Classroom Behavior Management: How to Stop Lecturing and Start Questioning

An age-old practice for teachers when a student misbehaves in class is to take the student out in the hallway for a “talk”.  Except, it’s usually not a talk, its a one way conversation.  The teacher tells the student what he or she did wrong, why they can’t behave that way, and asks if they understand.  However, this almost NEVER solves the behavior problem for good.

Then the teacher sends them to the office where he or she receives another lecture, gets a behavior reflection form, and the while the behavior may not happen the next day, the problem is not solved.  Let’s skip the lecture from the start and question the student.  This gets to the root of the problem, the WHY?  It goes right to the behavior reflection form and allows the student to reflect immediately, take ownership, and help resolve the behaviors long term.

Consider the following scenario:

Little Johnny knocks over another Sarah’s desk on purpose.  You see him do this and take him out in the hall.

There are two ways this conversation could go:

  1.  “Johnny, you knocked over Sarah’s desk and disrupted the entire class.  It was a huge distraction and you weren’t respectful of your classmate’s things.  I can’t believe you were acting this way.  Go to the office, they are expecting you.”

Johnny goes to the office and receives a similar lecture.  He’s tuned out and still angry.

2.  “Johnny, why did you knock over the desk?”

“I was mad.”

“Why were you mad?”

“I was mad because Sarah is always showing off.”

“Why do you think she is showing off?”

“She just always has the right answer and it’s annoying.”

“What makes that annoying for you?”

“I never get the right answer, and when I do it’s always too late.”

“So it makes you feel frustrated because Sarah always beats you to the answer.”


“I understand how you feel Johnny, but it is not acceptable for you to behave this way in class.  I don’t want to have to send you to the office, but I have to.  I like having you in class and we will miss you.  Please don’t do that again, next time you feel frustrated, come talk to me before acting out.  We can also talk about some different things we can do when you feel that way when you get back.”


In the second conversation, the teacher got to the root of how Johnny is feeling and offered a solution to correct the behavior in the long run.  Even if Johnny didn’t verbalize it, he felt more understood.  He is still getting the same punishment but it more empowered with another option for behavior for the future.

Johnny wasn’t passively accepting a lecture, he was actively taking responsibility for his actions and the reason WHY he acted that way.  This is much more likely to reduce future behaviors, develop a positive relationship with the student, and have him accept his punishment and responsibility with dignity.

There has been a time, as the human beings that we all are, that we acted out in anger.  How we are feeling is the root of all of our actions.  Getting to that root is how we empower students to recognize WHY they are acting a certain way, without only focusing on the actions themselves.

Mindfulness of our actions and how we handle behavior problems, is just as important was the behavior problems.  When we empower our students to take active responsibility in a dignified manner, it improves our overall classroom climate.






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