Conversing in the Classroom

I did not realise the importance of classroom talk until I tried to really imagine what atmosphere I would like my future classroom to have.

Thinking back to my own experience in the primary classroom, as a pupil I did feel like I was contributing to and responsible for my own learning. The classroom was a fun, lively and enriching place to be – but I now realise that this is not something that is built very easily. Effective classroom talk is essential so that children can develop the interdisciplinary skills of ‘share and negotiate a range of points of view, listen attentively to others, evaluate what they hear and provide a considered response’ (Cremin and Burnett, 2018).

It is something that cannot be left to the children; it is the teacher’s job to teach the key skills of discussion and delve further into the children’s minds. Time must be dedicated to having class discussions where children can tap into higher-order, analytical thinking.

One way in which teachers can help children ask themselves ‘why’ more often is by effective questioning and this can be done through ‘pausing, prompting, seeking further clarification and refocusing a pupil’s response’ (Pollard, 1996). This ensures that children are given time to develop a more complex answer, are given assistance in doing this if required, understand the importance of detailed answers and are able to link what they are learning to their knowledge of the curriculum and world around them.

Effective talk modelled by the teacher will allow children to eventually do this themselves. If children can understand the use of open questions, importance of being a good listener and evaluating other’s opinions against their own, they will certainly be more responsible for their own learning. Talking and good questioning can make the classroom an enriching place to be by being a place of no judgement, respect and where children are enthusiastic to answer their own questions about the world.

 

Restorative Practice: Nourishing, not Punishing

Restorative Practice is an important element of Behaviour Management because it is essential to children’s growth as young humans. Unfortunately it has sometimes been overlooked because of the time and effort it requires but I believe it is far more of a learning curve for children than punishment will ever be and will result in lasting change.

Restorative Practice is defined as “a powerful approach to promoting harmonious relationships in schools and can lead to the successful resolution of conflict and harm (Education Scotland, n.d.).” It is key to note the importance of relationships in influencing a child’s behaviour and the depth that relationships exist in – they are physical, mental and emotional. This also applies to how harm and conflict can exist as sometimes a child can act out because a key relationship for them has been affected in an emotional sense. As the responsible adults we must recognize that children are unavoidably selfish and do not always have someone’s best intentions at heart – children just want to be noticed, respected and cared for.

This is exactly why punishment is the wrong route to go down to ensure children learn from their mistakes. It does not repair relationships; it only makes them worse as children are put in isolation to ‘think about what they’ve done’. While punishment will help them understand the immorality of their actions, it will not make children feel listened to and logically the same event will happen again because the child’s relationship in question has not improved. Restorative Practice must break the repetitive cycle of punishment as “punishment has a compounding effect on children who are already dealing with multiple stress and trauma in their lives (Thorsborne and Blood, n.d.)”.

That being said, repairing relationships to avoid more conflict will be futile if some cool-off time is not given – this could be seen by the child as reflective time, a form of punishment as they may be missing out on an activity. Only when the child is ready can the teacher sit down and listen to the child, be impartial and propose solutions to satisfy both parties.

Restorative Practice will do a world of good to all children – especially children who might be used to the routine of punishment in their home life. It will help to maintain stable and postive relationships between all school members of staff and the children so a good classroom ethos will be maintained.