What do you do when students misbehave in class?

Hello again. Listening to a radio show about how to deal with the misbehaving student(s) in the class made me want to ask you, my reader, what do  you do?

The four-person panel had a variety of suggestions as to how to handle  disruption  in the class. The host asked about dismissing the student, either to the hall, or the office, or even a home suspension, and all agreed this is more of a reward than punishment. Also, if the misbehavior is due to not understanding the material being taught, it is better to keep the student in the room. I tend to agree that most students I have taught that disrupt in the class are doing so because they do not understand the material being taught. Misbehavior can be for any number of reasons though, from not understanding, to emotional difficulties, or even medical reasons. Each student can bring a different reason, so figuring out what is causing the misbehavior is the first step in the process of stopping it.  So what do we do? – the big question without an easy answer.  I like the idea of speaking quietly to the student and telling him/her that I will be over to explain the work to them once I get everyone going, and in the meantime I need them to be listening and thinking of questions so when I get to them they can ask me to explain what they do not understand. Good luck with this one!  Sometimes asking a student to pinpoint what part they do not understand works, but often I find they do not want to wait until I am ready and they continue disrupting others.  I do not like bargaining with students as I do not want to have a power struggle. I am the grown up, so I show them how to do something other than act out when they are at a loss. (try to keep calm and use a calm voice when talking) Provide a tool kit of sorts so the student has some options of what they can do if they do not know how to do what is being asked of them.  One of the ideas suggested on the radio program was to have a signal that the student can use to indicate they need help, and you can nod acknowledgment.  Then the student can wait patiently while you finish what you are doing, knowing help is on the way. Having the freedom to go ahead and do other (home)work or read a book quietly while they wait for you are good ways to avoid disruptions.  Another  idea suggested was to set rules from the beginning of the school year that will prevent the behaviour from happening in the first place. Again, I am sure we all do this with good intentions, however, often pre-set rules do not prevent poor choices.  A third  suggestion was that you have the students regroup physically, as in get into new groups, move their chairs to a new classroom location to better accommodate their learning needs. This is an interesting idea and I do recall working with a grade three teacher that had new groupings throughout the day, depending on what subject she was teaching. She would assess students at the beginning of the year, prior to winter break, and then prior to spring break.  She had grouped the desks and the students would get into the group according to subject. She had a color coded chart on the wall that matched the desk groupings and would post the students names so they knew where to go.  I think this would work well with mathematics, and English language arts. (primary cores) Eventually it got easier as the students got use to the routine and it allowed everyone to work with each other – instead of the same kids all the time working on things in the same groups. They were not aware of how they were grouped, but it seemed to work, and she had a well behaved class (as far as I know). This seems like a good idea, but it would mean a little moving around throughout day (which could be a plus)and you need a place for them to store all their binders – maybe she had tubs for their binders and any text books needed were stored on a shelf and handed out as needed. This might work – I haven’t had a chance yet to try it. Another suggestion was build good relationships with your students.  As challenging as some students are we need to provide support for every student, help them experience success, and make them feel like a worthy part of the classroom community. If you are new, or the student is new, try to find out through writing or class discussions what students are interested in. You could do a survey for math class of who likes specific activities (percentages/fractions/decimals) and use it to get to know your class. Another idea was to offer a choice, “You can sit on the blue chair or the red chair.” A choice promotes some feeling of control and it may help to calm some students when they feel they have a say in what they get to do. Finally,  and an excellent suggestion, is that the school has a same-language policy throughout. This promotes behavior expectations from the youngest to the oldest classes throughout the school. Once the student learns the rules in, say kindergarten, they are the same basic rules for the entire school. All teachers use the same language and terms so that students always know expectations. Of course as they get older, the rules may be more detailed and provide some options, but the basic terminology is a school-wide effort.  Solidarity among the staff is important for the students to see, feel and live. A caring environment, where the rules and expectations are clear will help provide stability and routine so that students can concentrate on academics. Good luck and I would love to hear any additional tips or advice on keeping the classroom a safe, caring environment for all learners. Yours in Education, Miss MacTavish.

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