Classroom games add up to motivated, attentive kids

Denise Carter, teacher at Our Lady Immaculate JNS, Darndale, with pupils taking part in the Good Behaviour Game

Classroom games with rewards for good behaviour can help dramatically reduce disruption and improve teaching and learning.

An evaluation of a game-based programme trialled in 21 Irish primary classes earlier this year found a very significant reduction in disruptive, inattentive and unengaged behaviours. The researchers also suggest the PAX Good Behaviour Game (GBG) be expanded to disadvantaged schools and evaluated more thoroughly over two or three years.

Earlier international studies of the PAX GBG programme have found that the team games, lasting anything from five to 45 minutes, can result in an extra hour each day of quality teaching. The games integrate normal curriculum teaching, are played at least three times a day, and increase in duration over time.

While early childhood practice requires play being an integral part of teaching junior and senior infant classes, the PAX GBG trial took place in first and second classes. Over 12 weeks, teachers trained in the programme used the good behaviour game at schools in north Dublin and the midlands.

Children are divided into teams which are rewarded for delivering positive behaviours that support the classroom activity. Teams also compete with each other.

Breda Tomkins, teacher at St. Joseph’s National School, Coolock with her pupils, Conor Ryan, Jessy Williams, Emma Deegan and Scott Lynch who took part in the Good Behaviour Game which has been found to reduce off-task behaviour in the classroom by 43%
Breda Tomkins, teacher at St. Joseph’s National School, Coolock with her pupils, Conor Ryan, Jessy Williams, Emma Deegan and Scott Lynch who took part in the Good Behaviour Game which has been found to reduce off-task  behaviour in the classroom by 43%

Funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the trial took place with the support of Northside Partnership’s Preparing for Life programme in Dublin and the Midlands Area Partnership. The positive results have led to the organisations training another 40 teachers this term and 40 more in early 2016, for PAX GBG to be taught and widened to more than 2,000 pupils, including some in senior infants and third class.

Denise Carter, a teacher at Our Lady Immaculate Junior National School in Darndale in Dublin, said she went from having a challenging class to having highly-motivated children.

“Every single child in the room got the PAX programme and was engaged. We started to get much more done in the classroom with far less disruption and time wasting,” she said.

The evaluation across 21 classes found 29% of pupils demonstrating the most challenging behaviour before the programme moved into normal range after its use for 12 weeks. Overall, there was a 43% reduction in disruptive, inattentive and unengaged behaviours, according to the evaluation by Professor Mark Morgan and Margaret O’Donnell.

Programme for Life manager Noel Kelly said the findings are highly significant

“The classrooms became calmer, children took positive control of their behaviour and teacher-pupil relationships were positively impacted,” he said.

Conor Owens, Midlands Area Partnership manager, said he would encourage the programme’s use for the benefit of as many children and families as possible.


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