Modelling behaviours so our expectations are clear

When we take a new batch of children into our care, as our class for the year or as our clients, we can’t really know what knowledge, skills and understanding they will bring with them. Regardless of how many assessments, reports and files we read before we meet them, how the child presents could be completely different for a range of reasons. It’s important that we make our expectations clear from the very beginning so there is no chance your message isn’t being conveyed.

Adjusting to new ways of doing things

Queue in linesThere are many benefits to explicitly modelling the behaviours we hope to see in the children we work with. In a school or early learning setting, children become familiar with the way a teacher does things during the many months they work together across a school year. When they meet their new teacher at the start of each new school year, many of them carry ‘baggage’ with them from classroom to classroom about how things should be done.

When we need them to adjust to a new way of doing things, it’s really important we make our expectations clear and explicit. If student are used to lining up in pairs and holding hands, they may get confused when you tell them to line up in single file. The first few weeks of the school year are a really important opportunity to model how things need to be done.

Some students will need frequent reminders during this period, especially those in the early years of their schooling. Providing students with a simple, visual reminder can be an effective method of communication that can have a huge impact and doesn’t involve harsh words from others when the child is confused or uncertain of how to conduct themselves.

Praising role models

SittingSome children may present with other issues that prevent them from adopting the behaviours we expect. These children may need us to trial a variety of approaches before we can get them on board with the way we do things. If we’re lucky, we’ll have support from other adults or students in the classroom who can help us and the child.

There are always children in the classroom who want to do the right thing. These children can be used as examples of expected behaviours and identified as role models for other children. Descriptive praise for those individuals demonstrating the behaviours we’d like to see from the whole class can inspire and motivate other students. A small amount of praise for successfully completing a simple action can also be a substantial reward for a student who rarely gets to experience success.

Finding the right images to illustrate your expectations can be a challenge. If you have the time and resources (and parental consent), the children you work with could be used as models in photographs you take yourself, added to documents you have created, then printed and displayed.

Alternatively, ShowMe Images have an Education Essentials image set that includes many of the behaviours teachers hope children will exhibit in contemporary Australian teaching and learning environments. The images are diverse and consistent and have been developed with Australian kids in mind. They can be easily inserted into documents, printed and displayed. You can make flash cards, posters, booklets, work sheets – anything that suits the needs of the kids in your setting.