Teaching Strategies for Students with Emotional & Behavioral Disorders

Instructor: Vanessa Botts
It can be challenging for a teacher to manage students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD). In this lesson, we will discuss some teaching strategies for teaching EBD students.

The Student with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

As teachers, we likely notice that students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD) find it difficult to control their behavior and work as productive members of a classroom. These students often lack impulse control and may have a difficult time effectively handling social interactions with other students. This can result in disruption of classroom activities and affect academic outcomes - not to mention added challenges for the teacher as she tries to ensure the needs of all her students are met. This is especially true in an inclusive classroom, were there are EBD students within a population of students who are not.

Below, we will discuss a few effective strategies teachers can use to moderate EBD students' behaviors to make things better in the classroom.

An Ounce of Prevention

As teachers, we often feel stressed to cover insurmountable amounts of academic material. We know our students will be assessed, and there is pressure to show measurable results that students are learning. Because of this, understandably, teachers are often eager to start teaching and assigning work as soon as the school year begins. This however, can be detrimental to classroom management as students do not know what is expected of them or what they can expect from the teacher and the upcoming school year.

To improve your classroom environment and behavioral outcomes, it is a good idea to spend the first few days (or week) of class explaining class rules to your students. You can establish academic and behavioral expectations, and you even can ask your students to articulate what they think those expectations should be. You can give students an overview of all the exciting things they will learn, all the fun activities they will participate in, and you may also even mention some enticing rewards for achieving certain milestones as the year progresses.

Clear & Simple Rules

Many of us, adults and children, struggle when faced with long lists of complicated rules and instructions, this is especially true for your EBD students. Therefore, it is important to keep your classroom rules clear and simple with about 3 to 5 main rules that are clear and concise. For instance, a posted class rules list might look like this:

  • Be on time
  • Be polite
  • Be respectful
  • Be productive

Take a Moment or a Break

Unfortunately, EBD students often engage in disruptive behaviors or may have emotional outbursts they cannot control. So, in the beginning of the year, when you share the rules and expectations, you could also provide a plan for your EBD students. So, when an uncontrollable outburst happens, they can 'take a moment' from a situation until they are calm and ready to resume their task.

Depending on the student's age, this 'take a moment' could consist of having the student take a deep breath, reminding the student to stop the behavior or having the student step away from the situation or the classroom for a few minutes in order to calm down. The idea is not to escalate the situation or engage the student in a battle of the wills.

Imagine sitting in a meeting where the speaker provides you with non-stop facts and data for 45 minutes. Would you be able to remain focused? Of course not! Likely, your attention started to wane after about 10 minutes. Well, it's no different for EBD students who find it extremely difficult to remain focused on any one task, especially for a long period. So, instead of reprimanding students for attention lapses, build in several short breaks into the school day. This will be beneficial for all your students and for you as well!

It is also a good idea to regularly take time to allow your students some time to catch up with their work, stretch, and get out of their seats and move around for a few moments. It is very difficult for anyone to sit still for long periods of time, and physical movement can allow your students to re-focus.

Simple Class Activities

In addition to having simple and clear classroom rules, teachers should also strive to keep teaching activities simple and clear. Again, stay away from complicated directions, and try to create activities that allow students with EBD to follow along and interact with the rest of the class.

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