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How to Approach Behavior Problems in Class

How to Approach Behavior Problems in Class

" Even though problem behaviors may look different, often the motives behind them are one and the same. "

Kit Richert, Ph.D.

From elementary to high school, managing behavior is by far the most difficult part of being a teacher. Problem behaviors come in a variety of forms, from a young child hitting to a teenager disrupting your lesson. Children also come to school with a variety of emotional and life challenges, which may make their problem behaviors seem complex and difficult to correct. However, behavior problems and appropriate interventions can be discovered readily when the function of the behavior is explored. Follow these steps and you’ll gain a great deal of clarity on your problem and what intervention to create!

Note: Before reading these steps, pick a case example from your class of a student with behavior problems. As you read, go through the process of behavior planning with your case.

Step 1: Make a list of your student’s behavior problems. Be as concrete as possible about what the behaviors look like.

DO list things that are observable: (ex: Jenny blurts out during class).

DO NOT list things that are unobservable or emotion based: (ex: Jenny is annoying).

Step 2: Select 1 or 2 Target Behaviors (the one’s you want to correct) and the frequency (how often) they occur. Use your real life example.

Look at your list and select ONLY 1 or 2 target behaviors; the one’s that are the most problematic to the learning of the student or others in the class. Many children will have multiple problems behaviors but behavior management will only be effective with 1 or 2 at a time.

Once you have selected the behaviors, make sure you have appropriately described (1) what they look like (what you see and hear in class) and (2) and how often they occur (1x/week, 3x/day). These observables are important to document as a behavior baseline so you will be able to measure improvement.

Step 3: Brainstorm and list any and all triggers of the behavior. Use your real life example.

Where does the student’s behavior occur?

• On the playground?

• PE class?

• School bus?

• Classroom?

When does the student’s behavior occur?
• Morning?

• After Lunch?

• During all academic subjects or 1 subject only?

• During group work?


Even though problem behaviors may look different, often the motives behind them are one and the same.

• During transitions?

• Beginning seat work?

• During writing activities?

Brainstorm and list whom (if anyone) the child have difficulties with?
• Teachers?

• Classmates?

• Girls only?

• Administration?

• PE teacher?

• All authority figures?

• Weaker or younger students?

Continue reading on the next page.

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