10 Tips To Support Challenging Behaviour

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Lydia has been a primary school teacher for the past three years and has recently moved into delivering content writing services, specialising in education. Her experiences include working as a KS2 class teacher in a London-based school and before that, supply teaching in Bristol, where...
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Do you have behaviour strategies to survive the year?

The ability to manage extreme instances of challenging behaviour can be make or break for your school year. Those pupils who challenge you, are often the ones that need the most support.

Here are some strategies to support that child who, for whatever reason, is disrupting the learning of everyone in the class.

1. Get to know the child

Get to know these pupils well. Every child has needs which need to be understood and supported accordingly. They may have a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) requirement or have experienced an adverse childhood experience (ACE). Whatever the reason, there is usually a cause behind the behaviour. Reframing your mindset to consider all behaviour to be communication is helpful here. Build trust, find out what they are interested in, discover common interests and show them that you are on their side.

2. Meet the parents

Engage with the parents. Organise meetings to gain further understanding. Ask questions such as:

  1. How does the child behave at home?
  2. How does the child feel when…?
  3. What do they find challenging?
  4. What do they find helpful?

Compile a list of strategies with the parent, child, and if appropriate, your school SEND coordinator. These will need to be reviewed and adapted so schedule follow-up meetings. Forming a communicative relationship is key to building trust. Most importantly, follow through with any agreed strategies.

3. Regulation strategies

One such strategy is The Zones of Regulation which aligns key emotions to four colours. This framework creates a common language for communicating and regulating emotions as part of a healthy lifestyle. A simple way of explaining that we are angry is by saying that we are ‘in the red zone.’ Having a strategy to manage this emotion can help us transition back to ‘the green zone.’ In the green zone, we are ready for learning.

The language of the zones needs to be embedded into the language of the classroom so have a zone chart displayed on the wall. Those who really struggle to regulate emotions might benefit from a ‘toolkit’ laminated on their desk. This is a chart of unique strategies correlating to whatever zone they happen to be in.

There are also many other regulation strategies if this one does not suit an individual pupil.

4. Individual behaviour chart

The ordinary behaviour management systems will work for most, but not all. In such cases, implementing a bespoke system may be necessary. Created with the pupil, this chart should be grounded in positive reinforcement. For example, collaboratively score the pupil’s efforts out of 10 for each session. If they get more than 7, they could get a sticker, with accumulated stickers resulting in a larger weekly reward.

5. Individual timetable

Create an individual daily and weekly timetable. For pupils who find school overwhelming, having time to get used to whatever the day has in store, could make the difference between having a positive lesson, or a stressful and challenging one.

6. Daily/weekly catch-up

Keep talking to this pupil. Know what is going on in their lives to pre-empt and manage potential upsets. Reflect on the positives of the week. Discuss what may not have gone so well and think of ways to avoid similar occurrences.

One great strategy is to ask them to tell an adult about 3 good things that happened that day right before the end. This means they go home with three positive things they can communicate to parents or carers.

7. Emotion coaching

Like the zones of regulation, emotion coaching is a fantastic way of helping pupils manage feelings, particularly during moments of misbehaviour due to exaggerated emotions. Emotion coaching can nurture positive learning behaviour and provide teachers with ways of de-escalating situations.

  1. Notice, empathise and name feelings.
  2. Describe why they might feel this way in a non-intrusive and factual way.
  3. When they are ready, discuss tools to help them manage the situation more effectively, supporting them in understanding why some behaviours are unacceptable.

This way, we can validate emotions, set limits, and create an opportunity to learn.

8. Focus on the positives

Positive reinforcement is key. Notice and praise positives; sending high-quality pieces of work home to show parents. It is easy to become a stuck record focusing on the negatives, so for every negative, have four positives. This is not always easy but is worth striving for!

9. Soft start

Pupils that find school especially challenging can benefit from a soft start to the day. Create a timetable of activities they can engage in as soon as they arrive such as Lego time or watching Newsround. Pupils could also enter a different entrance or attend a nurturing breakfast group before school.

10. Perseverance

Sometimes it feels like you are not getting anywhere with particular pupils but keep going! It’s not always easy to see those marginal gains that add up over time.

Why not try some of these strategies in your classroom today?


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