Relief Teaching Ideas

Sharing ideas to help make relief teaching fun, enjoyable, and meaningful.

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Behaviour Management

Behaviour Management is a popular topic on our Facebook page. Students often act out when their usual teacher is away for the day.

Here are some follower questions & the responses from other followers:

Jennifer asks: “Hi all, does anyone have any behaviour management strategies for a 5/6 class? I feel like I’ve tried everything but they’re just not working. I’ve kept them in at lunch, taken privileges away, tried to isolate them from other children, told them I’d be speaking to their class teacher and the deputy, but they refuse to listen. Today I sent one of them to another class, which I don’t usually like to do because I don’t want to involve other teachers, and asked him to fill out a behaviour reflection sheet. But we’ll have to see how that goes. Some of them just aren’t giving me the respect they should be. This is my first year out and I have been told I have a baby face so I’m thinking they are behaving this way because they don’t see me as an adult. Please help!”
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Callie asks: “What behaviour management techniques are other relief teachers using? I had a terrible day relieving today & it got me thinking about needing more techniques.”
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Sally asks: “Kids seem to be so immune to swearing now and I have heard everything from the s-word to the f-word from all ages either purposefully said or accidentally slipped out during sport, from mostly boys. Today I was particularly shocked because it was the first time I heard a kindy boy say f***. I was just wondering what consequences people out there present to these kids or tips with how to deal with inappropriate language as I feel a simple “talking to” has no real effect. Kids obviously just repeat what they hear at home but shouldn’t be saying it at school especially in kindy right?!”
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Mary asks: “Teaching a year 6/7 class next week, as a relief teacher. Any teaching suggestions and behaviour management strategies? (feeling a little out of my comfort zone) I want to be the best teacher I can be and have a fun, productive day of learning~ thank you”
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Mary asked:”I have a question for your page: When relieving in a tough 10 – 12 year old class in which the kids tell you they have no ‘respect’ for you as their ‘reliever’ and you don’t know their names or personalities, what is the best way to get them quiet and focused, especially at mat time (assuming the teacher has left the work so there isn’t a choice of activity to do). Does anyone have any hints or tips to use with older kids?”

Mila – Tell your stage supervisor. If they don’t listen, keep them all in at recess/lunch until they do.

Heath – Bring a prize box with you. If the kids want in they have to write their names on a nameplate made out of a4 paper. Keep your lesson design as fun and inclusive as possible. Bottom line is you can’t expect respect because of your age and position you have to earn it first.

Relief Teaching Ideas – I’ve taught some very tricky year 7 classes before! Not fun! Try to start the day positive. Tell them how much you’re looking forward to being in their class, let them know some of the fun activities you have planned (squeeze in a fitness or quick classroom game sometime during the day) but then also clearly & firmly tell them what will happen if they act out & don’t follow the rules – state your basic rules & consequences. I would usually give them a warning, move them in the class & then remove to a buddy class (see if you can organize a neighboring classroom to use). At least one student will probably test you to see if you mean what you say! It’s important to follow through.
I’ve also heard that class dojo is a fantastic free behavior tool in the classroom.
You can hand out points to students & can collect the data & leave for the teacher. You can give a certificate or small prize (pencil, eraser, notebook) to students who reach a certain amount of points.

Ashna – Use some sort of reward system eg: points system for the day and have a reward for the highest scoring boy and girl. Or do a class team points system and if they get to say 100 by the end of the day they can have 10-15 mins of free time or extra sport etc.

Ashna – I use class dojo too and it’s great!

Belinda – In the past I have called the office. They have sent the principal and the class has gotten in trouble. The office staff are big on not letting the school down just cos it is a different teacher. After they have had a talking to by someone they know, they are generally better

Annette – Definitely call the office to let them know what is happening. Make a note for yourself in case you get this class again in the future. Try and ask what behaviour system is in place before class starts. Table points, house points and so on. Remember that respect is a two way street and they have to earn yours as well

Relief Teaching Ideas – One of the first things I do, going into a new room, is draw up a quick seating chart & walk around recording where each student sits (use name plates, pencil cases that are sitting on the desks). During roll call I double check that my seating chart is correct. Try to use their names as much as possible in the first lesson & you’ll be surprised how quickly you can learn the names!

Belinda – I should have mentioned that I follow the class system of warnings, timeout, buddy class. However there are some cases where you have to jump all of the other steps and go straight to the office.

Relief Teaching Ideas – Another tip (although this can sometimes be hard to do!!) is to avoid being baited. Some students will try to push your buttons to see how far they can push you. They want to upset you & make you angry/yell. Try to stay calm, stick to the behaviour plan. If they won’t listen & move seats or go to the office, don’t get into an argument, just phone the office. The other kids will quickly see that there is no point in trying to play that game. Win for you! (Even if you’re secretly seething inside!)

Misel – Say ‘You don’t need to like it, or love it- but you will need to find a way to live with it for today’
‘Can be an easy day for you- by following my instructions, or a hard day- missing out on the fun stuff (games, recess, lunch)- choose’

Tanya – Before school I do a seating plan of where the desks are and who is sitting in it. I can usually get most names off chair bags, pencil cases or books they’ve left on desks; otherwise I fill in the blanks when I mark the roll (or an eager helper during class set-up) – it spooks them when you refer to them by name. I then run them through the rewards system I have (raffle tickets and a prize box) and then the consequences. Don’t be afraid to keep them in or call the office for help, especially when starting out at a new school. Once you’re established, you’ll find problems become minimal.

Cassy – This goes against most teaching practises however I found having kids copy notes off the board kept the kids quiet and focused. Find out what the science or HSIE topic is, then have the kids copy information down. Discuss it with the class and follow-up with an art lesson. Students are often scared of looking stupid, some feel less threaten just writing information.

Misel – You’re the boss- you don’t need other teachers they ‘know’ to plead with them to be ‘good’ – they’ll have more respect for you If a) they know you’ll be consistent b) you’ll follow through

Amanda – Buy some king size chocolate bars and a book of raffle tickets! Let them know that at the end of the day you will drawing a ticket, winner takes all! To gain entry to the raffle they need to be on task, respectful etc. each time you see this hand out a ticket….the more on task etc the more tickets, the greater chance they have to win…..this has won over many a difficult class…..the power of king size chocolate on pre-teens is amazing!!! Appeal to their greed!! You can also have a couple of draws winner gets first choice!

Anna – I find using a kitchen timer works really well, that way kids know how much time they have left to complete tasks and make an agreement at start of the time whatever time you have to wait for the when the timer goes off is the time they have to make up to you in there time (lunch, interval or after school). I had tricky year 6 clases last 3 days this worked awesome because they could hear the timer from anywhere in class and stopped and looked at me when it went off.. Also a good way not to lose your voice 🙂

Michelle – I just calmly let them know that whilst they think they can get away with bad behaviour, that all their behaviours are reported back to their teacher to deal with ;). It’s amazing how quickly they shape up!

Lisa – I always draw a clock on the board at the start of the day. Sometimes I tell them what it’s for, sometimes not till they ask. I add strokes around the outside for minutes the class or individuals have kept me waiting etc, I don’t always comment when I do it either but they VERY quickly learn that those minutes will need to be earned off at recess/lunch/home time. They piece this together and beg to earn minutes off for good behaviour too, which is a positive reward system for you. Works every time!

Alisha – Time them and make them give that time back to you at recess and/or lunch.
Give them an explicit run down of the rules and tell them exactly what will happen if they are good or bad.

Nadine – A student telling you they don’t respect you because you are a relief teacher isn’t such a bad thing as it is a great lead into a discussion about respect. You can agree by discussing how it can be hard to respect people when you don’t know them; talk about what respect is; make it clear that you are going to model respect by your actions towards them as students; ask them how it feels when they are treated in a disrespectful manner. One of my fav sayings is, “Every action has a reaction”. I write this on the board and talk about what it means with the students. I also play class ball games that encourage students to use their strengths to beat their own times passing the ball to all members of the class.

Annette – I do something similar. I draw a detailed face on the whiteboard and when they get disruptive I take one feature away. I do tell them they can earn features back bad if the whole face is still there by the end of the day they earn a quick 5-10 minute game. It’s amazing how the whole class will be grumpy at those that ‘lose face’!

Jess – I use the raffle, rewards bag, adding minutes to keep them in and games or fitness, but am always looking for new ideas.

Marcella – I draw 5 stars on the board at the start of the day. They automatically get free time at the end of the session if they can keep those starts. It’s amazing how quickly they will settle if they see you moving to the board to wipe off a star. I also sometimes add stars so if they end up with 10 they get double the free time

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Seating Chart

Just a quick tip for any relief teachers out there!

One of the first things I do when I go into a new classroom (after reading through the teacher’s notes!) is draw up a quick seating chart.
I will walk around & check for desk name tags, pencil cases or books with names on them, to help me fill out my chart. When I do the morning roll call, I double check that I have the correct names marked down.
Knowing the students’ names & where they sit is a HUGE help with behaviour management!

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Mr Potato Head Good Behaviour Reward


Similar to the Jigsaw Puzzle idea, students work as a class to earn parts for Mr Potato Head. When he is complete they earn a predetermined class reward like an early recess or pack up early for a game.

Here’s where I found this great idea:

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Class Good Behaviour Incentive – Complete the Jigsaw


The class earns pieces to the puzzle when they are all working well. When the puzzle is complete they can have a predetermined reward like packing up early for a fitness game.
A classroom teacher could choose a larger puzzle & a bigger class reward like an end of term movie or class party.

*Attach magnetic strip to the back of puzzle pieces or use blu-tak so it can easily be put up on the whiteboard.