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The Ultimate Guide To Managing Student Behavior

Teachers are increasingly faced with challenges stemming from the intensity and scope of student needs in the classroom. If you ask a new teacher what’s their number concern they will probably mention classroom management or student behavior.

Most teachers look at classroom management as this huge monster. When in fact it is a taxonomy of  different topics. Student behavior is one of the most neglected areas of classroom management. Most teachers would probably agree that teacher preparation programs give new teachers the impression that their classroom management plan will solve all of their behavior problems. This couldn’t be the furthest from the truth!

A classroom management plan will most likely (depending on student age and demographic) will only solve about 60% of classroom problems. The other 40% or so will require managing individual student behavior.

When teachers face classroom management issues there’s one phrase that most of them will say, ” It’s not the whole class.” For the most part this is true!  Even in my own classroom there is always 3-4 students whose behavior upsets my classroom environment.

The ultimate  goal for teachers is to manage student behavior on case by case basis. This can be done by following 4 steps: identify behaviors,track frequency of behaviors, create a response to invention plan, and track progress.

1. Identify Behaviors

Before a teacher can start managing student behavior he/she has to be able to identify the behaviors that are causing the problems. This requires unbiased observations. This means that the teacher must disconnect and stay calm. Staying calm is the most important part of this step because an emotional person will usually make decisions based on their emotions at that particular time.

During this step the teacher should carefully observe the following:

  • Interaction with peers and adults
  • Behavior in different environments
  • Behavior triggers
  • Time of day

Behavior observations should be done for at least 3 days. Sometimes certain behavior can be situational, meaning something may have happened that’s out of the student’s normal routine.

2. Track Frequency of Behaviors

Once the behaviors have been identified the teacher then chooses 2 behaviors that cause the most disruption in the classroom. For example,when I was teaching 3rd grade I had a student who would leave his seat to go hit another student. I felt like if I could first get the student to stay in his seat it would change the classroom dynamic.

There are plenty of behavior tracking sheets but I’ve found that I’m way too busy to keep up with tracking sheets that contain too much information. I like to use tally marks to track the 2 targeted behaviors.

When tracking behavior make note of the time of day, during what activity, and how often. For instance if, I have a 5th grade student who is out of control after she spends the weekend with her father. She visits her father every other weekend, so every other Monday we bump heads.

Also, Mondays can be difficult days for certain students in difficult situations because on the weekend some students lack parental supervision and structure. So, on Monday it can feel like you’re starting over. This may or may not be included in the behavior frequency because every situation is different.

3. Create a Response to Intervention Plan

Creating a RTI plan is by far the most important and difficult part of managing student behavior. A RTI plan requires a team of people to use the teacher’s anecdotal notes to identify appropriate interventions for the targeted behaviors.

The RTI plan takes the two targeted behaviors from the tracking sheet and provides the teacher with interventions that can be used to address these behaviors. Most schools and counselors use the Pre-Referral Intervention Manual for interventions. It has the common student misbehaviors and provides suggestions for interventions. As with all resources this manual gives teachers and RTI teams a starting point for helping students who need more behavior support. It’s not the whole kit and caboodle.

The RTI Plan includes:

  • Targeted behaviors
  • Interventions/ replacement behaviors
  • Consequences and Rewards
  • Responsibility for monitoring the plan

Remember all interventions will not work with all students.  RTI teams have to take student motivation, age, and interest into consideration when creating a RTI or BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan). Also, older students should be allowed to take part in the construction of the plan. This will help with student participation and sometimes will alleviate defiance.

4. Track Progress

Tracking student progress is an essential part of managing student behavior. The goal of any behavior intervention plan is to teach replacement behaviors for undesirable behaviors so that the student can receive instruction. If a student has made progress,, then the RTI plan will need to be revised. Dates for reconvening to discuss student progress are decided during the construction of the RTI Plan.

The behavior plans that I have written or been a part of usually gives the student 4 weeks with the intervention before determining if the student has made progress. If you work in a school where you lack support, give the student at least 4 weeks to begin using the intervention.

Managing student behavior can be tricky for teachers, especially if you lack support and resources. If you have found yourself in a position where you don’t have support with behavior I’m building a  Facebook Group community for Managing Difficult Classrooms.  I would love to have you join our small but growing community!

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I help math teachers who teach high need students to effectively manage their classrooms and deliver high quality math instruction. Learn more about me


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