Dangerous Behaviour in a Science Class! Help!

4 January 2024
Classroom of students facing whiteboard raising hands

I have been given two Year 7 science classes, on placement and merged as one class of 38. There is very poor behaviour which is dangerous at times. Help! (Kerry, Student at Brighton University)

The first task is to sit down with a packet of biscuits and a cup of tea with the teaching assistants/learning support staff and get the ‘lowdown’ from them. They will know exactly how that class operates, what the culture is, and where the potential areas of difficulty are.

Get briefed and make sure you know the children’s names and reading ages, that is important before you go into the class as you have a big group, and you need to organise them well.

Next think about the seating plan – is there one in existence already you can key into? If there isn’t then you need to create one for yourself.

You’ve got some potentially difficult groups of children and you’re teaching science so don’t fall into the trap of ‘you’re not doing any practical science work until you can behave’ because your class doesn’t sound like it would ever do practice science work as it would be tricky to get all 38 children work disciplined by sitting them down doing written work.

You’re going to need to take some risks to do some practical work and you may wish to split the class in half. You could have half of the class working on practical work and then the other half working on table tasks, written work, or something more manageable and then swap them around.

If you have 38 children taking part in practical work at once is a very tall order so we would recommend splitting the class.

Don't make assumptions about behaviour

It is also important to remember that just because you may have heard bad reports about some of the children in the class, do not assume the children will also be poorly behaved towards you.

You may find these children act towards you in a very different way. You may find you don’t have the same level of difficulty with those children that other members of staff have, alternatively you may find problems that crop up elsewhere.

We would advise you to understand potential issues and practices of the previous class teacher, but do not ask to identify the poorly behaved children, you need to give them a clean sheet. Give the children the opportunity to start joining in during practical work and see whether you have a different angle on these children.

You must also try to catch children doing the right thing a little quicker. Place them on the recognition board quickly so you can start to persuade them that they can be successful for you.

With such a big class you’re going to have to work fast to set this practice up and you should ask one of the teaching assistants to help you, or a responsible child. From the get-go, show them that you are not going to run the class by dishing out sanctions but by recognising good behaviour.

To recap:

  • Create a careful seating plan

  • Get good advice from the professionals already working with these children

  • Approach the class positively

  • Take risks

  • Recognise good behaviour when you see it and as soon as possible

  • Have a signal to ask for help when you need it

Do not be surprised when you must give sanctions, but give them assertively, calmly and expect them to get back the right track

​Be prepared

Finally, over plan. The better prepared you are, the more chance you have of having a successful lesson. If it all goes to pot, and it goes terribly wrong and if your first practical lesson ends up in total chaos, don’t worry!

This is exactly what your training period is for, take the risks in a safe environment when you have support from existing staff.

Don’t hold back and we wish you the very best of luck!
Visit our pages for more information on the Classroom Culture train the trainer programme, our Hearts & Minds INSET, or how your school can get a Behaviour Health Check.
For more answers to your questions see our Q&A introduction page.

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