Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,728,043 articles and books

"They just won't listen to me": a teacher's guide to positive behavioral interventions.

After rounding the corner, I could hear loud voices and giggles coming from down the hall. As I drew closer, I heard a woman's voice shout, "Boys and girls boys and girls

 ... if you don't quietly begin to work, we won't go outside later." I peeked into the classroom and saw that the class was out of control.

"Miss Brown, you said that yesterday, and we still went outside," said a little girl. Just then, the teacher turned her attention to a group of students screaming loudly behind her.

"Stop it! I mean it! We won't go outside!"

Down the hallway, I heard footsteps rounding the corner. It was Mrs. Michaels, a relief aide who worked in the building. She would take charge of the class, while Miss Brown and I met to discuss the note she left in my mailbox A simulated mailbox in the computer that holds e-mail messages. Mailboxes are stored on disk as a file of messages, a database of messages or as an individual file for each message. The standard mailboxes are usually In, Out, Trash and Junk (Spam). . Without saying a word, Mrs. Michaels walked into the classroom. Suddenly, I heard a child say, "Shhhhhh ... Mrs. Michaels is here." Amazed a·maze  
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.

2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.

, I watched the children scramble To encode (encrypt) data in order to make it indecipherable without having a secret key to "unlock" it. The term came from the early days of cryptography which camouflaged analog transmissions with secret frequency patterns.  to their desks, clean up their areas, and sit quietly. With a sigh of relief, the teacher greeted Mrs. Michaels and said, "I am so glad to see you."

Later, as Miss Brown entered the faculty room to meet with me, tears welled up in her eyes as she said, "I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 what to do. I have tried everything! They just won't listen to me."

As a teacher of children with emotional and behavioral disabilities and an active member of my school's special needs pre-referral team, both general and special education teachers often ask my advice on how to handle disruptive behaviors in their classrooms. While teachers must establish their own methods of classroom management, I am often in a position to provide helpful suggestions to teachers who, like Miss Brown, are experiencing difficulties.

It has been estimated that as much as 20 percent of the school population may have some form of unidentified emotional or behavioral disorder behavioral disorder Psychiatry A disorder characterized by displayed behaviors over a long period of time which significantly deviate from socially acceptable norms for a person's age and situation ; at some point in time, nearly all children exhibit problem behaviors (Kauffman, 2005). These behaviors often interfere with the learning environment and make it nearly impossible for teaching and learning to take place until stability and control are established.

This article discusses five strategies for dealing with classroom behavior problems demonstrated in the elementary grades. While these strategies are far from exhaustive in nature, they might provide elementary teachers with ideas for more effective classroom management.

Management Strategies

Classroom Rules. One of the most powerful tools for a classroom teacher is the establishment of classroom rules. It is recommended that the whole class develop the rules and create a contract indicating the classroom rules, appropriate behaviors, and consequences for following or breaking classroom rules (Nissman, 2000). In addition to reflecting the diverse student population within the classroom (Wood, Davis, Swindle swindle v. to cheat through trick, device, false statements or other fraudulent methods with the intent to acquire money or property from another to which the swindler is not entitled. Swindling is a crime as one form of theft. (See: fraud, theft) , & Quirk quirk  
1. A peculiarity of behavior; an idiosyncrasy: "Every man had his own quirks and twists" Harriet Beecher Stowe.

, 1996), the rules also should "reflect the philosophy of fair and equal treatment and mutual respect among students" (Stainback & Stainback, 1992, p. 8).

Depending on the children's developmental levels, the teacher can either guide the children to develop and word the rules in a positive manner or request students' feedback on previously written rules using positive language. Nissan (2000) states, "A positive statement offers a goal to work toward rather than a veiled threat to avoid" (p. 20). For example, instead of using the rule "Don't speak out of turn," teacher and children could word it positively: "Raise your hand and wait for permission before speaking." Further, it is important to create a limited number of rules, preferably no more than five. As Strout (2005) argues, "When classroom expectations are too numerous, complicated, or confusing, students will have a difficult time remembering and appropriately following them in the classroom" (p. 4). When the students present numerous ideas, the teacher should try to combine the ideas to create fewer rules.

In addition to being consistent in addressing consequences when a student chooses to break a classroom rule, teachers should reinforce students who choose to follow the rules (Polloway, Patton, & Serna, 2001). When combined with the students' perception of the rules being fair, consistency in reinforcing both positive and negative consequences will result in more appropriate behaviors (Meese, 1996).

Individual Contracts. Developing an individual contract might be required when a student is having recurring re·cur  
intr.v. re·curred, re·cur·ring, re·curs
1. To happen, come up, or show up again or repeatedly.

2. To return to one's attention or memory.

3. To return in thought or discourse.
 problems (Nissman, 2000). This contract provides a systematic way for teachers to individually set' behavioral goals in which a specific behavior is identified, the type of reward is stated, and the date upon which the reward will be given is specified (Alberto & Troutman, 2003). The contract should be developed between the teacher and the student, and be based on a dialog detailing what the teacher expects, as well as on questions that the student may have. In an individual contract, it is best to focus on one problem at a time (Bauer & Shea, 1999). If too many problems are addressed in a contract, the student may feel overwhelmed o·ver·whelm  
tr.v. o·ver·whelmed, o·ver·whelm·ing, o·ver·whelms
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf: waves overwhelming the rocky shoreline.

 and display even more behavioral problems.

Positive Reinforcement positive reinforcement,
n a technique used to encourage a desirable behavior. Also called
positive feedback, in which the patient or subject receives encouraging and favorable communication from another person.
. Teachers sometimes tend to give more attention to inappropriate behaviors and devote less attention to the behaviors that they deem appropriate for the classroom. By acknowledging the inappropriate behaviors, teachers reinforce their occurrence. Therefore, in order to increase the appropriate behaviors, teachers must positively reinforce desirable classroom behaviors. This positive reinforcement will be most effective if it is delivered to the student immediately following the desired behavior (Alberto & Troutman, 2003). Generally, three types of reinforcers--social, activity and tangible reinforcers--are recommended to increase appropriate behaviors (Polloway et al., 2001).

Social reinforcers, including praise, smiles, and thumbs-up gestures, are the easiest for teachers to use. Praise, the most commonly used social reinforcer reinforcer /re·in·forc·er/ (-in-for´ser) any stimulus that produces reinforcement, a positive r. being a desirable event strengthening responses preceding its occurrence and a negative r. , should be combined with positive feedback in order to make the praise meaningful. As Wood et al. (1996) note, "Positive feedback and praise from adults are essential if the adults hope to foster a student's participation in positive ways" (p. 131).

With activity reinforcers, students earn the right to participate in a particular activity (e.g., drawing, playing a game) other than the typical ones of a school day (e.g., center time, lunch, silent reading). Thus, the appeal of these activities should be enough to motivate students to behave in certain ways (Alberto & Troutman, 2001).

Tangible reinforcers, such as food or stickers, are usually paired with social reinforcers (Polloway et al., 2001). When food is used as reinforcement reinforcement /re·in·force·ment/ (-in-fors´ment) in behavioral science, the presentation of a stimulus following a response that increases the frequency of subsequent responses, whether positive to desirable events, or , it should be both nutritional (e.g., fruit) and provided in small portions.

Planned Ignoring. Teachers should not devote a large amount of their attention to inappropriate behaviors. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, they should rely on a certain amount of "planned ignoring." Before a teacher knowingly chooses to utilize planned ignoring, however, she/he should be aware of the difficulties associated with its use and know how to replace the inappropriate behavior with a more appropriate one. First, a teacher must be consistent. Second, a teacher should identify and reinforce appropriate behaviors. For example, if a student calls out answers during a group lesson without being called upon, the teacher should ignore the student's response. When the student does raise his/her hand and wait to be called upon, the teacher should be sure to praise this behavior and provide positive feedback. Third, the rate or duration of the inappropriate behavior may increase when planned ignoring is first implemented. Nevertheless, to help eliminate the inappropriate behavior, it is important for the teacher to remain consistent. Even after the student no longer engages in the inappropriate behavior, it is possible that the behavior may temporarily recur. The teacher must continue to ignore the behavior; otherwise, the student might chose to engage in the behavior more frequently (Alberto & Troutman, 2001).

Students sometimes engage in minor misbehaviors in order to gain peers' attention. While a teacher can instruct in·struct  
v. in·struct·ed, in·struct·ing, in·structs
1. To provide with knowledge, especially in a methodical way. See Synonyms at teach.

2. To give orders to; direct.

 the other students to ignore the inappropriate behaviors, this can be difficult for young children to do. Planned ignoring should only be used when the behavior is tied to the student's desire to gain the teacher's attention.

Also, planned ignoring only should be used when the student's behavior does not have the potential to negatively affect the student's safety or the safety, of the other classmates Classmates can refer to either:
  •, a social networking website.
  • Classmates (film), a 2006 Malayalam blockbuster directed by Lal Jose, starring Prithviraj, Jayasurya, Indragith, Sunil, Jagathy, Kavya Madhavan, Balachandra Menon, ...
, staff members, or the environment (e.g., fighting, carving carving,
n the shaping and forming with instruments.
 into furniture, poking others). If the behavior has not been identified as a safety concern (e.g., pencil tapping, talking without being called on, and interrupting adult conversations), then the teacher can further analyze the behavior to identify what is prompting it and make a final decision as to whether or not to implement planned ignoring.

Redirection Diverting data from their normal destination to another; for example, to a disk file instead of the printer, or to a server's disk instead of the local disk. See virtual directory, symbolic link, shortcut, redirector and DOS redirection.

. One of the most underutilized management strategies is redirection. Wood et al. (1996) define redirection as helping a student "choose a more acceptable behavior." When a teacher notices a child engaged in an activity that only makes the student increasingly frustrated frus·trate  
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart:
 or has the potential to become worse, the teacher can use redirection to prevent inappropriate behaviors or decrease the escalation es·ca·late  
v. es·ca·lat·ed, es·ca·lat·ing, es·ca·lates
To increase, enlarge, or intensify: escalated the hostilities in the Persian Gulf.

 of inappropriate behaviors. Further, redirection can be used to help students regain control of their behaviors or prevent the escalation of behaviors by redirecting their energies away from the problem.

A teacher can guide the student back to the activity by asking questions and offering assistance. For example, a teacher may notice that a student is becoming frustrated while trying to put a puzzle together, suddenly pushing the puzzle to the floor. The teacher may ask the student if he tried to find the outside pieces first, then help the student by picking the outside pieces off the floor and putting them together. By doing this, the teacher might motivate the student and give him new ways of solving the problem. Another way of redirecting students' behavior is by temporarily taking them away from the activity or situation that has the potential to cause them stress. For example, a teacher may notice that two students are engaged in a conversation during breakfast and that one of the students appears to be upset. The teacher could ask the student to run an errand To perform an errand .

See also: Errand
, clean the boards, water the plants, or pass out papers. By doing this, the student is removed from the stressful situation and engaged in a constructive activity, which provides time to calm down.

Final Thoughts

Teachers are encouraged to seek out other strategies that they can use to address discipline problems. Further valuable information can be obtained through other teachers, teacher's assistants, personal care aides, building administrators, and, most important, from the students themselves. Strategies that may work with one group of students may not work as effectively with another group; therefore, individualized in·di·vid·u·al·ize  
tr.v. in·di·vid·u·al·ized, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·ing, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·es
1. To give individuality to.

2. To consider or treat individually; particularize.

 treatment of the behavioral problem is essential. In addition, teachers should continuously readjust re·ad·just  
tr.v. re·ad·just·ed, re·ad·just·ing, re·ad·justs
To adjust or arrange again.

 their approaches to make strategies more responsive to their students" diverse needs.

Recommended Resources

* About.Inc--http://specialed. and_Discipline_Strategies.htm

* Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children With Challenging Behavior--http://

* Education Reform--

* National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities NICHCY, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities operates as the nation's centralized information resource on disabilities and special education for children and youth ages birth through 21 years.  (NICHY)


Alberto, P. A., & Troutman, A. C. (2003). Applied behavior analysis Some of the information in this article may not be verified by . It should be checked for inaccuracies and modified to cite reliable sources.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
 for teachers (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River Saddle River may refer to:
  • Saddle River, New Jersey, a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey
  • Saddle River (New Jersey), a tributary of the Passaic River in New Jersey
, NJ: Prentice Hall Prentice Hall is a leading educational publisher. It is an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc., based in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA. Prentice Hall publishes print and digital content for the 6-12 and higher education market. History
In 1913, law professor Dr.

Bauer, A. M., & Shea, T. M. (1999). Inclusion 101: How to teach all learners. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Kauffman, J. M. (2005). Characteristics of emotional and behavioral disorders Emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) is a broad category which is used commonly in educational settings, to group a range of more specific perceived difficulties of children and adolescents.  of children and youth. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Meese, R. L. (1996). Strategies for teaching students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Pacific Grove Pacific Grove, residential and resort city (1990 pop. 16,117), Monterey co., W central Calif., on a point where Monterey Bay meets the Pacific Ocean; inc. 1889. , CA: Brooks/ Cole Publishing.

Nissman, B. S. (2000). Teacher-tested classroom management strategies. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Polloway, E. A., Patton, J. R., & Serna, L. (2001). Strategies for teaching learners with special needs (7th ed,). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stainback, S., & Stainback, W. (Eds.). (1992). Curriculum considerations in inclusive classrooms: Facilitating learning for all students. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Strout, M. (2005). Positive behavioral support at the classroom level: Considerations and strategies. Beyond Behavior, 14(2), 3-8.

Wood, M. M., Davis, K. R., Swindle, F. L., & Quirk, C. (1996). Developmental therapy-developmental teaching: Fostering social-emotional competence in troubled children and youth (3rd ed.). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Lisa A. Rafferty is a special education doctoral candidate, Department of Learning and Instruction, State University of New York (body) State University of New York - (SUNY) The public university system of New York State, USA, with campuses throughout the state.  at Buffalo.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved.
david ryan murray (Member):  3/29/2010 10:51 PM
This is rather ironic to read. As for me it is switched around, the teacher won't listen to me! She says some things that make no sense, I try to tell her, but she plays dumb and shoos me away. When she knows shes wrong she won't admit it. On top of that my teacher is a sexist. Girls get advantages and shortcuts galore, and she acts as if we don't notice. She thinks I should respect her more, when she doesn't respect me. I'm the only person in my class who has gotten an all A honor roll. I have done countless arguments with her simply to get her to look at my idea. I will set the line of disobedience, but many things are because of the following:

1. Biased teacher
2. Teacher won't listen

This causes much stress and builds up anger in the students, giving them no reason to obey or respect her. As far as the respect thing, well, the first 1 or 2 weeks of school I've always thought "this is the best teacher ever!", as days go by, she shows her true colors, then it's just a slope. Not only that, but my teachers ability to handle problems is sub-par. To be frank with you, this whole year has been sub-par. Funny though, it seems that, the better the teacher the better the grades for me. I have always gotten A honor rolls, so there is not much variation there, but still. 3rd grade was my favorite year, and well well, what do you know, the only grade school year with all A 's. Sometimes the teachers are so focused on themselves, they forget about the students. I will say though. Being strict does work, my gym teacher was extremely strict, hence the less disobedience and goofing off. That works, except those teachers get lots of talk behind there back.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:teaching strategies
Author:Rafferty, Lisa A.
Publication:Childhood Education
Date:Dec 22, 2007
Previous Article:Children and their purple crayons: understanding their worlds through their drawings.
Next Article:America's next top model: parent behaviors that promote reading.

Related Articles
Early Intervention Needs of Children At Risk Due to Prenatal Drug Exposure: A Survey of Early Childhood Educators.
A positive learning environment approach to middle school instruction.
Altering the inappropriate comments of a student with multiple disabilities.
Using positive behavior supports in EBD settings.
"No! I won't!" Understanding and responding to student defiance.
Two counseling interventions to reduce teacher-child relationship stress.
Corwin Press.
Corwin Press.
A preliminary assessment of teachers' implementation of pivotal response training.
Interventions for students with ADHD.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters