Classroom Management Prevention Before Intervention

Classroom Management Prevention Before Intervention

I’m often asked what to do about a child or children who are misbehaving in classrooms. Teachers will say, “I’ve tried everything! I’ve ignored the behavior, given consequences, praised good behavior, and nothing works!”
I’ve found that the problem is sometimes not with the behavioral intervention but with the more basic elements of classroom management that contribute to all children’s behavior and learning. I think of these elements as prevention. Before starting any behavioral intervention it’s helpful to go back to those basics and review your classroom management strategies: Prevention before Intervention!
Here are four basics that need to be in place to prevent misbehaviors:
Procedures and Routines. Be sure that you have systematically taught the children the procedures you want them to use – no matter how specific. This might include how to push in the chairs, how to put the blocks back on the shelves, how to line up, how to put books back in the desk, how to transition to the carpet, etc. Reminders and re-teaching might be needed for all of the children to fully learn what is expected. Don’t rely on “It’s December – they should know this by now.” Just re-teach.
Building Community. Continue to incorporate activities that help the children get to know each other and care about each other. Develop classroom rules as a group. Teach children how to say kind words, what it looks like to share or to help someone, and how to make apologies-in-action. Adopt a class name, song, motto, and mascot. Create an environment in which competition is minimized and support for each other’s success is expected and acknowledged. Encourage children to congratulate each other for good answers and kind deeds. Many of the minor behaviors such as teasing, name calling, tattling, and arguing result from a lack of community-building in your class.
Positive Feedback. Learn to narrative the positive behaviors you see. Positive comments are vital so that children know definitively when they are on the right track, doing what is expected. Try tape recording or videotaping yourself and count how many positive comments you give compared to negative comments or corrections. I’d say that having three times as many positives would be a good ratio, but I’ve observed in many well-run classrooms where there are virtually all positive comments. (I’ve also observed in classroom where there are virtually no positive comments – and these classrooms invariably have disruptive behaviors). Give specific, juicy comments that give plenty of information, such as “I noticed how well you two worked together to clean up today,” rather than just “good job!”
Organization. Keep the materials in the room neat and orderly. I am amazed at the correlation I’ve seen between messy rooms and disorganized and unruly children. Teach children how to clean up, how to put away materials, and how to clean their desks. Have regular “deep cleaning” times each week. Be sure shelves are labeled and that all things have a designated place. Finally, be organized in your activities. Have all of your own materials ready ahead of time and materials organized for the children to use. Finally, consider whether the seating arrangements you are using – whether at carpet time or at desks – is really working.
Most behavioral interventions, such as those that I suggest in Helping Children with Challenging Behaviors, will not work well unless these basics are already in place.
What classroom management strategies do you consider basic for preventing misbehavior? What have worked for you?

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