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New Teacher Assist Home


Teaching: The First Weeks and Beyond

Classroom Organization

Classroom Managment

Developing Instructional Routines

Handling Disruptive Students

Discipline in Specific Situations

Encouraging Cooperations

Grading and Report Cards

Parent Conferences

Building a Professional Image

Preparing for a Substitute

Dealing with Dangerous Students

Links to Professional Resources

Improving Teaching: Tips and Standards

Good Advice from Montana Teachers

Advice about Your Employment

Managing Your Money

MEA-MFT Contacts


Handling Disruptive Students

When individual students continue to act out in spite of preventive measures, it becomes necessary to use interventions to reshape behavior. The following suggested interventions are good first steps in working with disruptive students:


Social skills training - Many children who misbehave simply have never been taught how to behave. They have problems developing friendships and meeting adult expectations. Teaching social skills helps them develop good relationships with other children and adults. Social skills training should involve the following three steps:


1. Model or show the students how to perform the skill or good behavior that you expect.


2.  Practice: allow the students to practice using the skill through role-playing situations.


3.   Reinforce acceptable performance by letting students know how well they are performing the skill or behavior in question.


Enhancing positive behavior - Catching students doing good things can be much more productive for overall classroom discipline than simply apprehending rule offenders.


When students act appropriately, we want to increase that behavior. Rewards from adults (both tangible and intangible) can be meaningful in these situations and have a powerful effect on behavior.


Be careful however: typically the older a student is, public praise for behavior from teachers can lead to negative peer attention. Keep some compliments and praise confidential - through a note on an assignment or a quick individual interaction before or after class.‹


The following rules for behavior enhancement have proven to be effective: 

  • Specifically define the behavior being rewarded.

  • Determine and give reinforcements individually if necessary - especially for older students (middle school and high school).

  • There are no reinforcers that are rewards for everyone - i.e. if you throw out praise to everyone, it won't be meaningful for individual behavior modification.

  • Use tangible rewards (stickers, stars, etc.) when appropriate, but accompany with intangible rewards such as praise.

  • Always work to diminish dependency on tangible rewards. 

Reducing negative behavior - The opposite side of the behavior enhancement coin is behavior reduction. It is not always possible to reduce negative behavior by rewarding acceptable behavior. Once antisocial behavior patterns are set, they may be difficult to change. In these instances, it may be necessary to combine behavior enhancement with behavior reduction techniques.


Develop a hierarchy of consequences


While the "three strikes, you're out” policy has its problems, the notion of a hierarchy of consequences can be effective. A typical hierarchy of consequences in successful classrooms includes:


Consequence 1 - signaled by a direct "look” from the adult in charge, or by a step that brings the adult nearer to the student.

Consequence 2 - consequence might be a verbal warning or reminder that the behavior is unacceptable.

Consequence 3
- in-class "time-out” from immediate activity for a specified length of time or a change of student's location in classroom for closer observation or to remove from distractions.

Consequence 4
- Conference with the student to discover cause and reinforce acceptable behavior.

Consequence 5
- Notification of building administrator.

Consequence 6
- Contacting the parent or guardian.

Consequence 7
- Extended time-out or suspension


Direct punishments such as after-school detention, withdrawal of classroom privileges, or direct verbal admonishment should be used only rarely -- and only in connection with efforts to teach and enhance more desirable social skills.


Behavior management techniques to avoid


The following behavior management techniques usually have the opposite of the intended effect. They can alienate students, make communications more difficult, or escalate problem behavior:

  • Forcing students to do something that is impossible for them to do at that time.

  • Ridiculing or making fun of the student.

  • Forcing a student to admit having lied, especially in public.

  • Demanding a confession from a student.

  • Asking students why they act out (when you know they do not understand their own behaviors).

  • Making disapproving personal comments about students or their families.

  • Comparing one student's anti-social behavior with another student's behavior.

  • Aggressively confronting a student in public or private.

  • Yelling at a student.

  • Engaging in verbal battles with a student.

  • Making unrealistic threats.