Non-Verbal Behaviour Management

I was only trained on active and verbal behaviour management strategies as a part of my 6 week training course. But oh boy, once in the classroom, I quickly realised that managing children is so much more than giving sanctions, praise and stern lectures.


Getting the knack of managing children’s behaviours without having to open my mouth has been a game-changer this year! I no longer have to nag or add to the building crescendo of children’s voices. I have learnt that it is so much more than just having the teacher stare or the “I can’t believe you are still doing that” brow. I have come to rely upon a range of non-verbal strategies which have helped to keep my children’s behaviours on task and keep my classroom as stress-free as possible!


The “I’m going to look at my watch until you’re quiet” strategy. Just stare at the clock looking disappointed. The turned-on-cookies will quickly notice and start trying to get the class to be quiet. (Note: You will need to explain to them that shouting SHHHH doesn’t actually help the others become quiet.) Every now and then let them know how many minutes they have wasted of their learning time and, therefore, how much time is coming off their break time. Make a point to write down the names of the children who quickly did the right thing (Collective punishment was a no-go for the personalities in my class this year). And taa-daa the class will eventually manage themselves. I’ve never had to go beyond 5 minutes. Eventually you can use this strategy without any talking at all. They know the deal. Tip: wear a wrist watch, it is much more effective and looks more dramatic.


Traffic lights. I used this in my first term of teaching and it made a big difference and I could use it in the middle of an input or stop for more effect! I had three large circles next to my desk: Green, Orange and Red. If they started to be naughty my finger would drift to orange. If they changed their behaviours, then I would praise them and point back to green. If they continued to show non-learning behaviour, then my finger would go to red. They knew this meant I was not happy. Just pointing to red and the implied potential of a consequence meant that behaviours quickly turned around before any sanctions had to be delivered.

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Handing out stars. In our school, if pupils get to 100 stars they get a school badge to sew onto their uniform. This has been hugely successful and boy do children love stickers as much as I do! I am a big advocate for positive praise and it is my go-to behaviour management strategy. Some of the children in my class do not get praise at home. So they will do anything for it in school! Just handing out stars to those working or listening really well helps to magically transform the rest of the class’ behaviour!


Coded signals for certain pupils to let them know that you are watching them and that you are not happy. I have one boy in my class who thinks he can get away with anything once my back is turned. He doesn’t seem to realise that we have many reflective windows in our classroom and that I do indeed have eyes at the back of my head. To give him a pre-verbal warning that he is not meeting my expectations; I rub my nose. This is the sign we agreed on to help him behave better in class. He knows this means he has been caught and will be getting a verbal warning imminently if he doesn’t turn things around. He usually does turn his behaviour around which warrants very specific praise “Well done [Bob], I can see that you are sitting very smartly on the carpet, I think a few of your friends could learn something from you”.

These strategies work wonders for the type of children in my class and they suit my schools Behaviour Policy. Most importantly they reflect my personality and help to keep my classroom a positive and a nag-free zone! Do you think they would work for you? Are there any other non-verbal strategies that you use in your classroom?

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