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How to Reduce Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom

by Amy Pearson

Behavioral issues can reduce the quality of instruction and hinder academic achievement. Elementary teachers can reduce behavior problems in the classroom by developing an orderly routine and consistently using rewards and consequences to motivate students to stay on task. A good attitude, consistent expectations and ongoing communication can help students and teachers have a positive classroom experience.

Developing an Orderly Classroom

An over-stimulating environment can cause some elementary students to become excited and prone to behavioral problems. Teachers should create an environment that is conducive to learning. Desks should be arranged so children with conflicting personalities are separated and supplies should be organized and easily accessible. Outside distractions can be minimized by keeping the classroom door closed, especially when other classes are transitioning in the hallway. According to the publication "Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom" by the National Center on Response to Intervention, teachers must first identify situations that tend to cause behavioral problems in the classroom and then make changes so the behaviors are less likely to occur.

Incorporate Physical Activity

Teachers must appreciate the importance of movement for young children. Elementary students should not be expected to sit for long periods of time without an opportunity to get up and move. Physical movement can stimulate brain activity and help students remain focused on academics, according to the article "Integrating Physical Activity into the Complete School Day," published on the National Association for Sport and Physical Education's website. Boys in particular need substantial opportunities for movement to be able to focus on learning.

Establish Expectations

Teachers can begin teaching students about their classroom behavioral requirements on the first day of school and model appropriate behavior so students have a clear understanding of expectations. Teachers can work with students to develop classroom rules. The classroom rules should be posted in the room so all students can refer to them as needed. A firm yet fair method of classroom management will help the teacher establish authority in the classroom and reduce behavior problems.

Differentiate and Encourage Collaboration

Teachers can choose to give students several options for completing assignments and encourage higher performing students to assist peers needing additional help. Differentiated learning options can give students a sense of personal responsibility and help motivate them to stay on task. Peer collaboration can help reduce behavior problems as many children may enjoy working cooperatively to complete assignments.

Reward and Reinforce

Elementary students can often be motivated by rewards to behave. Younger elementary students may value a sticker placed on a chart as a reward for good behavior. Teachers can encourage children to be involved in selecting possible rewards for good behavior. Students will likely be more motivated to change behavior when the reward is something that interests them, as Nancy Jang suggests in her article "Helping Behaviorally Challenged Students," published on the Scholastic website.

About the Author

Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.

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