No matter how well you have planned and created a positive classroom environment, problem behaviors will emerge. It is important that you deal with them in a timely, effective manner.

Management Strategies:

Classroom management expert Carolyn Evertson and her colleagues distinguish between minor and moderate interventions for problem behaviors. The following discussion describes their approach.

Minar Interventions

Some problems require only minor interventions. These problems involve behaviors that, if infrequent, usually don’t disrupt class activities and learning. For example, students might call out to the teacher out of turn, leave their seats without permission, engage in social talk when it is not allowed, or eat candy in class. When only minor interventions are needed for problem behaviors, these strategies can be effective.

“Use nonverbal cues:

Make eye contact with the student and give a signal such as a finger to the lips, a head shake, or a hand signal to issue a desist.”

Keep the activity moving:

Sometimes transitions between activities take too long or a break in activity occurs when students have nothing to do. In these situations, students might leave their seats, socialize, crack jokes, and begin to get out of control. A good strategy is not to correct students’ minor misbehaviors in these situations but, rather, start the next activity in a more timely fashion. By effectively planning the day, you should be able to eliminate these long transitions and gaps in activity.

Move closer to students:

When a student starts misbehaving, simply moving near the student will often cause the misbehavior to stop.

“Redirect the behavior”:

If students get off-task, let them know what they are supposed to be doing. You might say, “Okay, remember, everybody is supposed to be working on math problems.”

“Provide needed instruction”:

Sometimes students engage in minor misbehaviors when they haven’t understood how to do the task they have been assigned. Unable to effectively do the activity, they fill the time by misbehaving. Solving this problem involves carefully monitoring students’ work and providing guidance when needed.

Directly and assertively tell the student to stop:

Establish direct eye contact with the student, be assertive, and tell the student to stop the behavior. “Keep your common brief and monitor the situation until the student complies. Combine this strategy with redirection to encourage desirable behavior.”

“Given the student a choice”:

Place responsibility in the student’s hands by saving that he or she has a choice of either behaving appropriately or receiving a negative consequence. Be sure to tell the student what the appropriate behavior is and what the consequence is for not performing it. For example, an elementary school teacher might say, “Remember, appropriate behavior in this class means not eating candy in class that you brought to school for lunch. If you choose to eat the candy now, you won’t be allowed to bring candy as part of your lunch.”

Moderate Interventions:

Some misbehaviors require a stronger intervention than those just described for example, when students abuse privileges, disrupt an active goof off, or interfere with your instruction or other students’ work. Here are some moderate interventions for dealing with these types of problems.

“Withhold a privilege or a desired activity”:

Inevitably, you will have students who abuse privileges they have been given, such as being able to move around the classroom or to work on a project with friends. In these cases, you can revoke the privilege.

Create a behavioral contract:

Use the concept of contracting, which involves putting reinforcement contingencies into writing. If problems arise and students don’t uphold their end of the bargain, the teacher can refer to the contract the students agreed to. The contract should reflect input from both the teacher and the student. In some cases, teachers enlist a third party, such as another student, to sign the contract as a witness to the agreement.

“Isolate or remove students”:

Use the time-out, which involves removing a student from positive reinforcement. If you choose to use a time-out, you have several options. You can (a) keep the student in the classroom, but deny the student access to positive reinforcement; (b) take the student outside the activity area or out of the classroom; or (c) place the student in a time-out room designated by the school. If you use a time-out, be sure to clearly identify the student’s behavior that resulted in the time- out, such as “You are being placed in time-out for 30 minutes because you punched.” If the misbehavior occurs again, reidentify it and place the student in time-out again. After the time-out, don’t comment on how well the student behaved during the time-out; just return the student to the activity that was interrupted.

Impose a penalty or detention:

A small amount of repetitious work can be used as a penalty for misbehavior. In writing, a student might have to write an extra page; in math, a student might have to do extra problems; in physical education, a student might have to run an extra lap. The problem with penalties is that they can harm the student’s attitude toward the subject matter.

Students also can be made to serve a detention for their misbehaviors, at lunch, during recess, before school, or after school. Teachers commonly assign detentions for goofing off, wasting time, repeating rule violations, not completing assignments, and disrupting the class. Some detentions are served in the classroom; some schools have a detention hall where students can be sent. If the detention occurs in your classroom, you will have to supervise it. The length of the detention should initially be short, on the order of 10 to 15 minutes, if the misbehavior is not severe. As when using the time-out, you will need to keep a record of the detention.

Using others as Resources:

Among the people who can help you get students to engage in more-appropriate behavior are peers, parents, the principal or counselor, and mentors.

Peer Mediation:

Peers sometimes can be very effective at getting students to behave more appropriately. Peer mediators can be trained to help students resolve quarrels between students and change undesirable behaviors. For example, if two students have started to argue with each other, an assigned peer mediator can help to mediate the dispute.

Parent-Teacher Conference:

You can telephone the student’s parents or confer with them in a face-to-face conference. Just informing them can sometimes get the student to improve behavior. Don’t put the parents on the defensive or suggest that you are blaming them for their child’s misbehavior in school. Just briefly describe the problem and say that you would appreciate any support that they can give you.

Enlist the Help of the Principal or Counselor:

Many schools have prescribed consequences for particular problem behaviors. If you have tried unsuccessfully to deal with the behavior, consider asking the school’s administration for help. This might involve referring the student to the principal or a counselor, which might result in a detention or warning to the student, as well as a parent conference with the principal. Letting the principal or counselor handle the problem can save you time. However, such help is not always practical on a regular basis in many schools.

Find a Mentor:

Earlier we underscored the importance of students having at least one person in their life who cares about them and supports their development. Some students, especially those from high-risk impoverished backgrounds, do not have that one person. A mentor can provide such students with the guidance they need to reduce problem behaviors. Look around the community for potential mentors for students in high-risk, low-income circumstances.

Dealing with Aggression

Violence in schools is a major, escalating concern. In many schools it now is common for students to fight, bully other students, or threaten each other and teachers verbally or with a weapon. These behaviors can arouse your anxiety and anger, but it is important to be prepared for their occurrence and handle them calmly. Avoiding an argument or emotional confrontation will help you to solve the conflict.

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