Home All The Primary and Secondary Behaviour Cookbooks (Book Review)

The Primary and Secondary Behaviour Cookbooks (Book Review)

written by Denise Quinlan 20 February 2019

Denise Quinlan, MAPP '08, is a trainer with the Penn Resiliency Program and Strath Haven Positive Psychology Curriculum and is currently a PhD student focusing on strengths and subjective well being. She has over twenty years experience in management consulting. Helping people discover strengths and what makes life worth living is what Denise enjoys most, that and the joy of a good theory. Full bio. Denise's articles are here.

Two students hard at work

In 2018, Dr. Sue Roffey published two cookbooks for managing behavior in schools: The Primary Behaviour Cookbook: Strategies at your Fingertips and The Secondary Behaviour Cookbook: Strategies at Your Fingertips.

Reading these two books, one has the clear sense of receiving advice from someone who has been there, understands the challenges facing teachers, and has useful, practical advice to offer. Teachers will pick up these books for the 1-2 page strategies to deal with specific issues they encounter, but they will stay for the long-term guidance on building effective classroom relationships and behavior management.

Dr Roffey provides strategies to deal with a wide range problem situations or behaviors grouped under the following topics:

  • Getting things done (e.g. when students are struggling to settle/start/finish/focus)
  • Dealing with disruption (from humming and fidgeting to over-the-top behavior)
  • Social interactions (from dominant behavior to lying, stealing, cheating, and blaming others)
  • Coping with conflict (in the Secondary level book only; from verbal and non-verbal rudeness and ignoring staff requests to bullying, intimidation, and violence)
  • Emotional distress (from outbursts of anger, aggression, or crying to anxiety and depression)
  • Behaviors of special concern (e.g. eating difficulties, sexualized behavior, self-harm, suicidality)

High school classroom

Although each topic is covered in only two pages, these are not quick fixes. For each specific situation, teachers are coached through a series of questions to develop their understanding and perspective of the situation, offered immediate suggestions to try in the classroom, and then provided with ideas for longer-term change. Here are some typical questions and strategies for each category:

  • Understanding the behavior, including context, awareness, ability level, triggers, physical issues, or home influences. For example, when does the behavior happen? How often? When doesn’t it happen? When did it start? Are there any patterns that could help you understand this behavior?
  • Strategies to implement today, including how to calm the teacher and maintain perspective on the behavior, requests for the student, phrasing to connect with students or lighten the situation, and options for one-on-one discussion after class.
  • Longer-term changes to consider, including options for the student to deal with the behavior, options for the teacher to connect with families of students involved, and strategies to modify the classroom climate.

Dr Roffey brings all of her considerable experience to these practical and powerful toolkits for classroom teachers. Her practical experience as a classroom teacher of students with special education needs, and subsequent work as an education psychologist and socio-emotional learning program developer and trainer enables her to produce resources that speak directly to the challenges faced by classroom teachers.

Classroom teacher

If these books contained only these recipes, they would already earn a place on a teacher’s desk, but they provide much more. They provide a concise guide to managing classroom behavior and developing a positive school climate. Extending the cooking metaphor, Dr Roffey provides a chapter on ‘the oven’ (the emotional climate of the classroom) and another on the essential ingredients every teacher needs, that is, proactive strategies that build positive teacher-student relationships. This includes advice on building positive student-teacher relationships, having high expectations and clear communication, fostering a sense of belonging, using strengths-based language, maintaining positivity in relationships and the classroom, looking after teacher well-being, and working with the full team involved in a student’s education, including their families and caregivers.

Dr Roffey believes it’s high time that teachers stop managing student behavior with a behaviorist model based on sanctions and rewards that has proven ineffective in practice. In its place, she recommends that teachers adopt a relationship-based approach to behavior management. As part of that approach she encourages teachers to be enthusiastic about their teaching, to stay calm and quiet in a crisis, and to have a laugh with their students. Humor in the classroom helps.


Roffey, S. (2018). The Primary Behaviour Cookbook: Strategies at your Fingertips. Routledge.

Roffey, S. (2018). The Secondary Behaviour Cookbook: Strategies at Your Fingertips. Routledge.

Image Credits
Two students in an elementary classroom photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash
High school classroom Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
Classroom teacher courtesy of NCSSMphotos from Flickr via Compfight with Creative Commons license.

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