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Behavior Management

What do I do when I have a student whose behavior is interrupting the class and other students learning?

When a students’ behavior is disrupting the class and/or interfering with the learning of other students, it must be stopped, and stopped quickly. While the majority of challenges that you are likely to face in the classroom will be relatively minor, there will be some that are more serious and demand greater interference and action on your behalf. One way to address challenging behavior is to attach logical consequences to it. Logical consequences imply that one event (or consequence) is guided by another and has a logical relationship to the misbehavior (i.e. For a child with extreme impulsivity who blurts out answers, a logical consequence might be to give the student a yellow "warning" card with the reminder, "thanks for responding, but remember to raise your hand"). Logical consequences can help to address some challenging behaviors, but a consequence will not work every time or for every student, nor will every child respond to the use of logical consequences.

Other strategies for addressing challenging and/or disrupting behavior in the classroom range from proactive (i.e. preventative strategies) to nonverbal interventions and then verbal interventions. Even verbal interventions exist on a hierarchy from more teacher-centered to more student-centered. A student-centered intervention is the more desirable end as it encourages student control and responsibility for the behavior.

Proactive intervention strategies to address challenging/disruptive behavior in the classroom include:

  • Changing pace of classroom activities: Restructure situations and involve students in other activities that require active student participation and help them to refocus interests.
  • Removing seductive objects: Collect the object that is competing with the teacher.
  • Interest boosting: Teacher shows interest in student’s work, thereby bringing the student back on-task (walking over and checking how work is going, asking student to share work).
  • Redirecting behavior: Refocus student’s attention, ask them to read, do a problem, or answer a question (treat student as if he/she was paying attention).
  • Nonpunitive time out: Teacher quietly asks student if she would get a drink or invites her to run an errand or do a chore.
  • Encouraging the appropriate behavior of other students: Make positive comments about other students’ behavior, which involves making good decisions. Reminds off-task students of the behavior that is expected of them.
  • Providing cues for expected behavior: Use a cue that students understand. One can close the door, flick the lights, or even make a motion with one’s hands.

Nonverbal intervention strategies or techniques for addressing challenging/disruptive behavior in the classroom include:

  • Planned ignoring: Ignoring a behavior, under the assumption that ignoring it will cause it to lesson and eventually disappear (i.e. student is engaging in behavior to obtain attention).
  • Signal Interference: Any type of nonverbal behavior that communicates to the student without disturbing others that the behavior is not appropriate (should be clearly directed at the off-task student). If the student has a hard time with nonverbal cues then discuss a signal that you will use with them to remind them to stop the unwanted behavior.
  • Proximity Interference: Any movement toward the disruptive student (i.e. move closer).
  • Touch Interference: A light, nonaggressive physical contact with a student. Can be taking a hand or placing hand on shoulder (be aware of limitations and possible negative outcomes).

Verbal intervention strategies for techniques for addressing challenging/disruptive behavior in the classroom include:

  • Adjacent (Peer Reinforcement): Behavior that is reinforced is more likely to be repeated. Peer reinforcement focuses class attention on appropriate behavior rather than on inappropriate behavior. Teacher comments publicly on appropriate behavior of another student.
  • Calling on the Student/Name-Dropping: Teacher redirects the student to appropriate behavior by calling on the student to answer a question or by inserting the student’s name in an example or in the middle of a lecture if asking a question is not appropriate.
  • Humor: Humor that is directed at the teacher or at the situation rather than at the student can defuse tension in the classroom and redirect students to appropriate behavior. (Humor, not sarcasm).
  • Questioning awareness of effect: Teacher makes student aware of impact of his/her behavior through the use of a rhetorical question, which requires no response from a disruptive student.
  • Sending an “I Message”: “I Message” is three-part message that is intended to help the disruptive student recognize the negative impact of his/her behavior on the teacher or other students. Three parts: (1) simple description of the disruptive behavior, (2) description of its tangible effect on the teacher and/or other students, (3) a description of the teacher’s and peer’s feelings about the effects of the misbehavior.
  • Direct Appeal: Courteously requesting that a student stop the disruptive behavior.
  • Positive Phrasing: When the positive outcomes of appropriate behavior are easily identified, simply stating what the positive outcomes are, can redirect students to proper behavior. “As soon as you do X (make a good decision), we can do Y (a positive outcomes).”
  • “Are Not For’s”: Use “are not for.” Pencils are not for drumming on desks, pencils are for writing.
  • Reminder of the Rules: Reminding disruptive students of the rules, when a teacher has established clear guidelines or rules early in the year and has received student commitment to them.
  • Glasser’s Triplets: Teachers direct students to appropriate behavior through the use of the three questions: (1) What are you doing?, (2) Is it against the rules?, and (3) What should you be doing? (Asking open-ended questions may result in student responses that are dishonest, improper, or unexpected).
  • Explicit Redirection: An order to stop the misbehavior and return to acceptable behavior (Teacher gives a command and leaves no room for student rebuttal).
  • Canter’s “Broken Record”: Strategy for communicating to the student that the teacher will not engage in verbal bantering and intends to make sure that the student resumes appropriate behavior. Teacher begins by giving the student an explicit redirection statement. If the student doesn’t comply or if the student tries to defend or explain his behavior, the teacher repeats the redirection.
  • Comply or Face the Logical Consequences: “You Have a Choice”: Use of logical consequences. 3 types of consequences: natural, logical, and contrived. Natural – teacher does not take any action and allows natural consequences to occur. Logical – requires teacher intervention and consequences are related as closely as possible to the behavior. Contrived – consequences imposed on the student by the teacher and are either unrelated to student behavior or involve a penalty beyond which is fitting for the behavior.
  • “You have a choice”: Give the student a choice of either complying with the request or facing the consequences. Giving choices.

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