Last Chance Strategies Improve Student Behavior When All Else Fails


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Last Chance

Strategies to Improve Student Behavior

What to Do When Nothing Else Has Worked




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While we have a good size group coming to Seattle on May 2-3, 2013 for our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop, for the first time ever, we have not had anyone sign up for scholarship slots. Usually, we run a long waiting list for these slots, and usually we charge a token fee for them.

However, the workshop is just weeks away so we are making 3 scholarship work-study slots completely without fee. If you grab one of the slots you pay nothing to attend, but you would help out with the workshop logistics. It's an awesome opportunity. You can still earn college credit and clock hours too. Call 1.800.545.5736 to grab one of these workshop slots, or email with questions.

Inside This Blog Issue:

This article is full of creative behavior and classroom management strategies to improve student behavior. If you're frustrated because you have been unable to reach and improve the behavior of some of your students, these colorful techniques were developed to solve that problem right now.

Hi everyone. This is Ruth Herman Wells penning this blog issue, and I've come up with some very lively, hard-to-resist student activities and strategies that you're going to like.

These innovative techniques distract students from their usual rigid viewpoints, thoughts or verbiage by involving them in a task or activity. While they are caught up in the task or activity, they may actual relax enough to be affected and changed, which is exactly what you want. I think you're going to love these new tools to improve student behavior.

Improve Your Most Resistant Students' Behavior: 3 Terrific Tips

1. Can You Be Wily?

Most of us tend to use direct, clear communication. Of course, normally, that's a good thing. But, it's not a good thing when it comes to attempting to change the behavior of a student who is fighting you every step of the way.

motivational poster 1Think of it this way. If I say to you that I am going to change your politics, how much do you hear of what I say? Probably almost nothing. When you attempt to improve student behavior, it's similar to attempting to "improve" an adult's political views or religious affiliation. It's not going to happen.

So, stop telegraphing your intent. Be wily instead. So, instead of saying to a student that he needs to be more motivated and care more about school, something he's resisted quite vehemently, try less direct strategies instead.

What are less direct strategies? One example (Poster #001 above) is pictured here, but the most critical component of indirect techniques is that they don't tackle the concern head on. So, instead of saying "You need to care more about school," you rely on methods that show the extreme downsides of dropping out and/or the extreme benefits of finishing school. You avoid being "personally" involved whenever possible and rely on externals to provide the communication as much as you can. That's why posters and activities can make great indirect strategies.

The more the information comes from you, the more the student can react. The more you are placing the light bulb over the student's head but the student pulls the cord instead of you, the more behavior change can be expected to occur.

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2. What Were We Tantrumming About?

This behavior management intervention works so well that I consider it a must-have classic to improve the behavior of students who really get stuck and perseverate. That makes this technique ideal for oppositional, argumentative, defiant and angry students, but it also is great for students with Asperger's symptoms too.

It's so simple and practical you are going to easily remember this behavior improvement strategy. When a student is continuing to persist in being upset over something, simply switch the subject. Here in Oregon, we sometimes just say something as simple as "How about those Ducks?" referring to the local university sports team. You can switch the subject to anything.

Yesterday, I taught at a charter school in Columbus, Ohio. A teacher in that inservice training had a similar technique. He noted that he just simply says "You have been heard" and walks away. He says it works especially well with extremely misbehaved and manipulative students who otherwise can "hook us" in then reel us in like fish on a line.

Lots of us do have a tendency to linger or debate. Neither is useful so consider training yourself to severely limit time devoted to tantrums, debates, arguments and complaining.

3. A Funny Thing About Humor

They don't teach you much about it in college but the power of humor with resistant students could fill many courses. How do you stay resistant when you are smiling or laughing? You can't. That's why humor can often accomplish what more straightforward techniques can't.

Even better, humor works with a huge array of problem areas. When I train teachers and counselors, I am always sure to emphasize that humor is the top choice of intervention style for two of the student behavior problem areas that you see the most. Humor can help reduce aggression and anger at times that other methods go unnoticed. But, humor is also a fantastic technique for another common but completely different problem: anxiety.

Here is a sample strategy that I like best with younger students. Imagine the student is very agitated. You grab your own arm at the elbow and hold it. You make sure that the student sees this unusual pose, then you ask the student to grab hold of their own arm in a similar way too. Most students initially resist but many will eventually comply if for no other reason than they're curious. Once the student has hold of their own arm, you can ask with a smile: "Good! Now do you think you can keep a grip on yourself?" As you can imagine, many formerly agitated students will break into a giggle or smile.


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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.