9 Behaviour Management tips for teaching Drama in a Classroom

From time to time we all have to teach in a classroom instead of our usual Drama Studio space. The reasons for this may vary, but our response is often the same: a look of mild panic and an anxiousness about how we will cope. Something that I have always found daunting when moving my class from the Drama Studio to a Classroom is managing behaviour. In my space, where I impose the structure, routines and rules, me and my students both feel am safe and comfortable. Out of the Drama Studio and into somewhere else and suddenly it all feels less secure and easy.

So here are my top tips for helping successful behaviour management in the classroom when teaching Drama.

Set your expectations first

The first shock of working in a classroom is dealing with desks and the reality that the students are going to be working at them for the majority of the lesson. The key is to establish clear boundaries and expectations immediately with regards low-level behaviour that can and do cause disruption.

Do not be afraid to start the lesson off with a list of expectations that you want to see during the lesson. Remember that everyone in the room is in an unusual situation. You do not teach much in a Classroom and the students don’t normally have Drama in a Classroom. The students, however, do have the advantage of working more in a Classroom than you. Some students will know this and potentially use this as an advantage over you. So, to stop any potential of this happening, start immediately with your expectations of working in the Classroom.

What to expect

The main low-level behaviours to expect and manage are:

  • Turning around and talking to others behind them or on a different table to them
  • Fiddling with equipment whilst listening to you
  • Talking when you are talking or others are talking
  • Carrying on with work after you have told them to stop
  • Hiding something they shouldn’t be doing either behind the back of the student in front of them or underneath the desk
  • Not looking at the teacher or the whiteboard when asked to do so
  • Sitting back on two legs of the chair

Some of these may seem trivial but they do contribute to lost learning either through their own non engagement in the learning or in the disruption to others learning.

Own the Classroom

It may not be your Classroom and you may be completely out of your comfort zone with regards to teaching spaces, but remaining confident in this new space will help tremendously with communicating to the students that you are in control of this lesson.

Be confident to walk the Classroom if and where possible. Engage with the students work as much as you can. Make your presence felt.

Loudly catch them being good

Praise. Fill the classroom with praise. Praise them for their work, for their attitudes and their responses to your expectations. Praise individuals. Praise groups. Praise the whole class if appropriate. Set positive role models by highlighting what is good.

Quietly deal with them being off task

A lightning quick, focused and, where possible, private intervention on behaviour will deal with any disruption before it becomes a bigger issue. Instead of singling out a student and making a point of dealing with their disruption openly and publicly, make it a small point between just you and them. Make it personal to them and to you. If you have clearly set out your expectations then you have also made it clear that deliberately not meeting them is a misdemeanour.

Transaction not confrontation

Depersonalise the use of the school sanction system. The students know what happens when they don’t follow your expectations, so don’t make it a confrontation. You don’t necessarily know the students situation at that moment and in the classroom with 29 other students you don’t have the capacity to go deeper into their situation. This is what your pastoral system is there for. It is not a badge of honour to keep a really disruptive student in your lesson for an hour.

Keep the sanctions transactional. Give them without aggression, personal pain or sympathy.

Stick to your routines

Wherever possible, stick to the routines you established when teaching in your Drama Studio. Have the same method of entry into the classroom, the same expectations for silence and methods of attaining that silence and the same intentions for the quality of work the students produced. Sticking to these same routines as closely as possible will help bridge the gap between the lesson and the change in room.

Don’t move the furniture

This is a tricky one and you may want to disagree with me on this one. But in my experience it is best not to move the desks and create a big open space. You might want to do it to make it feel more like your Drama Studio and give the students the space to create performance work. But I have only ever found this to be counter productive.

In the first instance, moving the desks is disruptive and causes the lesson to start in an uncontrolled manner. But secondly, and more importantly, it puts everyone in a disadvantage as there is no familiarity for either you or the students. This can lead to more disruption later in the lesson.

Practical Work

It is important that you continue to do practical work as much as you can in the Classroom. But do it within the confines of the Classroom layout. Work with the tables and chairs or around them. Make your situation a challenge to overcome rather than a burden to deal with. Some great scenes and dialogue can come from overcoming these challenges.

Want some more advice?

For more top tips for managing behaviour in Drama, be that in the Drama Studio or in the Classroom, then click here.