Classroom Strategies: 3 Solutions to Common Behavior Problems

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I remember teaching a group of Year 9 learners (13-14 year-olds). I’m sure there are many similarities between adolescents in North America and adolescents in the United Kingdom! Needless to say, it can throw up some tricky issues when it comes to behavior. This Year 9 class I was teaching had some great students in it. Unfortunately, a couple of the boys had had some difficulties with their behavior in other classes, and I got to hear about this from colleagues.

For me, one of the most important rules of behaviour management is to give learners every chance to make the right choice, act positively and show their best side. This means it’s vital the teacher doesn’t label learners, doesn’t meet them with preconceived ideas, and sees every lesson as a blank slate – a fresh start.

It’s vital the teacher doesn’t label learners, doesn’t meet them with preconceived ideas, and sees every lesson as a blank slate - a fresh start. - Mike Gershon Click To Tweet

I, therefore, decided to put what I’d heard about their previous behaviour to one side and meet the new class with no preconceptions. In our first lesson together, it seemed that the boys whose behaviour I’d been told about were almost waiting to be told off. Like they were expecting it.

So, I took a different approach. I made a point of looking for opportunities to praise those learners. Not indiscriminate or false praise – because students can see through that a mile off. Instead, I kept my eyes and ears open throughout the lesson and, sure enough, plenty of genuine opportunities arose where I could praise the students for their effort, ideas, attention and decision-making.

This engendered a very different atmosphere from what I think the boys were expecting. And, perhaps from what they had been conditioned to expect. I tried, through my approach and my actions, to make two things clear from the start of the lesson. First, everybody arrives with a clean slate. The past is the past and I’ll only judge the choices and decisions you make in the present. Second, everybody can make good choices and be positive about their learning and get rewarded for that.

My experiences in behaviour management led me to write my book, How to Manage Behaviour in the Classroom: The Complete Guide. I wanted to give teachers a reference point for positive behaviour management. One with a practical focus. Ultimately, good behaviour is essential for good teaching to occur. If we can get all our learners moving in the same direction, and believing in their own ability to succeed, then we are well set to teach exciting, engaging and interesting lessons.

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My aim was to provide a compendium of resources any teacher could use to support their EAL students, while also focussing their attention on whole-class teaching. I brought together more than 40 practical

The book contains a wide variety of strategies, activities and techniques you can use to foster excellent behaviour from all your students. And, for those tricky situations that inevitably develop from time to time, there is a chapter on troubleshooting common problems and scenarios that can arise during any teacher’s working life.

Here are 3 common problems I have encountered in my teaching and some on-the-spot solutions to remedy those while they are happening:

Seeking Attention

  • Address the student on an individual level to set up a set of norms and establish a strategy for avoiding disruption. For example, asking the student to count to 10 before speaking or writing down his/her thoughts and reading them when the class is working


  • It’ important to call out this behaviour immediately as it often continues or gets worse if you don’t. Follow up with an explanation as to why the student was being rude – some students do not understand they are being rude and need to be told.

Persistent Lateness

  • Some students are persistently late and do not have time management strategies. Encourage students to arrive 5 minutes before the lesson starts rather than at the bell. Simply using a watch can be an easy fix for these young students and a whole new experience.

For my Year 9 students, the rest of the year wasn’t without its hiccups, but overall, they were a great class to teach and the boys who had behaved poorly in some other contexts did well. They, like all of us, appreciated not being pre-judged and liked the experience of being rewarded, through praise, for making good choices and showing their best side.