Ms. Rollison has a comprehensive behavior management plan in place. Why isn’t it working for all of her students?
Page 1: Introduction
Today’s classrooms are increasingly diverse. Because educational reforms have resulted in more inclusive classroom settings and have increased teacher accountability, it is critical that teachers identify efficient, effective strategies for supporting students who exhibit challenging behaviors.
A comprehensive behavior management plan for the classroom is an essential first step for any teacher. A good plan can prevent a great many misbehaviors from occurring. However, even the best of plans may not be enough to prevent problem behaviors from students who:
Are experiencing temporary stressors in their lives (e.g., divorce, death in the family)
Can be considered at-risk (e.g., high poverty background, linguistically diverse)
Have certain disabilities (e.g., emotional or behavioral disorders, learning disabilities)
Click the movie frame to view a classroom situation that is stressful for both the teacher and the students and that results in lost learning time for everyone. The content presented in this module will help teachers to understand and prevent situations like this (time: 1:52).
Teacher: Okay, today in class we are going to do three things. The first thing I want you to do, on the yellow sheet of paper, is to write a journal entry. And as we studied about the Aztec culture, I want you to think about what was of interest to you personally, and write for a few minutes on what you recall that was really interesting to you about the Aztec culture. And just as soon as you’re finished with that, move on to the worksheet about the Mayan culture, and then we’ll have a closing activity where we share some of this information at the end of the class. So go with that and get started.
Mark: (Makes a disruptive noise.) Whoa!
Teacher: Mark, that’s enough.
Mark: (Makes another disrupting noise.) Whoa!
Teacher: Mark, this has got to stop. You’re just acting like a baby.
Mark: Don’t call me a baby. I’m not a baby, and this is boring!
Teacher: You think this is boring; well, let’s see how boring detention is this afternoon. (She begins to write out a detention slip.) I think…
Mark: You can’t give me detention! You’re stupid!
Teacher: Well let’s…let’s just see how stupid I am. You take this (she hands the detention slip to Mark,) and I’m going to have Mrs. Williams come and get you. Come on up here.
Mark: No way! (Mark knocks over his desk as he storms angrily to the door. When he reaches the door, he sighs.)
(The vice-principal, Mrs. Williams, arrives.)
Mrs. Williams: Come on, Mark.
Teacher (to Mrs. Williams): He just needs to spend some time in detention.
Teacher: (She begins to tidy up mess that Mark made and addresses the students.): Go ahead and write, kids. Keep working. Don’t let that bother you.
Kathleen Lane of the University of Kansas and Joe Wehby of Vanderbilt University are currently implementing a range of school-based interventions in elementary and high-school classrooms. Listen as they talk about a student they observed while working as behavior specialists and how the information in this module can help you to avoid similar situations.
Joe Wehby, PhD Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tennessee
One example of how not recognizing a trigger, or the early phase of the acting-out cycle, could lead to problem behavior—I saw an example of this when I was working in a classroom for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. The teacher had called us in to ask for assistance in working with a particular child who she said was having difficulty interacting with his classroom peers. When we began our observations, it was clear that that wasn’t the case. The cycle looked like this: The student was asked to do some academic work during math time. During that introductory stage, the student became very fidgety, was looking around, easily off-task by any definition. Shortly after instruction was presented, the teacher gave the student the worksheet to do independently. Subsequently, the student would take the worksheet and walk back to his desk. And on his way back to his desk, he would start an argument with a peer; he would hit a peer; he would knock some materials off a classmate’s desk. And it was clear that the problem was not that the student was having difficulty with peers, as the teacher originally thought. The student was upset about the academic work that was too difficult for him to do. So, instead of recognizing those early signs when she was beginning instruction, the teacher ignored those signs, and, as a result, the behavior escalated from minor fidgeting or off-task behavior to a fairly intense negative interaction with his peers. So I think if the teacher had recognized those early signs, some preventative strategies could have been implemented, such as providing more assistance, more information about the academic task, perhaps reducing the demands placed on the student. But, unfortunately, the teacher did not recognize the signs early enough and as a result the student had a history of fairly negative interactions with his classmates.
Transcript: Kathleen Lane, PhD
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to be a behavioral specialist, and my function was to train teachers on new information about how to manage misbehavior and promote strong behavior, appropriate behavior, in the classroom and go out and provide teachers with additional support for students who weren’t responding to their current classroom management techniques. And this one day just sticks out in my mind pretty clearly that there is this teacher in a middle school, in a self-contained special education classroom, and the teacher was finishing her lunch at her desk and then was passing out all these papers back to the children in the class, and I was there to observe this one child. And he got all his papers back, and there was a red line through every single problem on every single worksheet. And then she said, “Now as soon as you get all these corrected, then you can go to the assembly this afternoon. But if you don’t get them corrected, you can’t go to the assembly.” And then she went and sat back down. So he raises his hand and says, “I need some help on this. I’ve got all these wrong.” He was obviously upset. And she said, “You just need to try harder.” And he’s like, “I can’t do this.” And she said, “Well, you are just going to have to try,” and resumes eating her lunch. Finally, he’s escalating in his voice and he’s on the verge of tears, and then he stands up, rips up all the papers and throws them at her in a million little pieces and says, “Hello! If I can’t do one, I can’t do five hundred. Somebody needs to teach me!” which I thought was pretty profound. Now, obviously, he got in trouble for that response. Then I had the chance to take him aside. We took one of the problems that we found on one of the torn up pieces, and it was all subtracting across 0. So he didn’t understand the concept if it was 501 minus 199; he didn’t know what to do if there was a 0 in the 10s place. So it was one simple correction, and then he was able to do all the rest of them. And he actually got all five worksheets done, was able to go to the assembly, but he had also earned a detention along the way. And it really bothered me because his behavior went from 0 to 60 when it really didn’t need to. If she had had some precorrection plan in place for managing students’ errors then none of that would have happened.
By working through this module, you’ll learn the different phases of the acting-out cycle. Using this information, you will be able to prevent many instances of “peak” behavioral problems as well as cope more effectively when behavioral issues do arise.