Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Students Misbehaving? 5 Steps for Improving Classroom Behavior
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Students Misbehaving? 5 Steps for Improving Classroom Behavior

Recently I updated one of my blog posts about behavior and how I help students reflect and set classroom goals to improve our classroom environment as a team. That blog post had me walking down memory lane, and re-reading an older blog post where I shared that it felt like my classroom management was falling apart.
Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.
How I dealt with this was such a quality classroom management move and a glimpse into the response I have often had when multiple behavior issues are happening, so I thought you would enjoy reading about the process I went through with my students to identify the issues and re-set ourselves for appropriate behavior at school. 

Here goes a flashback post from March of 2013!

Is this the time of year that it seems your students are in need of a break? 

A few weeks ago, I found that my students were having a very challenging time listening, focusing, and treating each other with kindness. 

COME ON GUYS!!! This is the time of the year when I think I am supposed to be getting the most done--3rd quarter, pre-state-testing, still have major things to learn, and hey, I show up to work hard

Why aren’t my students doing the same?
Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.

Well, one thing I realized is that I had dropped the ball on routinely having our morning meeting. With so many snow days and late starts, we stopped reflecting on our behavior and stopped setting new classroom goals to work towards. 

Honestly, my kiddos repeat themselves every day when reflecting on our class goal during morning meetings, and we had achieved perseverance in math for the most part. And my kiddos are DARN NEAR perfect...

{You can read all about our routine daily reflection process that we use during morning meetings in this post.}

But hey, isn’t it better to give them the time to repeat themselves each morning--what went well yesterday, what needs to be better today--than for me to constantly have to repeat myself?

Let’s just say the trade-off of cutting morning meetings this quarter turned into a week’s worth of lengthy morning meetings focused on problem-solving the issues we were having.
Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.
Here's what I did to improve our classroom environment:

Step 1: What do we want our classroom to be like? 

Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.


First, I had students reflect on what they wanted out of the classroom. “When you show up to school at 8 am, what are you looking to get out of our day?” In one morning meeting, we discussed these hopes and dreams.

My favorite response was to have a classroom "where we can learn EVERYTHING that has been planned for us." Yes, please!!!

Step 2: List the Issues We're Having


Next, students listed the main issues they felt we were having. (It's so empowering to HAVE STUDENTS VOICE THE ISSUES rather than a rant from the teacher! Although, guilty of rants myself, of course!)

Next, we went around our circle and told our top two. While students were reporting out, I was taking notes and tallies. These were our issues:
Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.
  • socializing/side-conversations
  • getting off topic
  • talking out
  • group not getting along
  • having fun at inappropriate times
  • joking/purposely bothering people
  • learning time being wasted
  • not wanting to learn-motivation
  • not learning enough time
  • too many noises
  • rudeness to teacher
  • too many distractions

Wow! Does this list sound familiar? (I hope not! #butreally!!)

Step 3: Categorize and Group Issues


We were able to group the issues into two main problems:

Main Issue #1: Kindness (how we treat each other)--I learned we were having problems at recess that were spilling over into our afternoon learning time. This is something I could be more conscious of at recess and help problem solve. 

Main Issue #2: Issues related to classroom focus like too many distractions, side conversations, students joking during lessons, lacking the motivation to learn, talking while the teacher is talking, etc. that all related back to a lack of focus.

Step 4: Develop strategies to target the main issues and get student buy-in on the plan.


In comes our FOCUS reminder sign.

Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.
While students did most of the problem solving in our next class meeting, I already had the idea of our FOCUS reminder.

Anytime I say FOCUS, students know to get it together. This doesn’t just mean focusing on me, but focusing on the task at hand, focusing on anyone who is talking, and being motivated to do their best with their best focus.

With this strategy, I made the FOCUS expectations more visual for students.

How do I use the FOCUS sign? 

The class always starts out at O. (I simply place the clothespin on O). 

With extremely great focus, they can move up to an F, but with poor focus, they move down to a C, U, and lastly an S. 

In a given subject, the class can always move back up the FOCUS sign. They can move down to a C in one minute, and immediately be returned to an O with appropriate focus. It's fluid and effective! 

So far, I haven't attached tangible consequences or rewards to this strategy. The FOCUS monitor is meant to be motivating within itself. Pride in our accomplishments and compliments from the teacher should be reward enough!

Now, what if the kiddos are just having a bad day? With my strategic, wise teacher thinking, I decided that the FOCUS sign would reset to O for every subject. (This is genius! Read on to see why!)

Students might think I am just being forgiving or easy on them, but I am really using reverse psychology AND helping them REFOCUS for a new subject area

By saying positively that I know they are going to RESTART their focus, it isn't like they have to move back up from a U or C during a new subject. They already start at O and just try to maintain it. (I'm not sure if I am explaining the beauty of this well, but I hope you "get" it--they continuously get a "fresh start" all day long :)

OH.....AND I ALMOST FORGOT TO TELL YOU ANOTHER AWESOME PART OF THE FOCUS SIGN....It can travel!!! This week, it went to the computer lab with us :)

I found that focusing at transitions (from quiet reading to a whole group math lesson for example) is one of our biggest challenges. Now, I feel kind of dumb putting that in writing because DUHHHH! but sometimes I think we (I) forget to give students time to refocus because we (I) are rushing to the next thing we need to learn.

Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.
As I write this reflection about our behavior, I once again feel like I am doing "beginning of the year" stuff. But, I am starting to learn that kids need us to revisit "beginning of the year" lessons ALL YEAR LONG so that they are reminded  and inspired to maintain their good behavior.  When I'm frustrated with my kiddos (behavior, learning, etc) I eventually come around to "What can I change to help them change?"

You can download the FOCUS template for free here. I hope you can use the FOCUS sign to help your students stay motivated, focused, and well-behaved!

Step 5: Is to reflect regularly on how students are doing with their newly stated goals to improve the classroom environment.


Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.
I like to use a whole-group structure to continuously have students set 1-2 shared goals for our class and to reflect on things to improve in the classroom environment. You can read about how I empower students to set goals as a group or you can get the goal setting template sent directly to your inbox by submitting your info below!

Grab two free classroom management strategies to improve your whole-group classroom environment. Our classroom management and student behavior often gets tested midyear. The honeymoon is over and our students may tire during the stretch to spring break. Read about how I addressed our classroom behavior issues. Behavior management in the classroom doesn't have to have you losing your mind! Perfect strategies for empowering 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to become partners in improving the classroom experience for everyone.

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