The Easiest Student Led Behavior Management Strategy

Are you a bit anxious about classroom management and what strategies will work best for your 4th grade or 5th grade students? Do you want to empower them to improve their behavior and classroom climate? These classroom discussion stems for thinking through behavior problems make up the simple process I use to improve poor student behavior in the context of a whole group discussion.

This behavior improvement strategy is a teacher lifesaver (like the flotation device kind) for those times when it seems that your class is falling apart in general. If it’s the beginning of the year, just put this in your back pocket as a strategy you want to use when things are going awry! 

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As teachers, we often spend a lot of time setting expectations for classroom behavior, helping students develop and improve relationships with one another, and reflecting with students about how things are going at the beginning of the year

We work really hard to fine-tune our machine for the first few weeks or months of school.

...And then we get busy and that classroom management ball that is so important often gets pushed aside. 

After years of dropping that ball, I finally realized the value in having a space for behavior-focused conversations all year long. Morning Meeting is my first line of intervention for classroom behavior problems and individual students who need that extra bit of love to start their day off on the right foot.

The behavior discussion frame for setting and reflecting on classroom goals can be used to address specific behavior issues, like:

  • too many students are blurting out, making it hard for others to learn

  • students are saving seats in the cafeteria and making classmates feel excluded

  • during independent work time, some students are chatting off-topic, goofing off, and/or not having a high level of focused, on-task time

  • students are arguing about rules for games at recess and bringing the drama back into the classroom

  • during group work, students are excluding, being rude, or taking over

  • poor behavior reports keep coming back from special area classes

…and countless others that I’m sure you can think of!

How do I use discussion stems as a strategy to improve student behavior?

First, I choose a student leader to guide the discussion. I find that strategically choosing a student who would benefit from having a leadership role focused on behavior to lead the meetings for a few days/weeks is extremely beneficial as I try to help students correct behaviors.

If my students are overall behaving appropriately, I may choose to allow a different student to be the leader each time I go through this reflection process. Students sit in a circle during this time so that they can see one another and look at the speaker.

I provide my student leader with the question stems to help them guide the discussion. (I wrote these on an index card at first and also post them in the classroom by our meeting space.)

Here's a typical student-led dialogue:

1) “As a classroom community, we are working on: walking down the hall silently and in a straight line.”

2) "How did we do yesterday?"                

Students raise their hand and the leader calls on them. I step back from the conversation, but early on, I make sure to model how to encourage students to elaborate on their answers. I often chime in, "Rebecca, make sure they tell you WHY they think we did a good job yesterday." Elaboration is key in this process. You really want specific examples of how they did or did not do well on their goal so that the whole class hears what worked and what needs to change.

3) Last, the student leader asks, "What can we do today to make improvements?”

It truly is that simple and the power is in having STUDENTS verbalize how things are going.

Often, the culprits speak up and admit they need to improve. Students who are frustrated get an appropriate outlet for airing their frustrations, and while this may not immediately change their classmates' behaviors, I do think it helps them deal with the stress of a less than perfect learning environment.

I love this reflective routine and have needed to use it regularly with some groups of students. If you have a lengthier block of time for morning meeting or your students show you that they need consistent reflection in order to make improvements, you may find it beneficial to implement this strategy daily.

I encourage you to choose no more than two goals to focus on as a class. If possible, stick with the one that is most detrimental to your classroom environment until that issue improves.

At some point, I will ask students if they feel that we are ready to move on from the goal we are working on. I remind them that we can always come back to it later in the year if needed.

Want to me to send you a copy of the free behavior discussion frame to use in your morning meetings? Just share your email below and I’ll include some other tips about classroom management!

Check out these other ideas from some of my favorite upper elementary teacher bloggers! You’ll find lots of other great tips for managing your classroom and making routines go more smoothly!

Organizational Tips for Reading Conferences // Think Grow Giggle

Classroom Management Ideas for the Science Classroom // Samson’s Shoppe

Managing Your Science Labs // The Owl Teacher

3 Tried & True Tips to Start the Year Off Right // Tried & True Teaching Tools