Tip #4: Is addressing poor behaviour a time drain? Try memorised ‘consistency scripts’.


Reading time: 6 mins

What does it look/sound like?

A range of pre-considered, memorised phrases that can be used in response to poor pupil behaviour that reduces time cost and stress. Scripted responses can be found here.

Why you should use it?

As teachers, we can all recall times when we’ve been dragged into emotionally charged conversations with pupils. We know it’s not going to end well, we know it’s not going to help learning and we know there won’t be any winners, but somehow, we’ve allowed ourselves to be lead there. What makes it worse is that it’s often a response to secondary behaviour which is defined as ‘power-seeking’ behaviour ‘designed to change the issue of responsibility from his primary behaviour [the original misdemeanour] to an issue of justice.’ (Rogers, 1998)

To illustrate this, imagine you’ve addressed a pupil who has distracted others. This is the primary behaviour. Now imagine that the offending pupil hasn’t taken this well and resorts to complaining verbally and physically. This is the secondary behaviour. The problem though is that there is now a much higher ‘transaction cost’ or ‘the amount of resources to execute an exchange, be it economic, verbal or otherwise’ (Lemov, 2015). The frustrating reality is the hold up to your lesson and the distraction and rise in stress levels for everyone – definitely not conducive to a positive class climate. In fact, it’s bad for your health and career – one study demonstrated that consistently poor behaviour can result in teacher burn-out (Hastings & Bham; 2003).

This is where pre-scripted and memorised responses can help (you can find many examples from this blog here). When addressing a pupil’s poor behaviour (primary and secondary), employing consistent, concise messages reduce the amount of time taken and stress caused to all – you don’t have to think on your feet so can continue your flow after. Pupils will know exactly how you’ll respond so they won’t be able to successfully argue about injustice or unfairness.

I call these responses ‘consistency scripts’ and the following will make them more effective:

  • Consider whether your responses are proportionate and appropriate beforehand. Write them down so you can see what they look like on paper. You want short, concise scripts that reduce the ‘transaction cost’ (time taken and stress).
  • Pre learn them so they roll calmly off the tongue. Practice them in front of a mirror so you can see what your body language communicates too. You’re aiming for calm and unmoveable. You’ll probably feel like an idiot at first (I certainly did), but it’s important to remember that your pupils see your face and hear your messages every day, so it’s not a bad idea anyway to consider what you actually look like in class. (It makes me feel sorry for the poor children I teach – what a daily sight!)
  • Pick one at a time to master. You don’t want to overload yourself by trying too much in one go. It’s much easier to build on small, effective tweaks than to reinvent everything in a week.
  • Deliver them consistently so your pupils know exactly what to expect from you.
  • Record how you use them. In a future post, I’ll discuss using a behaviour log with the scripts already marked on.

Used correctly, consistency scripts can make a real impact to your class climate. When I started using them a couple of years ago, they greatly reduced the stress and exhaustion associated with poor behaviour.

NB: As I write more blog posts and tips, the consistency scripts list will grow, so keep checking back for new additions.


Hastings, R. P., & Bham, M. S. (2003). The relationship between student behaviour patterns and teacher burnout. School Psychology International, 24(1), p115-127.

Lemov, D. (2015). Teach like a champion 2.0: 62 techniques that put students on the path to college. p34.

Rogers, B. (1998). ‘You know the fair rule’: strategies for making the hard job of discipline and behaviour management in school easier. Pearson Education. p30.

11 thoughts on “Tip #4: Is addressing poor behaviour a time drain? Try memorised ‘consistency scripts’.

    1. Definitely. The hope is that using consistency scripts will keep the relationship as intact as possible during potentially stressful incidents, and you’re right that relationships are always the start of good classroom behaviour. Thanks for the comment. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  1. […] There’s a real risk that fidget toys can annoy the whole class and hinder learning, but I saw examples of colleagues successfully deploying fidget toys and how they benefitted their pupils, so I had to make try again. To make them work, I developed very clear expectations and communicated them through a memorised consistency script (read more about consistency scripts here): […]


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