Targeting Specific Behaviour Problems

If you bring to mind an individual pupil who is causing you concern by their unacceptable classroom behaviour, the chances are you begin to think about their general behaviour rather than specifics. Phrases such as:

“A constant disruption to others,”
“Seems to waste such a lot of time with silly behaviour,”
“He/she is really getting to me,”

may begin to describe your thoughts about the pupil, but they give very little relevant information about the specific behaviour problems which are causing you concern.
When thinking about an individual pupil and the associated problems, try to be objective and accurate. Use your direct knowledge of the pupil and any tracking information you may have, or which other teachers have noted, to describe the specific problems you are experiencing. Your original phrase such as “A constant disruption to others,” may then become a much clearer description of the types of behaviour the pupil is exhibiting:

“Regularly out of his/her seat”
“Calls out answers”
“Talks over anyone else who is talking”
“Fidgets with equipment, tapping pencil/ruler on desk”

Once you have a clear description of the exact problems you can begin to address the issues and start to help the pupil make some positive changes and better choices about their behaviour.

Noting specific behaviour problems will enable you to move on the next step of this staged process:

Stage 1:        Identify specific behaviour problems
Stage 2:        Meet on a one to one basis with the pupil
Stage 3:        Agree a Specific Behaviour Target Plan, inform staff and parents
Stage 4:        What will you do and what can the pupil to do, to achieve success?
Stage 5:        Implement your plan
Stage 6:        Monitor and evaluate.

Practical Tips

Stage 2 of the process is to meet with the pupil and clearly state the problem as you see it.
This meeting should be conducted calmly using the facts you have collected from your observations and tracking information.
State quite clearly why you are meeting and what the problems are i.e.

“Tracy, we are meeting today because I cannot let you keep shouting out in my classroom. It’s stopping you from working and it’s disrupting everyone else.”

If the pupil attempts to deflect the problem with comments such as:

“It’s not my fault, Marie keeps talking to me/I don’t understand the work/You never listen to me etc.”

Use a refocussing technique firstly giving a statement of understanding such as”

“Yes, I understand that,” or “That’s not the point,” etc

and then refocus on the problem by repeating your original statement.

“Yes, ok, I understand why you think that, but I cannot let you keep on shouting out in the lesson.”

Establishing the specific problem with the pupil can be a difficult step to complete but it is essential that he/she clearly understands your concerns and that you are not

picking on them
constantly nagging for no reason
refusing to listen to their side of the story

and that you are genuinely keen to help the pupil make positive changes

Once the specific problems have been stated and agreed it’s now time to move on to the next stage, that of how changes can be made, and in particular, what both you and the pupil can do to achieve these changes.

A simple target sheet may be a solution for some pupils. This would be both a monitoring system and a reminder to the pupil about what is expected. Choose a maximum of 3 targets, (remember this has to be an achievable step for the pupil) and ask all teachers to complete a simple record of the pupil in their lessons using a “did achieve” or “did not achieve” record such as a tick box. There is no need to provide space for comment, although positive comments would be very helpful! This sheet would then be monitored on a daily/weekly basis and reviewed in your next one to one meeting. Obviously flaws may arise in such a system such as losing the sheet, failure of staff to complete sheet etc. But these issues can be worked around and “tweeked” until a workable system is agreed.

The target sheet may then look something like this:

Target 1: To remain seated during the lesson (Tick if achieved)
Target 2: Not to shout out answers unless directly asked (Tick if achieved)
Target 3: To hand when attracting teachers attention (Tick if achieved)

As progress is made and targets are achieved over a period of time you can then move on to other specific behaviour targets  and thereby help the pupil to make significant changes to their overall behaviour.

Always keep in mind that although it is the pupil who is hopefully going to make the changes, it is your help, and management of the situation, and that of other members of staff and parents, that are the key elements in effecting those changes.

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