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Ministry of Education.

Information sheet: Checklist for promoting positive behaviour and learning in the classroom or centre

Ko tā te kaiako mahi hei tiaki i te wairua a te tamaiti – the job of the teacher is to protect the spiritual essence of the child.

This information sheet combines best practice elements from the Positive Behaviour for Learning School-Wide framework and the Incredible Years – Teacher programme. It also draws on information from Te Kotahitanga (a research and professional development programme that looks at raising Māori achievement) and Tātaiako (which outlines cultural competencies required of teachers to help Māori learners achieve). 

Care and learning expectations

  • Teachers have high expectations (that are achievable) for all children and young people and show them they believe they can succeed.
  • Teachers show children and young people they care about them.
  • Teachers greet each child or young person every day when they arrive and ask after them by name. They are greeted in their own language.
  • Teachers listen, have empathy and have positive regard for others.

Behaviour expectations

  • A small number (three to five) of positively and clearly stated expectations or rules are defined and communicated to the children or young people.
  • Behaviour expectations are developmentally appropriate and achievable for the children or young people.
  • Behaviour expectations are clear, positive and visually displayed in the centre or classroom.
  • Behaviour expectations are directly taught. When children or young people have difficulty with a particular expectation, and associated social and emotional skills, it is immediately re-taught, practised and reinforced.
  • Children and young people make a written or verbal commitment to follow the behaviour expectations.
  • Children and young people can state the behaviour expectations.


  • Routines are explicit and directly taught. If children or young people have difficulty with a routine, it is modelled and immediately re-taught in a simplified way.
  • Schedules and routines for handling transitions are predictable.
  • Children and young people spend most of the time engaged in active learning.

Attention, encouragement and praise

  • The teacher uses at least four positive interactions for each instance of corrective feedback.
  • The teacher gives children and young people who are engaged and following directions frequent attention, praise and encouragement.
  • Incentives are earned by children and young people to motivate them and increase positive, appropriate behaviours.


  • The teacher reminds children and young people about the behaviour expectations when incidents occur.
  • Consequences are pre-planned and posted.
  • Consequences are delivered in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.
  • Children and young people are reminded of their choices in a calm, positive manner before behaviour escalates.

The physical space

  • The room has sufficient space and access to materials to support teaching activities and smooth transitions.
  • Instructional areas have clear, visual boundaries for children and young people.
  • The teacher(s) can see all children and young people when scanning the room.
  • Inattentive and easily distractible children or young people are close to the teacher’s desk/near the teacher(s).
  • The teacher is visible to the children and young people and moves throughout the room.

The classroom programme

  • The curriculum programme provides opportunities for learners to engage in tasks likely to enhance their self-awareness, interpersonal and social awareness, self-regulation and management, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
  • The classroom programme supports social relationships through shared activities, peer tutoring, cooperative learning, acknowledging the accomplishments and cultures of all learners.


  • The teacher(s) greet each child or young person by name when they arrive.
  • The teacher(s) gets attention before giving instructions.
  • Transitions between activities or rooms are directly taught and are practised.

Supporting Māori children

  • Positive relationships with children and young people, their parents, whānau, hapū and iwi are at the centre of everything that teachers do.
  • Ko te Ākonga te putake o te ako – the learner is at the centre of the teaching and learning.
  • Teachers show integrity, sincerity and respect towards Māori beliefs, language and culture.
  • Me mahi tahi te kura, te whānau, te hapū, te iwi, me te hapori – school, whānau, hapū, iwi and community will work together.
  • Parents, whānau, hapū, iwi and the community have opportunities to have a say in what goes on in the classroom or centre.
  • School or centre staff are visible in the local Māori community/at local Māori community events.
  • Teachers provide contexts for learning where the identity, language and culture of Māori learners and their whānau is affirmed.
  • What the child or young person brings to the class or centre is respected and their experiences are recognised.
  • Teachers and school staff learn Te Reo and encourage children and young people to speak Te Reo in the classroom or centre.
  • Children and young people learn about things they are interested in and things are made relevant to them.
  • There is a number and range of teacher-child interactions.
  • The teacher uses some instruction (a mixture of process and transmission).
  • The teacher recognises appropriate behaviour.
  • The teacher responds to child-initiated interactions by giving academic feedback and feed-forward.
  • The teacher spends less time interacting with the whole class and more time with individuals and/or groups.

Our teachers encourage us a lot when we do achieve something and that makes us want to achieve more.
My teacher speaks Te Reo Māori.
We have a whānau class where we can go and be with other Māori kids.
My teacher knows how to make the things we learn relevant to us.

My teacher works with the things I’m good at.
My teacher uses pictures, signs and words to help me work things out.
My teacher explains to me every day what will happen that day and when.
My teacher helps me work through problems with a decision tree.

My teacher asks for our ideas about things like class rules.
It’s not OK to be in class and not want to work – our teachers expect us to work hard.
Our teachers make sure when you’re not passing that you come back and try again – and they stay and help.
Our teachers treat us all the same, even if we’re not the brainiest.

Examples of strategies used to teach positive behaviour

(adjust these as you need to make them age-appropriate)

  • Promoting on-task behaviour through circular desk arrangement in the classroom.
  • Using a coupon system to decrease inappropriate requests for teacher assistance.
  • The Good Behavior Game: Divide the room into teams. Give a point to each team for inappropriate behaviour displayed by a team member. The team with the fewest points at the end of the day receives a reward. If both teams keep their points below a certain level they share the reward.
  • Establishing a universally understood signal for children to give the teacher their full attention.
  • Listing in advance reminders of expected behaviours.
  • Moving closer to children and young people whose behaviour you are concerned about.
  • Moving throughout the room as a ‘roving reinforcer’ of behaviour.
  • Co-constructing a set of values or a code of rights with children and young people and deciding on ways to recognise when they engage in behaviours that show these values.
  • Providing discussion time for children and young people to talk about their experiences of school life and suggest strategies for areas they consider need improving.
  • Using visual resources to prompt discussion about healthy relationships.
  • Developing strategies to address social conflict.


Look at what you can do to make your classroom or centre a stimulating, supportive and well managed learning space where positive behaviour can thrive.

  • Build caring relationships with children and young people. Respect what each one brings to the class or centre (from home, their culture and peers). Allow the experiences of the child or young person to be recognised in the classroom or centre.
  • Have high expectations of all children and young people (be sure they are achievable).
  • He moana pupuke ka ekengia e te waka – a choppy sea can be navigated. Have belief and faith that children and young people can grow and learn new strategies and behaviour.
  • Be flexible, adjust the programme and use a range of learning strategies.
  • Use a range of interactions – instruction, monitoring, coaching, recognition, feedback, feed-forward and individual and group interactions.
  • Anticipate issues, plan and improvise.


Culture counts. Promote positive behaviour through recognising a child’s culture, language and identity. Māori children say they like it when you:

  • show that you care for them as people
  • have high expectations of them
  • spend less time interacting with the whole class or group and more time with individuals and/or groups
  • provide contexts for learning where their identity, language and culture is affirmed
  • provide feedback and feed-forward.

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