Maintain Involvement and reduce off task behaviour using “Positive Leading”

Students can sometimes find it difficult maintain their engagement in group activities, especially if their own self image or confidence is low. How can your questioning and positive verbal leading empower students to continue their involvement and reduce the likely hood of unacceptable behaviour?
Whilst some students can be the source of annoyance and disruption by constantly shouting out answers to your questions, there will be some students who are most reluctant to take the risk of offering an answer during a group activity. A lack of self confidence or a simple lack of knowledge may be the reason, but for many students, they do not want to be seen as failures, especially in front of their peers. Your response to their answers or comments are absolutely critical. If they get the question right and you use appropriate praise then self image and confidence will receive a huge boost. A wrong answer and a closed or dismissive response from you can lead, at best, to the student’s disengagement with the process, and at worst, the start of a whole process of disruption and challenging behaviour.

Throughout the day there will be numerous occasions and opportunities to develop positive leading dialogue with students:

At meet and greet time (the start of the school day)
Start or introductory session of the lesson
Question and answer sessions to promote interest and engagement in the activity
Questioning for clarification and understanding
Plenary or review sessions
Evaluations
One to one meetings

To simply focus on the student “getting it right” or giving you the correct answer, will undoubtably lead to closed questions. In other words the student can feel that there are only two options when attempting to answer a question, namely, get it right or get it wrong. Either way this is an opportunity to both engage, motivate and and further stimulate thoughts and ideas. Your responses can either shut down any further involvement, promote misconceived self worth or, when using positive leading, can deepen the students involvement with the learning process.

Students are are involved and motivated are generally less likely to become involved in off task, or disruptive behaviour.
Try to avoid closed questioning, which only needs a one word or short phrase answer. The   reasons for your questioning should be multi fold:

To check knowledge and understanding of concept or facts
To seek personal viewpoint on a subject
To reinforce what has already been covered
To engage all the learners in the teaching and learning process

There is a distinct possibility that closed questioning and involvement of only those who “know the answer” will alienate students who are lacking in confidence, unwilling to take a risk and try an answer and those who want an easy ride through your lesson.

Throughout your discussion and question/answer sessions remember to use positive phrases and statements. Try not to give a flat “That’s wrong!” style of reply. Positive leading requires you to acknowledge the effort that the student has made to offer an answer or suggestion and then to move them forward in their thinking on the subject.

“That’s a really interesting answer Nathen, I can see where you are coming from, have you though about it from another point of view?”

“What do you think, Katy? Ok that’s good, now see if you can develop that thought.”

Obviously you need to maintain good control over your verbal and non verbal language. Intonation, stance, volume and facial expression will all contribute to your positive leading techniques.

Effective use of Positive Leading will generate lively debate and a learning opportunity which will not simply reinforce the learning and knowledge, but will strengthen student involvement, self worth and peer approval. For some students it may be helpful to have an initial individual conversation before the group or class sessions to forewarn the student of some of the questions which might arise. This gives him/her the opportunity to prepare for the social situation they will find within the classroom as well as thinking about suitable wording etc.

Positive Leading can be seen as a proactive technique to managing behaviour. It is utilising all the social, emotional aspects of learning by promoting:

Self Awareness
Managing Feelings
Motivation
Empathy
Social Skills

Build confidence, restore or promote engagement with the lesson and reduce off task and disruptive behaviour without using levels of consequence or sanctions by Positive Leading in all your dialogue with students.

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