Monitoring Student Behavior in the Classroom

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

In this lesson, we will explore simple methods for managing student behavior. Such methods include the use of proximity, using a calm but firm tone, and learning to be consistent with what you say and do.

How Do They Do It?

We all know that most teachers who have been in the classroom for a good long time - 10, 15, or 20 years - seem to have eyes in the back of their heads. They are able to spot problem behavior even before it occurs! And, even in cases where they are not able to put a stop to such behavior before it happens, they seem to have all kinds of subtle tricks for quickly whisking away this behavior. If you have ever been curious about what some of these tricks are, read on. In this lesson, we will discuss several methods for addressing behavior issues before they become out-of-control classroom problems.


One pro tip for dealing with student behavior is the idea of proximity. In other words, how close, physically, are you to your more problematic students? Sometimes it isn't enough just to seat your rowdier kids toward the front of the class. In fact, many times it is advisable for you, personally, to stand very close to a student's desk, or in some cases, even to gently touch a student on the shoulder. This 'move' lets students know that you are aware of what's going on, that you are aware of the problematic behavior that is brewing. And, often, that's all you need to do to stop it before it begins.

For example, let's say that you are at the front of the class, demonstrating the process for long division. Your student, Billy, is sitting near the front, and he's beginning to make conversation with a student or two beside him. You could yell out, 'Billy! Quit talking!' But, why not just walk over to Billy's desk, stand there for a few seconds, and give him a knowing look? Billy will know exactly why you're there, and because you won't be embarrassing him by calling him out in front of everyone, he will probably stop his chattiness. If, for some reason, he doesn't stop right away, you can place your hand gently on his shoulder for a few seconds. Doing that carries an even stronger message, and this time, he really will stop talking.

Using Your Voice

You may have noticed that many veteran teachers are usually the epitome of calm, cool, and collected. They rarely have to raise their voices at their students, and amazingly, with just a calm, steady tone, they are able to get potentially unruly students back on track. That's no accident. There are basically two rules when it comes to using your voice to monitor classroom behavior: use a calm but firm tone and control the volume.

Let's talk about volume first. Volume refers to how loudly you are speaking. You should only raise the volume significantly if there is an unexpected, emergency situation. For example, if there is a fire in the building, and you need to get students' attention and direct them outside, it's perfectly fine to yell a bit. However, when it comes to managing behavior, this isn't the case. If you yell and scream anytime you're attempting to manage a potential behavior situation, your students will become conditioned only to take you seriously when you raise your voice. . . and even then, they might not take you seriously.

On the other hand, when you are requesting that an unruly student do something to stop his behavior, speaking at a normal volume is optimal. 'Please take your seat, Billy' and 'Billy, I need you to stop breaking pencils now' can best be conveyed without a great deal of volume.

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