Challenging Students

School-Wide Strategies for Managing... HYPERACTIVITY

Hyperactive students tend to have a very high energy level, act impulsively and can be behaviorally distracting.

Jim's Hints

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Prepared by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), this 49-page booklet provides an excellent introduction to the disorder. It provides a basic definition of ADHD, outlines areas of child functioning affected by the disorder, and discusses common treatments. A great resource to share with teachers and parents. ||Report Broken Link

Identifying and Treating ADHD. If you are looking for a good introduction to ADHD and its impact on children, this 22-page booklet from the U.S. Department of Education is worth checking out. It includes some basic but very appropriate ideas for managing behaviors associated with ADHD. ||Report Broken Link

Strategies for Teaching Youth With ADD and ADHD. This webpage contains a number of ideas to manage problem individual ADHD behaviors as well as tips for structuring the classroom environment to maximize learning for children with ADHD. It was written by Dr. Tom McIntyre, a professor of special education at Hunter College, City University of New York. Also, visit Tom's excellent intervention website at ||Report Broken Link

Whole-Class Self-Monitoring. Fred Roemer, a teacher at Pinellas Park Elementary School (FL), has put online a terrific description of his classwide self-monitoring program. The beauty of this intervention idea is that it helps all children to develop good behavior habits but does not single out individual 'at-risk' students unfairly. This is an ideal group intervention if you have one or more overactive students in your classroom!

School-Wide Strategies for Managing... DEFIANCE / NON-COMPLIANCE

Students who are defiant or non-compliant can be among the most challenging to teach.

Jim's Hints

Least Restrictive Behavioral Interventions. The Utah State Office of Education has put online its series of 'Least Restrictive Behavioral Interventions'. The page contains a very useful collection of 'preliminary strategies' that represent good classroom management and can reduce the likelihood that misbehavior will occur. If students do misbehave, the site also provides two collections of intervention ideas: 'Positive Intervention Strategies' and 'Mildly Intrusive Contingent Procedures'. The expectation is that educators will first try positive interventions and only use the more intrusive techniques if misbehaviors are chronic or more serious.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Fact Sheet. This 'Fact Sheet' on Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) provides a clinical description of the disorder and links to fact sheets on related topics, such as 'Conduct disorder' and 'Children's threats: When are they serious?' These fact sheets were created by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Safe & Responsve Schools. The Safe & Responsive Schools Project seeks to make schools safer through a framework of (1) creating a positive climate, (2) early identification and intervention for students at risk for problem behaviors, and (3) the development of effective responses to address serious misbehavior. Along with other violence-prevention planning resources, Safe & Responsive Schools offers a series of useful 'Fact Sheets' that offer guidance to schools on improving the behavioral climate through anger management, increased parent involvement, and other strategies. Dr.Russell J. Skiba, Indiana University and Dr. Reece L. Peterson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln developed the site.

Working With Defiant Kids: Articles Online. This on-line collection of research-based articles and general education articles on defiant and non-compliant students contains practical teacher-friendly advice for managing classroom misbehaviors. The site is sponsored by Heartland Area Educational Agency 11.

'Rubber-Band' Intervention

Teachers often find it difficult to monitor the frequency of problem student behaviors.

Jim's Hints

Use Rubber-Bands of Different Colors to Track Multiple Students. If you like this intervention and are up to the challenge, you can track the behaviors of at least two students by putting rubber-bands of varying colors on your wrist-with specific colors matched to specific students. When you must approach a particular student, you simply move a rubber-band of that student's color to your other wrist.

Response-Cost Lottery

Designed to be time effective for teachers, this strategy can be used with individual students or small groups.

Jim's Hints

Use Bonus Tickets. You can increase motivation by telling students that they can earn an extra 'bonus ticket' each day that they manage to hold onto all of their allocated slips throughout the entire observation period. These bonus tickets are placed in the lottery-ticket container along with the student's other earned tickets.

Response Effort

The amount of effort that a person must put forth to successfully complete a specific behavior has a direct impact on the frequency that the person will engage in that behavior.

Jim's Hints

In order for students to be successful in academics, it is crucial that they be placed in instructional material that challenges them to achieve but does not leave them floundering with work too difficult to complete. Instructional match can be thought of as an example of response effort.

Teachers are the managers of their students' learning. By assessing their children's academic capabilities and work-styles, instructors can often make modest adjustments in the student's academic program (e.g., reading group level, amount of homework assigned, etc.) that can positively affect the student's school performance.

Points for Grumpy


Jim's Hints

As the student shows that he or she is able to meet your behavioral goals and keep most or all of the 'good behavior' points, gradually drop the maximum number of points allocated each day.

You can adapt this program for use with older students. Use points instead of tokens. Also, in place of an imaginary figure ("Grumpy"), you can randomly pick other students in the class each day. Inform the target student that, for each instance in which you must approach that student for non-compliance or disrespectful behavior, you will award one of his or her points to the randomly chosen classmate-who will be able to 'cash in' these points for rewards.

Dodging the Power-Struggle Trap: Ideas for Teachers

Here is a scenario that commonly unfolds in many schools: A student behaves in a way that disrupts the class. The teacher publicly reprimands the student for misbehaving.

‘Defensive Behavior Management’: Advance Planning, Connecting With the Student, and Defusing Crisis Situations

Description: Defensive behavior management’ (Fields


  • Fields, B. (2004). Breaking the cycle of office referrals and suspensions: Defensive management. Educational Psychology in Practice, 20, 103-115.

Breaking the Attention-Seeking Habit: The Power of Random Positive Teacher Attention

Some students misbehave because they are trying to attract teacher attention.

Jim's Hints

Teach Other Instructors to Use Random Attention. After you have experienced success with this strategy, teach other educators who work with the child to use the intervention. Share with them your list of positive ways to show random attention to the student.

Behavior Contracts

The behavior contract is a simple positive-reinforcement intervention that is widely used by teachers to change student behavior.

Jim's Hints

Behavior contracts can be useful when the student has behavioral problems in school locations other than the classroom (e.g., art room, cafeteria). Once a behavior contract has proven effective in the classroom, the instructor can meet with the student to extend the terms of the contract across multiple settings. Adults in these other school locations would then be responsible for rating the student's behaviors during the time that the student is with them.

For example, a goal may be stated in the contract that a student "will participate in class activities, raising his hand, and being recognized by the classroom or specials teacher before offering an answer or comment." Art, gym, or library instructors would then rate the student's behaviors in these out-of-class settings and share these ratings with the classroom teacher.

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