Low-level disruptions are small and subtle acts of misbehaviour, which often are deliberate and aimed at irritating the teacher in order to distract him/her and the class from the lesson and get some amusement instead. It includes things like: rocking on a chair, pen-tapping, chatting over others, chatting over the teacher, passing notes, giggling, entering late, drawing in their book, poking their partners etc.

This kind of misbehaviour slows down the lesson and cumulatively wastes lots of time, which is a limited asset in Madrassahs as it is. Thus learning and practising how to combat these acts of misbehaviour will help you go a long way towards covering more content in your lessons.

Tracey Lawrence, assistant headteacher and specialist leader of education in social, emotional and mental health, answers your questions on behaviour.

The answer:
Children lose 38 days of their education a year as a result of low-level disruption in the classroom, according to a 2014 report by Ofsted. This adds up to 266 days over primary education – around one academic year. While there may not be a quick fix to stamping out the problem completely, there are steps you can take to lessen its impact.

  1. Using non-verbal communication can be an effective way to put a stop to the undesirable behaviour without bringing unnecessary attention to the situation. You can continue teaching while giving a simple shake of the head, hand signal or using your infamous “teacher stare”. Circulate the room, using your presence to minimise the chance of disruption occurring. And if it does arise, then a simple hand on the culprit’s shoulder will often put an end to it.
  2. If you have the luxury of having another adult in your class, use it to your advantage. Discuss and plan to tactically ignore the low-level behaviour, leaving your colleague to deal with the disruption. They can use questioning to refocus the child or help them to engage in the lesson. You can both check in with the student throughout the lesson to ensure that focus remains.
  3. Get to know your students well, so that you are aware of their “hot spots”. If you know that a child will struggle to focus during a specific activity, provide them with an alternative activity that will hold their attention. You can also support children to focus with tools such as stress balls or mindfulness colouring. Just because a child is not making eye contact with you, it doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Some need more to occupy them, help them to listen and, in turn, engage with your lesson.