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Targeting and Changing NEGATIVE Classroom Behavior

By Naomi O'Brien


Often times, despite our best efforts, there are still those one or two kids each year that NOTHING seems to work for! We try being their buddy, we try getting parents, caregivers, counselors, &  admin involved, we try missing recess, we try extra recess, and we just can’t seem to engage this child.
It can be sad and frustrating. I have found that with children such as these, while I don’t particularly enjoy them as students, they are still really awesome kids. So getting to know them as a KID first, helps me to be more patient and understanding of their behaviors.
They usually know think are the “bad one”. The whole class knows it, too- how heartbreaking is that? It’s important for me change that mindset, and model forgiveness and acceptance to your other students.

I hope this post gives you a lot of ideas to use in your classroom! I find that changing your interventions frequently can help contain certain behavior before they get out of control!


Make a quick and easy report to send home and keep parents/caregivers in the loop about what has been happening in class. I like to make a copy of these before I send them home in case they aren’t returned. Send them home and the parent/caregiver and student will hopefully sit down, discuss what happened, and make a plan to improve.

Write up a plan with or without parents/caregivers present. Writing it down always helps me to get a clear idea of what exactly the student is doing that impedes learning, what my goals are for them, and what their triggers may be. For some reason, writing it down brings clarity and helps me to be more aware of how to approach working with my student. It also helps me to keep track of what interventions I’ve tried., as well as what worked and what didn’t work. Sometimes I’ve realized it was ME that needed to make some adjustments to better serve my student.  It also makes for a great record of student behavior and what I’ve done to try to remedy the situation.

Since my student that requires extra intervention is usually removed from the regular seating area (because other students can’t safely learn), I am able to post these charts on the wall in front of or on  their desk. There are different versions of this chart that I like to use.
One has the student and teacher talking about a daily goal for the student. I meet briefly with the student at the end of each day and we discuss whether or not they met their goal. We circle yes or no. At the end of the week we discuss what we can do better the following week. If they had a great week, they can earn a previously agreed upon reward.
Make some sort of monetary system! I’ve used tickets in the past. My Behavior Bucks are always a hit! The student should be told that you will be watching them for great behavior and will be paying them with Behavior Bucks or tickets. Depending on how often you think your student needs to have a tangible reward, you can let them spend their bucks at the end of the day, week, or month. I let my students use their money to buy things from my treasure chest. Sending these home to involve parents/caregivers is a great idea too!
When they realize they can get attention for making better choices, that is a HUGE motivator! I got some badge holders from Office Depot and made these little badges! These are fantastic motivators for positive behavior. I like to involve the school staff (lunch room workers, custodians, office workers) and let them know to acknowledge or ask my student about WHY they are wearing their badge. My students are always really proud to wear these and work hard to not get them taken away!
I like to give out tickets for poor choices. These are useful for simply dropping on a student’s desk and walking away without stopping your instruction time or embarrassing the student. 

I like to tape the sticker charts onto a student’s desk and a reward can be given when it has been filled up. It has 20 blank spots and may take a while to fill up. I recommend using these after you’ve seen a significant amount of improvement. The student may get frustrated and give up having to wait so long for a reward for good behavior. Adjust as needed based on student needs.
Making tickets for students to use at school are always a big hit! My kids love to sit at my desk, have lunch with me, or try to earn a no homework pass! One year I had a stuffed bulldog, and one of the tickets was getting to hold it for the day. They loved it! Use ideas that you know your students will really respond to.

This is a super fun intervention that requires a little bit of imagination on your part. I just pick clipart that can be used to mean ANYTHING I make up! I let them know I am looking for playing nice at recess, sitting quietly at lunch, reading, staying in their seat, listening to the teacher, and more! The star in the middle is a free space. I let them color in the spots or use counters! They work so hard to get a BINGO!
These are quick, easy, and effective! It’s basically a ten-frame. I tape both of these onto the student’s desk and let them know the behavior I am looking for. We also have a class meeting and I let the rest of the class know how we can help our friend make good choices! When we see good choices being made we give that friend a counter to add to their ten-frame.
If your student is on a roll, let them know! Start their day with a nice note! I have these printed in color and ready to hand out to keep the momentum of a good day going. Students love bringing these home to show off! A handwritten note works just as well!
This is something I do with my student when I partner them up with one of the best behaved kids in class. This usually goes over pretty well for a while. I “pay” the mentor student in Skittles, stickers, and high-fives. If they are keeping the friend from working, we do not continue this strategy.
I hope you are able to pull some ideas from this post and use them in your own classroom!
To use the resources featured (as well as many more) check it out in my store on

 Have a wonderful school year!
Mrs. O’Brien



Hi, I'm Naomi

I have been teaching elementary students for over 10 years. Effective reading instruction and accurate social studies at the primary level are huge passions of mine! 

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