Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Behavior Management Strategies: Middle School

Causes of Behavioral Issues
Managing the behavior of seventh and eighth grade students can be challenging, to say the least. Their behavior can be baffling for educators and counselors alike to understand. In managing these issues, one must remember all of the difficulties these students are facing.

As students go through puberty and transition into adulthood, their body experiences many changes. These changes may make them seem older and they may try to act older to accommodate these changes. However, as counselors, we need to remember they still have developing, impressionable minds that are still maturing.

Transition from Elementary to Middle School
The transition from elementary school to middle school proposes many changes. Students must adjust to new teachers, seven classes per day in different classrooms, meeting new students and a new setting. In addition, the expectations are greater and students must work harder than they had in the past. Adjusting to these changes may cause students to feel stressed and to act out in ways that they normally would not. 

Peer Pressure
Most seventh grade students desire to fit in with their peers. At this age, cliques begin to form and many students begin to consider other’s opinions. Students may misbehave to impress and gain acceptance from others.

Behavior Management Strategies: Classroom
Here is a list of strategies that educators can do to lend an environment of structure and order to the classroom:
  • Model the behavior that is desired.
  • Use a calm voice. For instance, if a student raises her voice, respond with a calm, even tone.
  • Clear expectations and rules.
  • Step-by-step learning and scaffolding.
  • Positive reinforcement.
  • Monitoring the class closely.
  • Prepare for the worst. Always have an extra lesson plan, just in case.
  • Establish time limits and ensure students finish their work before leaving.
  • Read the room frequently to ensure students are engaged.
  • Use a Points System. Reward students for good behavior and provide incentives for consistent good behavior. Prizes can be intangible, such as listening to music with headphones while working.
Behaviors that May Require a Counseling Intervention
Counselors are always available as a resource to teachers and an advocate to students. The following behaviors may require a counseling intervention to ensure student safety and that the behavior is not an indication of a larger issue:
  • Physical threats and violence (toward other students, educators or administrators)
  • Bullying (this can take the form of mental or physical intimidation)
  • Refusal to do classwork
  • Skipping class
  • Disrupting class (when a student’s behavior is so disruptive it is interfering with other students’ ability to learn)
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Sexual activities
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal Idealization
  • Poor Academic Performance
  • Poor Social Skills
Behavior Management Strategies: Counselor Interventions
Some students may need a little extra help or motivation. Here are some interventions that are appropriate for counselors to implement at the middle school level:
  • Change of classes: This is an option for students who are being negatively impacted by their environment and peers or are not a good academic fit for the class. 
  • Why Try: This program is often used in behavior intervention classrooms. It involves goal setting and journaling and can be effective in not only teaching students proper behaviors, but also empowering them to live beyond the status quo.
  • 504 & IEP Plans: Students can be assessed to see if extra accommodations would help them to be more successful.
  • Behavioral Intervention Plan: Students work with their counselor and teachers to determine a plan to help them to manage their behavior. For example, a student with anxiety may be allowed to have a stress ball to use during class.
  • Specialized classes and alternative programs: The traditional classroom is not always the best fit. This is a good option for students facing trauma.
  • I CAN: Tutoring can help students who are struggling academically.
  • Outside counseling services: students facing traumatic circumstances may need to see a specialist.

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