtures they may be needed to call parents/school as required.
  • Never use your phone for personal use during lessons, or when supervising students  

8 ‘Banter’

  • Avoid. Similar to jokes. PE areas sometimes have a different culture to the main schools and students feel it is appropriate to act or behave differently. It is not.
  • Do not tolerate, do not encourage, do not join in. Model the behaviour you want from your students. Follow the same school procedures. Explain to students why it is not acceptable and will not be accepted by you.

9 Teacher positioning

  • Different sports require different positioning. Think carefully about where you stand for each. Ensure you can always see students participating.
  • If you are talking to smaller groups or supporting an activity, position yourself so you do not have your back to others.
  • When working with small groups, confirm you are still looking at others by praising performance or correcting behaviour you see.

10 PE transitions

  • Poor behaviour often occurs when transitioning between drills/activities. This is all about teacher planning.
  • Plan group numbers so they can easily be put together or separated.


  • Have a clear routine and consistent area when students return to before starting the next activity.
  • Move different students onto the next activities at separate times to avoid stopping the whole class.
  • Have clarity about what you want students to do next and ask them to repeat to you so that students know exactly what to do when.
  • As you get more confident with a group, this becomes easier but will always need consideration.

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