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Today is:

Eddie McNamara, Positive Pupil Management and Motivation, David Fulton Publishers, 15

Gavin Bolton & Dorothy Heathcote, So You Want to Use Role-Play?, Trentham Books, 15.95

Jenny Mosley & Marilyn Tew, Quality Circle Time in the Secondary School, David Fulton Publishers, 16.50

When I trained to teach, I watched a long-established teacher effortlessly silence a difficult Year 8 class. I wondered how he did it. He seemed simply to stand there and the pupils were quelled. Since that point, I've been fascinated by school discipline. And whereas once it seemed a form of innate mysticism, now I realise there are definite skills which can help to create to an  ethos of structure, security, calm and order.

These three books all, in different ways, examine modes of shaping pupil behaviour. Eddie McNamara's is the approach of a seasoned educational psychologist. At first I kicked against the talk of "functional antecedents and consequences". I was ready to dismiss this as another book about school life by someone who had fled from it. But McNamara's thesis proves cogent and stimulating. Pupils' behaviour can be shaped and improved, he argues, by considering a range of factors - from groupings and environmental factors to teaching and learning styles.

Most useful, he provides a huge number of sample documents - records for documenting pupil behaviour, report cards, self-assessment sheets. Many of these give responsibility for behaviour back to the student - something school sanctions systems don't always manage. The result is a lively and thought-provoking working handbook which members of a school's pastoral team may find useful in developing their thinking.

Quality Circle Time in the Secondary School places similar emphasis on getting students to take responsibility for their actions. I'd anticipated a rather pious account of full-throttle happiness and minimal learning. In fact, the authors make a convincing case for the rigour of quality circle time: students talking openly on a range of issues within set rules. They show how circle time used consistently across a school can enhance the ethos, lead to improved self-esteem and more self-led learning. Whilst there will be members of your tutor and teaching teams who will need some convincing of its value, the sheer range of suggested activities and self-evaluation prompts in this book justifies the price of a copy.

A student teacher at school is currently trying to convince me that I should turn up at my Year 11 English class in the character of Macbeth. He says it will help the students gain a grasp of the issues of the play. I'm just too self-conscious. I can happily play the role of man in a suit strutting the corridors, but - really -  the Thane of Cawdor? Seasoned practitioners Gavin Bolton and Dorothy Heathcote would have few such qualms. They write a lively account of the uses of role-play beyond education. They prescribe such approaches for management training, doctors and the police force. One chapter was trialled with managers from Northern Gas. It is pretty strenuously presented as a book not aimed at Drama teachers.

As a self-conscious English teacher I recognised many of the techniques and situations presented in the book. I've used some of them. How they would work with my friend Simon who runs a small manufacturing business I'm not sure. Perhaps his tool-makers would leap at the chance to role-play industrial relations or customer support. Certainly the book provides a strong rationale for the importance of using such techniques, and an astonishing catalogue of possible situations to use and adapt.

All three books are useful reminders of what is at the heart of successful teaching - positive relationships with students. All of them have valuable insights into ways we can all develop those essential central skills. They make good starting-points for further reflection.

Positive Pupil Management and Motivation:

Quality and attractiveness: 4/5

Fitness for purpose: 3/5

Value for Money: 4/5

Quality Circle Time in the secondary School:

Quality and attractiveness: 5/5

Fitness for purpose: 4/5

Value for Money: 4/5

So You want to use Role-play:

Quality and attractiveness: 3/5

Fitness for purpose: 4/5

Value for Money: 3/5

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