“Low-level disruption is like kryptonite for the well-planned lesson. It’s like a woodpecker boring a hole in your head with a toffee hammer while wearing a Pete Doherty mask. It’s that annoying. And it’s that insidious. By itself, it is disrespectful and distracting. Left unattended, it erodes the sharp edges of your lessons like a river rubs a path through a mountain, grain by grain. It’s the thin end of the wedge. Why so serious? Because low-level disruption is what pupils do instead of learning. It’s a classic diversionary tactic where the sole function, by intelligent design or dumb malice, is to turn your lesson from a symphony to a cats’ chorus.” Tom Bennett
I’m a huge Doug Lemov fan and have recently purchased the follow up to Teach like a Champion, the Teach like a champion field guide. This also coincides with a few changes to our KS3 timetable whereby I now have a new class of students. I thought it might be an idea to do a bit of research into the most effective behaviour management techniques. As I usually have routines that are a variation on S.L.A.N.T, this is the most suited strategy to have a go with. SLANT comprises of 5 students behaviours that boost their ability to pay attention:
Sit up straight. Not only does sitting up make you more energetic and engaged than slumping down in your chair, but it also conveys respect for the person or people in the room with you.
Listen. So much of classroom learning is based on processing what you hear—whether it’s the teacher or a fellow student talking. When we encourage students to listen to each other, and to the teacher, their conversations become more layered and sophisticated. They can build on what was said before, instead of just relying on the basic understanding provided by notes and books.
Ask and Answer Questions. As a classroom teacher, I always encourage my students to ask questions, for my benefit as much as theirs. If a student cannot answer a question, or is too shy to ask, then the teacher is missing crucial information about what they understand and where they need support. Encouraging students to ask and answer questions is a way to get them in the habit of demonstrating their understanding themselves, rather than the teacher having to draw it out of them.
Nod. This one is really more about Non-Verbal Communication. It’s the visual equivalent of asking and answering questions—helping students to give their teacher cues about whether or not they get what’s going on. It’s the same as in any real-world conversation, where you let people know you understand by nodding or giving other non-verbal cues.
Track the Speaker. This is partly about showing respect for the speaker, but it’s also practical: When students are looking at the person speaking, they have an easier time hearing what they’re saying and processing that information. In the age mobile phones and other hand-held technology, teaching students to look at the person speaking has become even more important.
Alongside SLANT, I am also making a concerted effort with 100%, the expectation that 100% of the students do what I ask 100% of the time, as Tom Bennett states in the quote above low level disruption is ‘kryptonite’ to the classroom, as soon as you start to accept less, then you are on a slippery slope, “left unattended, it erodes the sharp edges of your lessons like a river rubs a path through a mountain, grain by grain”. Its all about the expectations
In addition I’m using non verbal signals to reinforce SLANT behaviours without interrupting the flow of the lesson, my arms folded for sit up straight, cupped ear for listen, nodding action for nod you head and two fingers pointing at my eyes for track the speaker.
Like all routines, if they are to become embedded then they need to be practiced and to have the purpose of them explained, my students quickly grasped the routines, even if they did look at me a little strangely when I first asked them to practice. The tricky bit is the 100% compliance, it slows down the lesson as you wait for everyone to comply with the instruction and they forget to track the speaker. I had to practice the ‘S’ and ‘T’ parts several times The purpose needs to be explained to students, “we are doing this so you can be stars..” , “so you can be better learners..” rather than “its because you need to do as you’re told”.
Still early days with me trying to embed these routines in this format, SLANT is a means to an end, rather than the end itself. The important thing is to persist with the 100% compliance, these elements are all in service of a greater goal: to maximise student learning time in the classroom while cultivating great learning habits that can be useful in any learning environment.
SLT Teaching and Learning