Own the room

20 11 2015

Behaviour management doesn’t start at the beginning of a presentation. It starts before you arrive at the venue when you tell the organisers of your expectations. You can then manage behaviour by how you set out the performance space. This post is about managing behaviour as the children arrive and take their seats. 

Normally if a school has put out (say) 150 chairs it is because they are expecting 150 people to be in the audience. This means there will be no spare chairs and every chair will be occupied. This gives you the excuse to organise how the children fill to your advantage. 

Here are two examples of how I’ve filled rooms. In both examples I’ve used the fact “we need to use every seat” to control the fill. 

By insisting the children fill one-by-one, row-by-row I ensure each seat is filled. But I also stop children who really shouldn’t be sitting next to each other doing exactly that. 

Everyone wants to talk to their pals so If you allow pals who won’t be allowed to talk during a show to sit next to each other you are setting them up to fail and get into trouble. By bringing them in under control, by seating them one-by-one as they arrive you mix up those who are best kept apart. 

If you have children who really need help to behave during the presentation then by applying the brakes as they come into the room, by imposing a little control at the fill, you give them the chance to make that obvious to you before the show starts. 

If a child jumps the queue (or tries to sneak back in the queue) to get close to a pal they are telling you they will probably shouldn’t be sitting next to that person and a little need help to behave during the show. 

The second pause in the second video occurs because one boy squeezed between the tables to jump the queue and cross the stage area to find his pals he wanted to sit by. I stopped the fill, I told the boy to rejoin the queue at the back, and then we restarted filling the rows. 

It’s impossible to say what would have happened if I hadn’t intervened but he’d jumped an obvious queue, pushed apart tables clearly there to act as a barrier and then brazenly strode across in front of everyone. (He also wasn’t wearing a regulation jacket or shoes). I’m happy with my guess he was going to find it hard to keep quiet surrounded by his usual group. 

In extreme situations if a child “kicks off” as you apply this most gentle and reasonable control at the start of the presentation then they were never going to be able to follow your subtle behaviour management cues once the show has started and you can find them the help they need before you start. 

In both the situations above I had to rejig the way the children entered so I could easily keep on top of the fill. In the first I bolted one side of the double door to ensure they entered single file. 

   
 
In the second I used tables and chairs to block the obvious route straight across the stage to bring the children up toward where I could then funnel them along the rows to their seats. 

In both I organised the fill so I could control the speed that they entered. By doing that, by “owing the room”, by applying a little control before the shows started, I made life a lot easier for myself for the rest of the hour they were with me. 

Sometimes rooms can feel overwhelming but by reorganising some furniture it is possible to maintain control. 

  
Even though I was alone seating children in this space by reorganising a few chairs I was able to funnel them successfully into where was best for me rather than where they would have sat instinctively if left to their own devices and even though I can’t turn back the clock to see what would have happened I’m sure what I did at the start helped them behave during the show. 

  

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