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Best Behavior

4 steps for getting better behavior from students.


Are you noticing an increase in bad behavior since COVID? You’re not alone. Educators everywhere are witnessing an uptick in problematic behavior since the pandemic. After years of remote learning and upheaval, students are having trouble with self-control and working with peers.

How should you deal with difficult behavior in your classroom? What steps can you take to address challenging behavior without losing instructional time?

In her course, “Behavior Management and Intervention,” Lorna DeSantis, an ELT instructor and member of the Adirondack Central School Retired Teachers Association, helps teachers key into why students are acting out – and what to do about it.

Here, she shares tips for how to get your students back on track:

1 - Find the why.

Understanding why students act out is crucial to stopping it, said DeSantis. Observe the student carefully to try to figure out the root cause of their misbehavior. Are they disengaged? Are they avoiding work? Are they trying to gain attention? Once you understand the motivation behind this behavior, you can pinpoint a solution that’s really going to make a difference.

2 - Create an intervention plan.

Once you’ve isolated the issues at play for the student, you can create an action plan for how to deal with them. Your action plan should include replacement behaviors - that is, different, less disruptive ways for the student to get their needs met. For instance, if a student frequently talks out of turn, help them learn to start raising their hand. If they are prone to aggressive behavior, teach them to use calming behaviors or help them locate a safe place to go to calm down.

3 - Reinforce good behavior.

Encourage replacement behavior by providing clear instructions, modeling it for students, and praising them when they do it correctly. Remember, this is a new skill just like any other and requires lots of practice to master.

4 - Prevention, not punishment.

Avert bad behavior before it starts by setting clear expectations and creating an environment that supports those expectations. Treat students fairly and consistently. Arrange your classroom in a way that facilitates the behavior you want from students; keep the room orderly and make sure that there are clear processes outlined for daily tasks.

ELT coursework is offered year-round and can be used for undergraduate, graduate and in-service credit as well as to fulfill Continuing Teacher and Leader Education requirements. For more information, go to