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How to Manage Students With Behavioral Problems

One of the issues that pops up for every teacher every year is classroom management. You can know the curriculum fully and prepare the most detailed lesson plans in the world, but if your classroom management skills are insufficient, then it could be difficult for students to focus, learn and retain the information you teach.

As with any teaching strategy, behavior management can be trial and error, and what works for some students may not work for others. However, there are some generic strategies you can implement in your classroom to help curtail behavior management problems.

Rules and Procedures

From the second the first bell rings on the first day of school, students should begin following your classroom rules and procedures. Keep rules to a minimum — somewhere between three and five rules — and keep them generic enough to encompass a variety of disruptive behaviors.

For example, “be prepared” can encompass both bringing the right supplies as well as completed homework; “be polite” can encompass any disrespectful behavior in the classroom, whether directed at the teacher or at fellow students. In the beginning, students will need constant reminders of the rules in your classroom.

Procedures are equally as important. Decide even before school begins how you want to run your classroom. Do you want students to raise their hands before getting out of their seats? How do you want them to leave the classroom when the bell rings? How do you want to collect student work? May students ask you a question in the middle of a lecture?

All of these situations (and many more) are likely to arise in your classroom. To prepare for these situations, take a little time each day to practice various procedures in the classroom. After a few weeks (or even a month or two), the procedures will to sink in, and your classroom will run more smoothly.

Problem Students

Even with the best rules and procedures in place, some behavioral problems will likely arise throughout the year. The most experienced teacher with impeccable behavior management can still struggle with a few students who make teaching difficult.

For those situations, first try to figure out the root of the behavior problem. Is the student normally fine but struggling with some personal problems outside of the classroom? Does the student understand the material? Is he or she acting out because of frustration? Or is the student bored in class? Is there a documented (special education) behavior problem? Is the student social and overly talkative with his or her friends in class? Once you determine the cause of the behavior, finding a solution is much easier.

Sometimes the solution can be as easy as moving the problem student away from distractions, whether it is away from friends or closer to the front of the class. If a student cannot seem to sit still or has a lot of energy, give him or her a chance to stand in the back of the room or walk around. As long as the student is not distracting others, this could work off some excess energy.

If these solutions do not address all of the challenges in your classroom, don’t be afraid to reach out to other teachers or counselors for ideas — or even to speak with your students directly. Reaching out to parents can also be beneficial. If you approach parents as partners who want to help their children succeed, then everyone can work together to generate ideas to improve behavior.

Special Education Students With Behavioral Problems

If special education students in your classroom exhibit behavior problems, it is important to hold them to the same rules and procedures as your general education students but in a manner that adheres to special education needs and accommodations.

One item you must read and understand before school begins is the special education students’ IEPs, or individualized education programs. Those documents will inform you about students’ struggles, goals and behavior plans. If a student does not have a behavior intervention plan (BIP), then you can discipline the student as you do other students in class.

However, if a BIP is in place, then you must follow its procedures. For example, BIPs include steps to deescalate behavioral situations and, sometimes, offer alternative solutions. When working with special education students, a useful teacher resource is their special education case manager, from whom you can seek guidance.

Classroom management can be one of the more difficult aspects of teaching to master. Sometimes it can take years for teachers to feel comfortable with their management skills. Setting rules and practicing procedures from day one can be vital to starting the year off with a well-managed classroom.

Learn more about the Columbus State online M.Ed. in Special Education program.


Intervention Central: How To: Handle Common Classroom Problem Behaviors Using a Behavior Management Menu

Scholastic: Five Persistent Behavior Problems and How to Handle Them (Grades 6-8)

Special Education Guide: The Behavior Issues Guide: How to Respond, Prevent, De-Escalate Effectively

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