What Happens When Students Ignore or Do Not to Follow the Classroom Expectations?

Although a classroom management plan emphasizes classroom management's role in preventing inappropriate and off-task behavior and maximizing instruction, what happens when positive reinforcement does not foster the appropriate classroom behavior and inappropriate or off-task behavior continues? It must be handled promptly to deter its continuation and to redirect behavior to learning. These behaviors should be dealt with directly and without overreaction. In classrooms, a calm reasoned response to inappropriate or off-task behavior is more productive and less likely to result in confrontations with students (Everton & Emmer, 2009).

Unfortunately, many teachers use the principal or discipline coordinator for all misbehavior, but this approach relinquishes control to the administrator and decreases respect and control for the teacher. Effective teachers understand that misbehavior occurs in levels and not all misbehavior requires the same consequence. What is problem behavior? It is easier and more manageable to categorize behavior.

Examples of non-problems are some talk during transitions, short periods of daydreaming and pauses while working that are short in duration, do not interrupt instruction, and do not distract others. Correction would take more energy, would interrupt instruction, and would distract from the positive classroom (Evertson & Emmer, 2009). Deciding to correct or not correct in these situations is sometimes called "picking your battles."

Minor problems run counter to the classroom expectations but do not, when occurring, disrupt the class or interfere with learning. Examples might include calling out, leaving seat without permission, doing unrelated work, or eating snacks. These behaviors are minor irritants as long as they are infrequent, brief in duration and only involve one or two students. If these behaviors are ignored, they may spread to other students or additional behaviors or indicate that the teacher is not consistent in enforcing expectations or procedures. They also might affect learning if they persist.

Another category is major problems that are limited in scope or effects. These behaviors interrupt the activity or disrupt learning, but are limited to one or a few students not acting in concert. Examples include students who are consistently off-task, who do not complete assignments, who fail to follow expectations, and engage in more serious behavior.

Escalating or spreading problems include minor problems that increase in frequency or number of students involved. Escalating problems constitute a threat to instruction and order in the classroom. When students roam around the classroom and interrupt learning of other students, this causes the classroom system to break down and interfere with instruction goals.

The ideal strategy for dealing with behavior in the class is one that addresses and restores order immediately without interrupting the positive learning environment, that prevents repetition of the problem, and results in appropriate behavior. Although decisions on interventions require prompt responses, it should not deter the teacher from seeking alternative strategies and creating a repertoire of strategies to use in problem situations.

Minor interventions include the use of nonverbal cues and include making eye contact with the student, giving a signal such as putting a finger to the lips, or a hand signal to desist. A light touch on the shoulder or arm helps to signal the teacher's presence and has a calming effect. As a caution, never touch a student in anger because it can escalate the situation.

When there is no focus for attention, students tend to talk, leave their seats, shuffle restlessly, and amuse themselves or each other while waiting. Getting the activity moving often serves to refocus students and prevent behavior problems. This requires careful lesson planning that encourages high student involvement and attention to the lesson.

Simply standing near students using proximity control with nonverbal cues can stop inappropriate behavior without interrupting instruction. Move away when desired behavior is demonstrated. Group alerting tends to draw students back into instruction.

Commenting on the behavior or requirements of group participation goals tends to draw students back when attention wanes.

Redirecting behavior serves as a reminder to off-task students and reminds them of the expected expectations. Examples include: "Each group should be looking for four causes of the depression"; "Everyone should have three ideas listed at this point in the lesson"; "I appreciate the groups that are working quietly." If the behavior involves only one or two students, a private redirection is appropriate.

Sometimes students who do not know what or how to complete the activity can be off-task. Monitoring of student work and asking questions can keep students focused and clear misconceptions. Making eye contact and offering a brief desist by telling students to stop the undesirable behavior is another minor intervention. Desist messages should be brief followed by monitoring until the desired behavior occurs.

Offering students a choice to discontinue inappropriate behavior or face consequences is another minor intervention. Offering the consequences as a choice involves the students in taking responsibility for their own action.

Moderate interventions are more confrontational than limited interventions and have a greater potential for resistance. It is desirable to intervene at a point when students can correct their own behavior rather than allowing misbehavior to continue.

Moderate interventions include the following ideas:

Withholding a privilege or desired activity (allowing students to work in groups, freedom to move around the class, choosing a place to work) for students who abuse the privilege is a form of punishment, but it usually has fewer side effects than more aversive punishment.

Removing or isolating students who disrupt instruction is an additional intervention. Having study carrels with sides or an isolated desk provides a place for students to work without removing them from instruction. Some schools allow students to be placed in the hallway for isolation and some do not. Check with the school to see what is acceptable. Concerns about isolation include: some students find it a reward, students may refuse to go to isolation, or students are identified as excludable and may result in them being labeled. If students refuse to go to isolation, they may be given the choice of isolation or meeting with the discipline coordinator/ principal.

Using a penalty that can be administered quickly may be required in some situations. If the penalty requires extra work in the content area, the penalty may cause students to dislike the content area. If penalties are assessed too often, they distract from the positive learning climate.

Another step in moderate interventions is to assign detention usually at lunch, at recess, and before or after school.

This consequence should not be confused with school detention. Detention is often used for misbehavior related to time, repeated misbehavior, or behavior that interrupts the learning of others. The time does not have to be lengthy and should be commensurate with the age of the student. It is usually supervised by the classroom teacher. Because most students do not like detention, it may be a deterrent to inappropriate behavior.

The final step in moderate interventions is a school office referral. It has advantages. It is an effective limit for some students who do not respond to other approaches. It does not take much of the teacher's time except to complete the appropriate paperwork. Disadvantages of office referrals include: the usefulness of the referral is dependent on the person in the office; referrals can be discriminatory; and, it requires external support for in-class problems (Evertson & Emmer, 2009).

Communicating the classroom management plan with consequences attached to the discipline coordinator or principal helps the teacher and the school administrator work together to solve classroom problems. Consequences should be posted in the classroom and should be sent to parents at the first of the school year. For more student buy-in, involve students in developing the consequences for inappropriate behavior. Including a discussion of how and when parents will receive communication of behavior connects the parents and the school in a partnership for success.


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