One of the many challenges of classroom management is dealing with behavior. Prevention strategies are important, and there are many things teachers can do to build students’ motivation to focus and behave well in the classroom. But when all else fails and students misbehave, teachers must know how to intervene. The purpose of intervening is not to discipline, but rather to “stop disruptive actions and return students back to academic activities” (Burden, Paul R. Classroom Management). Effective intervention requires an understanding of how to provide situational assistance, use both mild and moderate responses to misbehavior, and deal with chronic or challenging misbehavior, particularly bullying. There are several strategies that I believe will help me to accomplish these goals in my classroom.
The majority of my interventions will be very minor, requiring only situational assistance. Disruptive actions can generally be resolved quickly and quietly. They can be caused by a number of factors, such as distractions in the classroom, boredom, and excessive energy. I have seen each of these cases in BYU’s kindergarten where I work, and I have learned many things from my experiences teaching there that I will apply in my own classroom.
First, I will do more to boost students’ interest. I will do this by being more animated while I instruct, including more kinesthetic activities, and providing more opportunities for students to participate. Second, I will be more flexible and alter the lesson if necessary. As every teacher has discovered, children sometimes get bored with what they are learning. When they get bored, students focus on other activities, which distract others from the learning process. This was the case during my most recent math lesson with my kindergarteners. I introduced them to Geoboards and was showing them different shapes they could make with rubber bands. My excitement about the topic was not enough to interest them. If I could do it over again I would have had the students stand up and use the class carpet as a giant Geoboard. The students would pretend to be the rubber bands, and we would use our bodies to make shapes on the carpet. The students would be learning the same material, but the change would have helped them take more interest in it.
Third, I will remove distracting objects. My guided reading group works near the door that opens to the playground. The movement outside is very distracting and makes focusing very difficult for some of the students. To address this challenge, we rearranged the area and brought in a different table that enabled each student to face away from the window. It also gives me better access to each of the students, so I can more effectively meet their needs and help them stay on task. So much misbehavior can be addressed by simple situational interventions, like those I have mentioned. These interventions solve problems quickly and with minimal disruption of student learning.
In addition to knowing how to provide situation assistance, teachers must also be able to effectively use mild responses to misbehavior. There are several things I have learned while working with my kindergarteners that I plan to do in my own future classrooms. First, I will ignore misbehavior that seeks attention. Children will often abandon their misbehavior when it does not attract the attention they want from the teacher or other students. Second, I will use appropriate touch. This will show students that I am aware of their misbehavior, and it gives them an opportunity to correct it. Recently, one of my kindergarteners was being a bit too rowdy. I put my hand gently on his head and suggested that he not be so silly, and he immediately corrected his behavior. As this example demonstrates, appropriate touch is often accompanied by a verbal response, which is the third thing I will use to address misbehavior. Students will often correct their own behavior when the teacher asks them what they should be doing. Teachers can also suggest alternative behaviors for students to choose from. When I see a student antagonize a classmate, I often ask the student what they could have done differently to avoid offending their peer. This not only responds to misbehavior, but it also helps students learn how to self-correct and exhibit more appropriate behavior in the future.
Sometimes students do not respond to situational assistance or mild responses. In these cases, teachers must use moderate responses to misbehavior. These are “punitive ways of decreasing the occurrence of stopping inappropriate behavior” (Interventions PowerPoint, slide 15). The first moderate intervention I will use is offering the misbehaving student a choice. For example, the student can choose to either correct his or her own behavior or face a specific consequence. Students often find self-correcting more appealing than suffering a consequence given by the teacher, so they return to what they are supposed to be doing. Withdrawing privileges is another moderate intervention I plan to use. For example, I might take away the privilege of choosing what to do at recess. This provides effective discipline while still giving students the health benefits of play. I will also use written reflections to address misbehavior. These not only resolve disruptions in the classroom, but they also help students assess their own behavior and learn from their mistakes. Each of these moderate interventions will help me resolve behavior and hopefully prevent my having to deal with chronic or challenging behavior in the future.
Responses to Chronic or Challenging Misbehavior
There will undoubtedly be cases of this level of misbehavior, though. Bullying is one example. I will not tolerate bullying in my classroom. I will talk about it often with my students and will incorporate it into our routines and the books we read. I will have strict discipline policies for it and will strongly encourage my students to report it if it occurs. As part of my intervention for bullying and other forms of chronic misbehavior, I will use a four-step plan.
The first step is to state what my expectations are and give the student an opportunity to correct his or her behavior. Next, I will either thank them for cooperating or state a second time what my expectations are for their behavior. If they comply I will thank them or otherwise enact a consequence. If the misbehavior continues to persist, I will enforce more severe consequences. This set process will help these students know what consequences they can expect to receive for their severe misbehavior. As I follow these steps, I will work hard to love and care for these students. I will help them either overcome or appropriately deal with their behavior problems. This is a life skill that will serve them well in the future.
The elementary school years are a vulnerable stage of life. Behaviors that become habit will likely persist into adulthood and create significant problems. Many of these behaviors can be nipped in the bud with the use of effective intervention strategies. I am confident that by providing situational assistance, using both mild and moderate responses to misbehavior, and dealing with bullying and other chronic or challenging misbehavior I can help my students learn how to demonstrate appropriate behavior in the classroom and ultimately contribute positively to society.
 The Geoboard is a tool for exploring a variety of mathematical topics introduced in the elementary and middle grades. Learners stretch bands around the pegs to form line segments and polygons and make discoveries about perimeter, area, angles, congruence, fractions, and more. (www.mathlearningcenter.org/web-apps/geoboard/)