5 Ways To Prevent Challenging Behaviour In The Classroom
‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’
It is an old adage but a useful one especially when dealing with student behaviour.
I also really like the gladiator motto which may be viewed as even more appropriate for the classroom!
‘The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle’
Much off-task, disruptive behaviour can be avoided when you put your efforts into positive, proactive strategies that provide clear boundaries and supports for all students.
When you teach students with challenging behaviour, prevention is your most effective tool.
1. Get to know your student
Build a positive relationship with the student by getting to know their interests, their strengths and background.
You could use the 2×10 strategy of spending 2 minutes with the student for 10 consecutive days just chatting about whatever interests them.
This strategy is effective simply because the teacher is giving their time and attention to the student.
Often this is just what the student needs and wants but they lack the skills to access it in appropriate ways.
2. Get to know their triggers
When you observe a student’s behaviour and notice patterns, you can reduce their exposure to certain triggers.
For example, if you know that Jo swears, rips up the paper and refuses to complete her work when you give her a maths worksheet, then it doesn’t make sense to keep giving her the maths worksheet.
What it means is that you need to find another way to work with Jo.
Perhaps you get the rest of the class working and then you approach her and offer help with the work.
Maybe you get her to complete her maths work on a device rather than on paper.
She could also work with a peer, rather than working independently.
Anxiety levels (and consequently difficult behaviours) are reduced for many students when they are able to work cooperatively with a partner or group.
3. Act sooner rather than later
When a student is displaying low level behaviours, teachers can often mistakenly choose to ignore the behaviour in the hope that it reduces.
In some circumstances this is appropriate, but with students who can become escalated, this is not always the best course of action.
If you know that a student’s low-level behaviours indicate that they are stressed, take the opportunity to offer them an alternative such as going for a walk, having a drink or going to a calm space in the classroom.
Ideally, this is part of your agreed plan and they know that they are not in any trouble, but that they can access a strategy that will help them calm.
When they are ready, they can re-join the class.
4. Make a plan
Use your knowledge of the student as well as information from other teachers and the student’s parents or carers to design a plan to help the student access the learning more effectively.
Include the student in discussions about how you can best assist them, give them unobtrusive ways to ask for help and find out what rewards or incentives are meaningful to them.
List the behaviours that indicate when the student is calm, when they are beginning to become agitated and what a crisis looks like for them.
Describe what you will do to respond at each stage.
Teach the student about the plan so that they know exactly what will happen at every level and ensure that other staff members understand what you are doing.
For example, executive staff will need to know that part of the plan is the student walking to get a drink, and that if they see the student out of the classroom, they are not required to reprimand the student or send them back to class.
4. Enlist support
Every child in the school is a shared responsibility. Just because a student is in your class does not mean that you have sole care.
The most effective use of support from others is the provision of a safe space for the student to access before they become heightened.
For example, a student may visit a classroom teacher with whom they have a good relationship to give them a brain or movement break and to have positive interactions.
If you know that a student can work till 10 am and then becomes agitated, it makes sense to schedule a break at 9.50 am rather than waiting for the signs of stress to show.
Include parents or carers in your plan so that they can give the same messages at home and so that the student understands that you are working together to help them.
Preventing challenging behaviour may be additional work to begin with but your efforts will be rewarded in the long term and any strategies you employ to support one student can also be a learning opportunity for your other students.
(Source of images: http://www.risd.org)