Welcome to this week’s episode of The Teaching Toolbox podcast, where Brittany and Ellie are diving into the topic of behavior management techniques in middle school. Managing the behavior and discipline of middle school students can be a challenge, but with the right strategies, you can create a positive and productive learning environment for everyone involved. In this episode, Brittany and Ellie discuss some of the most effective behavior management techniques that teachers can use in their classrooms. They share their own experiences and insights from years of working with middle school students.
Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just starting out, this episode will provide valuable tips and techniques you can use to help your students succeed.
- Common behavior issues
- Classroom management techniques to use with the whole class
- Behavior management techniques to use with individual students
Ellie: [00:00:00] Hey there, this is Ellie, and I’m here with Brittany.
Ellie: Welcome to this week’s episode of our podcast, where we’re going to be diving deep into the topic of behavior management in middle school. As any teacher will tell you, managing the behavior of middle school students can be a challenge.
But with the right strategies, you can create a positive and productive learning environment for everyone involved. In this episode, we’ll be discussing some of the most effective behavior management techniques that teachers can use in their classrooms and sharing our own experiences and insights from years of working with middle school students. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just
[00:01:00] starting out, this episode will provide valuable tips and techniques that you can use to help your students succeed. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and join us as we explore the exciting world of behavior management in middle school.
Brittany: So what are some of the behavior issues that you’ve dealt with in the classroom?
Ellie: Some of the most common ones are things like not doing their work, just kind of sitting there, maybe looking around, trying to pull out other things from the desk, talking in class, calling out, distracting other people. Like, you know, trying to talk to those other people, or maybe throwing things at them.
Sometimes getting up and trying to walk around, you know, during class when they’re supposed to be actually doing something at their seat, or sometimes every once in a while even trying to just walk out of the room without asking permission or saying where they’re going or making sure it’s okay to go somewhere. What about you? What kind of things
[00:02:00] do you think of when you think of behavior management and discipline things?
Brittany: A lot of talking out of turn some yelling across the classroom to get somebody else’s
Brittany: Yeah, a lot of throwing things to get someone’s attention or passing notes.
Ellie: Ooh, passing notes. Yeah.
Brittany: Not working, not being attentive. Not having their supplies, not being prepared for class. That was a common one for me.
Getting up and just walking out of class, going to the bathroom without permission, or just getting up and leaving the room without permission was a common thing. Yeah, just, those were the most common ones. I’ve had a few oddball ones as well, but…
Ellie: Do tell.
Brittany: I’ve had…during my student teaching, I actually had a student pull a knife on me.
Ellie: Oh my gosh.
Brittany: And then when
[00:03:00] we had their parent come in to talk to us the parent threw a desk at me.
Ellie: Oh my goodness.
Brittany: So was not happy with me, and yeah, that was quite an incident. And then, and then close to the end of my teaching I had a student who had a lot of emotional issues and just threw basically everything he could at me.
He threw a desk at me, he threw shoes, he threw markers, he threw binders.
Ellie: hmm. Mm
Brittany: Yeah, he just, he just didn’t know how to regulate his emotions.
Ellie: hmm. So, in a more extreme situation like that, did you have support from outside of the classroom? Administration or guidance counselor or…?
Brittany: When I did the student teaching one, I did not really have support. That was a very rough school. It was considered a college prep school, but it was in the middle of Milwaukee urban area and did not have a
[00:04:00] lot of support there, even though it was my student teaching. But with the, the emotional one, I had a great administrative staff and they were very supportive.
They ended up getting him testing and moving him to a more, a classroom that was more conducive for him. Yeah.
Ellie: Yeah. So, we have those extreme kind of situations where we do need some of that outside support. You know, I have had a couple of students over the years where I had to call the guidance counselor. I had to call somebody else in to help just because of the general demeanor of the student.
Not doing work just as other kids don’t do work, but just with a little bit of a scarier attitude, I’ll say. So, fortunately we had, you know, good support and guidance counselors would come in and help and try to, try to see what was going on and try to connect with, with the students and that kind of thing. But if we think
[00:05:00] about some of those less extreme, more common behaviors, like we kind of talked about to begin with what are some things that we can do in general for the whole class to try to minimize some of those behaviors or keep students on the right track and paying attention? Any thoughts that come to mind for you right away?
Brittany: For the whole class, I tend to like doing a situation where you write a word up on the board. Maybe like ‘recess’ or ‘reward’ or something like that and you, you either write each letter up as they earn a point or you erase a letter
Ellie: Yeah, we did that, too. Yeah.
Brittany: …and then they, you know, try to get recess or get a reward based on behavior and it can go back and forth all throughout the day or all throughout the week, over and over
[00:06:00] until they hopefully earn the recess or earn the reward. So that was one of our favorites. We also did like marble jars or bean jars where we would have marbles added to a jar based on behavior each day. I would add like three marbles each day that they had a great day.
If I had a sub and I got a great report, I’d add five marbles. If they had a bad day, I might add just one or none, it would depend. And then when it, when it would end up at a certain line, they’d earn a reward. And so, and then the jar had like four lines on it, for the four quarters of the year.
Ellie: Oh, okay.
Brittany: So, how about you?
Ellie: Well, thinking about the beginning of the year, since we are kind of near that, sometimes I found over the years that it was really helpful to let kids not just create the rules and be any rules that they wanted, but have some
[00:07:00] input into rules so that they kind of buy into those rules so that…most of the time kids do believe in something being right or wrong or good or bad.
And they have, you know, kind of a moral, ethical, whatever, a moral belief about how they should be behaving or how they expect their peers to behave and what kind of classroom they want to be in and environment they want to be in. So we’ve had times when we let them create some of the rules or construct the rules and really they end up with the rules that you want most of the time, you know, they will say you shouldn’t be talking when somebody else is talking, you should be paying attention when there’s instruction going on, things like that. So getting them to buy into those rules is helpful just for the whole class environment. And we did have that podcast episode where we talked about the positive classroom culture.
So, if we wanted to talk about things like routines and stuff like that, you guys could check out
[00:08:00] that podcast. Cause we did a little bit more in depth about that, but thinking about the rules, thinking about routines, like we know how we’re supposed to get in line. We know what the routine is for the end of class.
We know what we’re supposed to do if we get done with something early. So there’s not question about…well, I don’t know what to do right now, so I think I’ll talk to my friend or I’ll like flick this paper over at that person over there to get their attention because I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing right now. So if we give them those parameters, those expectations, it helps a little bit at least to minimize some of those behaviors.
But then I like to do things like group or team points. So most of the time I had my students sitting in groups and they would pick their group name. So they had the opportunity to do that instead of just saying group, A, B, C, D, whatever, they chose their names and their names would be up on the board. And then we would tally points for those groups, depending on maybe behavior,
[00:09:00] participation, homework completion, that type of thing. And once they reached a certain number of points, I think it was probably 10ish, then they got to have a specific prize. Maybe they got to come and have lunch in the classroom, or some homework passes, or some extra free time.
Something that they were motivated by. So I really like that. That was really helpful…for a lot of grade levels. I did that I think at fifth grade, fourth grade, sixth grade. So that was helpful there.
Brittany: Lunch with the teacher is always a popular one.
Ellie: It really is. Yeah, you think once they get to middle school they’re maybe not so interested in that but they really do like that and a lot of kids would like to just come eat lunch in the classroom because it was so much quieter than the cafeteria.
Brittany: Yeah, it doesn’t have the chaos.
Ellie: Right. They’d like to come and sit and read.
Ellie: Read in the classroom because they wanted the quiet. But that was really helpful for, for groups and the whole class.
Brittany: We would often do like mission
[00:10:00] statements at the beginning of the year. So kids kind of bought in that way, and they would establish a mission statement with like three main points that they wanted to work on behavior wise. And academically, and then socially as well. And so those were like their three main points that they would work on.
And then I had a system where I did a, a green, yellow, red kind of question. And one of the questions was what do you want to see in the classroom behavior wise? And they would work in different groups and come up with scenarios that they would write on construction paper. And then they’d tape them up underneath the question and so they would say like I want to see positive talk, I want to see helpful, you know helpful strategies, I want to see friendly voices I want you know, and they
[00:11:00] would come up with different things that they wanted to see in the classroom and that would help with the behavior because I would leave that up most of the year And then I could point, you know, if somebody was like, “That’s a stupid answer!”
I could point out, you know, “Is that really working towards our behavior that we want to see in the classroom? Is that positive talk? Is that friendly voices?” You know. And then they would have to reflect on themselves and talk about, you know, “No it’s not, I’m sorry.” And then they’d have to apologize and that kind of thing. So. What are some techniques you used with individuals?
Ellie: Well, we had a system on our team where we did a thing called demerits. And so, if students got a certain number of demerits throughout a time period, they might end up with a note home or like a
[00:12:00] lunchtime detention type of thing. We really didn’t have a lot of detention stuff at our school…for the school.
So it was kind of on the team level and, and typically lunchtime was the only time you could do that so that they did have about 15 minutes or so of a recess type of time. So they would have to miss things like that. So we did have the demerits. At one point in time we had reflection sheets. So if it was a homework miss or some other type of situation in the classroom, they would have to fill out a reflection sheet.
What happened? What would, what did they do? What should they have done differently? What will they do next time? That type of thing. And that would have to be signed by parents. And brought back to school.
Brittany: We had a similar sheet. We, for some years we called it like a character sheet or citizenship, citizenship sheet. That’s a tough one to say correctly.
Ellie: Say that three
Brittany: Or a behavior contract, something like that. But it basically went through those same motions. You know, what did you, what did you do wrong?
What should you have done instead? What character was missing during this event? That sort of thing. We often had a corner of the classroom where they would sit and reflect on their behavior, and we had like character posters up in that corner.
We had like a, it was like a calm down corner, so they had like, there was a bucket in the corner, and they had like different fidget items in there…
Ellie: Oh, okay. Cool. Mm
Brittany: …stress balls and stuff so that they could go to that corner if they needed to and just kind of unwind.
Ellie: Right. Yeah, thinking about going somewhere. Sometimes we would send them, I mean, they would go across to the classroom, across the hall, and maybe hang
[00:14:00] out in there, sit there for a little bit, do some work over there or, you know, run an errand to someone else. It’s just something to get them out of the situation that they were in, if it was, you know…
Brittany: Yeah, sometimes
Ellie: …something they need to walk away from.
Brittany: Sometimes you see a kid who’s definitely having trouble sitting still or focusing or whatever. And so just giving them a note that says like you know, Mr. So and So, I’m sending you Tom to just you know, burn off some energy,
Ellie: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Brittany: You know, and then you just say, can you take this to Mr. So and so?
Ellie: Right. Right.
Ellie: And it’s also helpful, like, to give kids just an opportunity, like, to choose different things in the classroom. If that’s something that you’re able to do, you know, do you want to do a group project or work independently? Or even if they’re in a behavior situation, do you want to do this or do you want to do that?
And try to give them some choice as far as
[00:15:00] work, behavior. So that maybe if they’re in a situation where they know they’re not doing the right thing, but they don’t know how to get out of it and you give them a choice, A or B, would you like to walk across the hall and, and sit in that classroom? Would you like to stay here and behave as you’re supposed to, or, you know, start taking part in whatever activity we’re working on or start taking your notes, that kind of thing.
Giving them that opportunity for a little bit of choice gives them kind of an out.
Brittany: Yeah. And it helps them, it helps them save face in a way.
Brittany: Yeah. And I think along those same lines, just giving choice in any activity can help a kid not behave poorly. You know, it helps them feel like they have more ownership in the day, so, yeah.
Ellie: I know this is off topic in a way, but going back to the first whole class idea, it might seem silly and it might
[00:16:00] not work all the time, but there are times that I just sat and waited. You know, if the whole class was talking or the whole class was whatever, and I just stood there and I wouldn’t say anything.
And one person would be like, “Oh, she’s waiting.” And then it kind of gets around and then they, they just be quiet by themselves and it doesn’t seem like it’s something that should work, but when they realize that you’re not going to do anything until they’re done and they’re ready to move on, sometimes something little like that helps and they just stop and, and they’re ready and then you can tell them one thing at a time.
First do this. And wait till they’re all doing it. Then do this, wait till they’re all doing it. Take out your pencil. Show me your pencil. You know, and then slowing down sometimes. It’s hard to slow down because you want things to do, you need to keep going, but sometimes they need you to do that.
Brittany: There’s those memes where it shows like a skeleton standing in front of a classroom saying like, you know, I’ll
Ellie: I didn’t have to wait that long.
Brittany: But, but it is effective sometimes, and another, another thing I found effective sometimes was just whispering,
Ellie: Mm hmm. Yes. I did that too. Yeah.
Brittany: You know, “Okay, I’m gonna wait…”
Ellie: Mm hmm.
Brittany: real quiet.
Brittany: “And whoever’s listening to me right now is going to get three extra minutes of recess.”
Brittany: And you, you know, you would see some kids who are like, Okay, I’m sitting upright, I’m listening, you know?
Ellie: Right. Yeah.
Brittany: Yeah, so. So I
Ellie: I think, I was gonna say, I think that leads us into the idea that we need to stay calmer, right?
Brittany: Yeah. Staying calm is kind of one of those keys when dealing with behavior issues. Don’t let the kid wind you up.
Brittany: Don’t, let the situation wind you up. Don’t eat into the situation. You’re
[00:18:00] just gonna, that’s just gonna make the situation worse. So. And you want to have as many tools as you can in your teaching toolbox, because what works with student A isn’t necessarily going to work with student B or C.
And what works with student A today is not necessarily going to work with student A tomorrow.
Brittany: So feel free to check out the show notes for everything mentioned in this episode. You can find them at teachingtoolboxpodcast. com.
Ellie: Okay, so we’ll see you next time.
Brittany: Thank you for listening.
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