Managing behaviourally challenged pupils

All children will challenge rules and authority at times often just to test the boundaries, and althought they break the rules and say they hate them, children need rules to make them feel secure. To teach young children how to behave you can try to make it like a game; for example when you want the children to stop and listen you might hold up your palm and have the children do the same. You might teach them that when you hold up one finger it means stand up, two fingers means push your chair in and stand behind it while three means sit down. Doing this means you don’t have to raise your voice!

Other ideas which avoid oral confrontation include using a stop watch each time the lesson is interrupted. The time is taken off some of the children’s choice time, e.g. breaktime, free play etc.

Try drawing a graph on the board with x and y lines. Make a line across the the x line which is the acceptable noise level. Each time the noise goes above this place an x above the line. You could also mark below the line if noise is specially low. Helps the children understand graphs as well as improve their behaviour.

  • Try to make instructional language simple, e.g. STOP, LOOK, WAIT
  • Be definite when you want them to do something, e.g. I need you to …. This shows that the child doesn’t have a choice – this is something which has to be done.
  • Give limited choices, sit on this chair or that chair. Are you going to do the writing or the drawing first?
  • Where possible, don’t respond orally to bad behaviour, e.g. take the object they are fiddling with off him while continuing to talk to others.
  • Remember anger is temporary and is normal. The child will calm down again.
  • Time out seems to work for young children. A child who isn’t behaving appropriately is made to stand/sit away from activity for a number of minutes equal to their age.
  • Older pupils may work in a yellow/red card system where the yellow card is placed on their desk as a warning.
  • Try to avoid the anger rising – find opportunities for praising good behaviour. Make sure you say what you are praising, e.g. Well done for sitting quietly in your chair.
  • If you see a potential anger situation arising, try to get in first and say something positive.

Photo of Art Class

  • Ignore the bad behaviour if possible. After incident try to get opportunity to praise.
  • Move closer to the pupil or ask if he/she needs help.
  • Ease tension with a joke but not sarcasm. Try to develop non-verbal language for praise, e.g. thumbs up.
  • Try to show you understand the reasons for him/her being angry but suggest alternative methods of showing it, e.g. words or drawings.
  • Try to have an exit plan – maybe the pupil will be asked to ‘go on an errand’.
  • Do not ‘bear a grudge’ – let the pupil see that once incident is over then he/she starts with a clean slate.
  • Discuss with group what they feel is causing the anger. Perhaps they can suggest strategies which might help to avoid the situation happening.

Useful Information

A Violence Prevention Curriculum
Behaviour Assessment Tool
Behaviour Charter Template
Ideas for P.S.E. Citizenship Studies
Individual Behaviour Plans (blank example)
(completed example)
Promoting and Sustaining Good Behaviour in Schools
Making Positive Rules
Anger Management Practical Guide (source: Anger Management A Practical Guide by Faupel, Herrick and Sharp)
Becoming a good Listener – template sheet for PSE
Identifying Problem Behaviour Checklist
Learning for Life
Pupil Motivation Checklist
TOOT Observation Sheet – tick sheet for inappropriate behaviour
Social, emotional and behavioural skills
Behaviour Support Toolkit

Further Information

Behaviour for Learning – a website resource for teachers