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A. Creating an Inviting Learning Environment
B. Improving Parent Involvement
C. Training Teacher
    1. How to Intervene in Bullying Incidents
    2. How to Improve Classroom Management
    3. How to Recognize and Reinforce Students’ Behaviors
D. Training Students:
    1. Bystander Intervention Programs
    2. Student Mediated Conflict Resolution Programs
E. School-Wide Intervention Programs
F. Playground Interventions
G. Interventions With High-Risk Students
    1. Helping Children Who Bully
    2. Helping Children Who are Victimized by Bullying
H. Ways to “Defuse” Angry Students
I. Addressing Gang Problems
J. Role of School Superintendent
K. Role of Media/Newspaper Reporters
Students who engage in anti-social and bullying behavior have poor “connectedness” or “bonding” with school personnel. They have difficulty answering the following questions:

“If you were absent from school, who besides your friends
would notice your absence and would miss you?”

“Is there an adult in your school building to whom you can turn
if you have a problem?”

While some students who bully may be popular with peers and have social skills, others are rejected by peers and have a high likelihood of dropping out of school or being “pushed out” of school.

This section is designed to provide suggestions about what principals, teachers and peers can do to make the school environment more inviting for all students, their parents and for staff. This list is not exhaustive, but illustrative so you can compare your school against this list of suggestions.

Principal’s Suggestions

Once again, the principal sets the “tone” of the school and without his/her leadership in creating an inviting learning environment, it is unlikely to develop. How many of the following Principal’s Behaviors would we see in your school?
  1. Creates a climate of safety and security.
  2. Creates a physical place that is inviting (clear, cheery, decorated with school slogans, Mission Statement, Code of Conduct, student activities and accomplishments), and that nurtures a sense of community and pride in the school.
  3. Greets students, parents and staff by name and spends time out of his/her office.
  4. Involves parents (see LINK to Improving Parent Involvement MENU V B).
  5. Creates an active absentee/truancy program and tracks down missing students; develops an intervention program.
  6. Treats students, parents and staff with respect and seeks their input on important school decisions.
  7. Provides opportunities for staff to receive professional development, implements a teacher mentoring and buddy system for new teachers.
  8. Visits classrooms with teachers’ permission to observe students’ work and to provide constructive feedback to teachers. (A supportive mentoring role for principal).
  9. Keeps announcements on the intercom to a minimum.
  10. Conveys personal availability (hotlines, office hours, e-mail, school website).
  11. Implements programs to reach out to students (e.g. telephone hotline for help with homework and provides extra assistance for special needs students).
  12. Holds regular school assemblies where students’ birthdays and accomplishments are acknowledged.
  13. Implements character education where students are encouraged to practice and are reinforced for positive attributes (e.g. courage, honesty, charity, caring). This helps set a tone.
  14. Provides extracurricular activities (athletics, clubs), works in particular to engage “marginalized” students in prosocial activities with adult models (e.g. Implement a mentoring program).
  15. Is active in meeting with other schools (feeder schools, transition schools) in order to identify potentially high-risk students. Implements early screening program—(see LINK to Identifying "High-risk" Students MENU 3 C).
  16. At the secondary school level, the principal establishes small instructional units of between 600-900 students each. Research indicates that such an arrangement promotes a greater sense of school belongingness and promotes greater learning opportunities
  17. Regularly assesses for school climate and student connectedness (see LINK to School Climate Measures MENU 3 B8).
  18. Helps teachers create the sense that the school and each class is a “family” that cares for each other.
  19. Ensures that “high-risk” students (e.g. those exposed to traumatic events, family mental illness and disruptedness) receive needed services.
  20. Conducts follow-up on “high-risk” students (absentees, behavioral problems, those suffering from mental disorders) to ensure they are receiving wrap-around services.
Teacher’s Suggestions

Teachers establish the classroom learning environment and create the foundation for every student to become a literate, productive member of society. How many of the following Teacher’s Behaviors would we see at your school?

  1. Treats students with respect, warmth, and conveys concern (see LINK to Ways to Improve Classroom Management MENU V C2).
  2. Communicates with students outside of classroom in other settings.
  3. If student is absent for a prolonged period of time (more than a week), the teacher
    calls the student or has someone from the school call the student’s home.
  4. Has a student helper make a copy of work missed during the student’s absence.
  5. Conveys interest, availability, and accessibility to students and their parents (see LINK to Improving Parent Involvement MENU V B).
  6. Conveys high expectations and confidence that all students can learn and that the difference between students who do well and those who do not is that the achieving students “know the tricks or strategies” to perform academic tasks. All students, with effort, can begin to learn these strategies.
  7. Nurtures hope in students of future “possible selves” of what they could accomplish and become. (For example, a study of 25,000 students who were followed from grade 8 to grade 12 found that the best predictor of academic achievement was the student’s ambitions and plans for the future. Students who had hopeful, but realistic visions of themselves in being successful in the future had higher achievement levels. The students’ level of self-esteem was more predictive than if the students attended private or public school or came from intact or single parent families.)
  8. Makes subject matter and teaching strategies “relevant” to students’ levels and uses “authentic education” (see Meichenbaum & Biemiller, 1998 for ways to Nurture Independent Learners).
  9. Develops a cooperative learning atmosphere among students.
  10. Gives students responsibilities (help with attendance, distribute materials, copy notes for absent students and the like).
  11. Avoids confrontations with students that could lead students to “lose face” in front of peers (e.g. teacher uses soft reprimands rather than loud reprimands). Sends home parent requests on how they can be of help to reduce bullying as described in Memos 1 and 2. (LINK to two MEMO'S)
  12. Uses an evaluative system that nurtures personal attributions so student success is due to students’ efforts and use of strategies, not just due to abilities.
  13. Provides students with opportunities to talk about bullying (e.g., examples, definitions of bullying as a form of unacceptable behavior, how to be of help.)
  14. Includes students in establishing classroom rules against bullying. Include in the list of rules that the teacher will intervene ( be of help) and not look away when bullying occurs. Help create a trusting environment so students feel safe and comfortable in coming to the
    teacher to report any instances of bullying. Highlights that reporting or telling about bullying
    is different from tattling or snitching.
  15. Indicates that one of the class rules is that the teacher will take immediate action when bullying occurs and not allow anyone to be mistreated. (Note that the teacher should confront the bully in private and avoid attempting to mediate the bullying situations since there is a difference in power between the bully and the victim.)

Described below are specific suggestions on how teachers can intervene in order to maintain an Inviting Learning Environment. (See LINK to MENU VC.)

Peer’s Suggestions

Peer relationships are at the core of violence prevention. When the adults in their lives model pro-social skills of mutual respect, anger management, conflict resolution and empathy, then students can relate these lessons to their own social contacts. How many of the following peer’s behaviors would we see at your school?
  1. Welcomes new students, helps them feel included.
  2. Engages students who are rejected or “marginalized.”
  3. Engages in bystander interventions to reduce bullying (See LINK MENU V D).
  4. Engages in cooperative learning activities.
  5. Participates in group volunteer community activities.
“One of the most important factors in creating a good school is always going to be parental involvement in its life”
(U.S. Department of Education, 1993, p.7.)

Parent involvement includes a wide variety of parent behaviors. Research indicates that what parents do at home with their children has more influence in their children’s academic performance, than how much parents are involved in their children’s school activities. Most often those parents who are most knowledgeable and engaged in their children’s school activities are also most nurturant of their children’s academic performance at home. When parents are involved, students perform most successfully and have fewer learning problems.

“According to scientific analysis, when parents are more involved, their children are 30% more successful in school”
(Parent Institute –

When parents fail to become involved, educators may have the tendency to blame the parents, as being “too busy, experience too may barriers to overcome to become involved, too disinterested, having their own problems."

This section of the website is designed to provide educators with suggestions of ways to proactively engage parents in the education of their children. Before “blaming” parents for non-involvement, it would be worthwhile to determine how many of the following suggestions your school has tried. This list of suggestions is designed to help educators view parents as resources and partners, rather than as obstacles.

The suggestions for improving parent involvement fall into the following categories:
  1. improving the school’s climate so it is more inviting to parents;
  2. improving communication (both written and oral) with parents;
  3. taking proactive steps to involve parents (“reaching out”);
  4. providing administrative support for parent involvement.
Once again, if the principal of the school is not committed to improving parent involvement and providing supports, then the amount of parent engagement would be limited. At the end of this section we have also included an example of how parents can be proactive in contacting the principals in an effort to reduce bullying.

1) Improving the School’s Climate

What happens when parents appear at your school? Parents are made to feel welcome. Welcoming office staff is helpful and courteous to the parents. There are signs that welcome parents to the school; teachers greet parents when they pass them in the hall; there is a parent reception area with written material, newsletters and coffee.
  • Principal and teachers view parents as “partners.” They convey interest and cooperative collaboration when discussing the parent’s child. The importance of parent involvement and commitment is highlighted.
  • School facilities are inviting (clean and neat school, bathrooms and cafeteria).
  • School ensures that the parents’ and students’ ethnic, social and cultural diversity are represented and respected. Nurture cultural diversity so all students and parents feel welcome.
  • School helps create a cohesiveness among parents (e.g., Parent Teacher Association meetings or volunteer parent activities such as inviting parents to attend opening morning, student assemblies, work as a group on improving playground or with fund raising activities).

2) Improving Communication with Parents – Written and Oral

Written Communication With Parents

  • Use multilingual messages to parents
  • At the beginning of the school year teachers send a letter home to each parent highlighting how much they look forward to teaching their son/daughter, working with them as partners in education, establishing an ongoing dialogue regarding their child’s progress, and extending an invitation to contact the teacher.
Sample letter adapted from Walker et al. 2004

Dear Parents:

Just a quick note to welcome your child to my classroom. I am looking forward to the school year and getting to know you and your child. Always feel free to get in touch with me by (list telephone number, email address) and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Our working together will make this a successful school year for your (son, daughter – include name). Over the first few weeks of school we will be (provide brief summary).

I look forward to teaching (student’s name).


  • Provide parents with a Parent’s Handbook that includes school rules, policies, activities, Mission Statement, Code of Conduct, names of key personnel, telephone numbers and a classroom calendar.
  • Provide parents with ongoing Class Newsletter about what students will be working on and why it is important (e.g., description of unit objectives, types of problems and assignments, list of books to be used, and ways parents can be of help). Indicate that their daughter/son will be interviewing them about various topics, learning strategies, and the like.
  • Indicate that students will be bringing home a folder of their schoolwork labeled TAKE HOME / BRING BACK. There will be spaces for parents to initial and comment on their son/daughter’s work.
  • Ask parents to fill out a Survey Questionnaire about their child’s reading behavior (e.g., list of books read to student, average amount of reading time, leisure reading habits, favorite books, authors, reading strengths and weaknesses).
  • Send parents occasional TEACHER-GRAM and invite them to send back a PARENT-GRAM about their child’s progress. Include GOOD NEWS NOTES of student’s progress and achievements. Encourage parent to ask “what” and “how” questions of “what” their son/daughter did and “how” did he/she go about doing the task. Discuss the processes of learning and reinforce efforts.
  • Send home parent requests on how they can be of help as illustrated in the following parent memos:
MEMO 1 Example

(These suggestions have benefited from the guidelines offered by K. Dorrell, Oct. 2006 and from the Massachusetts Medical Society guidelines on bullying

1) Talk about bullying with your child.

Help your child know what bullying looks like and feels like, and if he/she or classmates are being mistreated and bullied.

Help your child understand that bullying involves more than physical aggression.
Sometimes bullying can be verbal and social in the form of name calling, hurtful teasing, threats, humiliation, gossiping or spreading rumors and damaging

Let your child express him/herself. If your child reports being bullied, then there
are a number of steps for you to take.

These include:
  1. Stay calm and show concern, but do not show too much emotion. If you
    overrespond your child may close down and not talk about it anymore.
  2. Thank your child for sharing this information. Tell him/her that what he/she
    told you bothers you and label it as "bullying." Tell your child that this
    behavior is unacceptable.
For example:

"Someone is bullying you and this concerns me. You are important and you have a right to feel safe, so we need to do something about this."

2) Ask your child for his/her input on what steps can be taken to make him/her feel safe. Collaborate with your child in finding solutions. Reassure your child that the situation can be handled discreetly and safely. Boost your child's sense of empowerment and control.

3) Parents should talk to the school. Approach your school with five goals in mind:
  1. Establish a partnership with school personnel in stopping the bullying.
  2. Encourage your child to come with you and describe what he/she experienced. After your child describes the bullying situation, you should repeat the facts. Express yourself calmly and then ask how you, the school personnel, and your child can work together to ensure that the bullying doesn't happen again.
  3. Start with your child's teacher and don't assume she is aware of the situation.
  4. Don't demand or expect a solution on the spot. Indicate that you would like to follow-up to determine the best course of action. Have your child watch you calmly and respectfully problem-solve with the school personnel.
  5. Get everyone on board. Research shows that the most effective method of dealing with bullying is to have the whole school involved. Approach the principal and explore what the school is doing about bullying. (See parent letter below). Review school policies and procedures with your child.
4) Document bullying. Keep a journal of all bullying incidents. You and your child should write down what happened, where and when it occurred, how your child reacted, how the bully and bystanders responded. Indicate what solutions were agreed upon and if they worked.

5) Help your child develop strategies and skills in handling bullying. Help him/her chose a variety of strategies from being assertive, to avoiding, to asking for help, to reporting bullying of other students. Parents can act as models for their children and intervene when they see bullying occurring. Some victims of bullying may need assistance in learning these coping skills. Children who are being bullied may have to practice skills as ways to look the bully in the eye, stand tall, use a firm voice, and stay calm; ways to use humor; ways to ask for help; learn ways to become friendlier with other children, participate in group activities; learn constructive ways to interact and achieve their goals. Help your child appreciate that reporting bullying to a trusted adult is not tattling or snitching. It takes courage. Suggest that he/she go with a friend to the teacher or principal to make it easier.

6) If you are informed that your child is bullying others, then you should:
  1. Be objective and listen carefully to the account. Don't be defensive, nor take it personally.
  2. Work with the school to find what can be done to ensure that this does not occur again.
  3. Asked to be kept informed.
  4. Calmly explain to your child what he/she is accused of and ask for an explanation, and ask if he/she knows that such bullying behavior is unacceptable.
  5. Find out if your child was the instigator of the bullying or joined in. Find out if your child is bullying by means of computers (cyber-bullying) and take appropriate steps to curtail this behavior.
  6. Don't bully your child in addressing your child's behavior. Help your child appreciate how bullying behavior hurts not only the victim, but also him/herself, as well as bystanders.
  7. Indicate that you will work with your child to alter this behavior and you will work with the school personnel to monitor progress.
7) Whether your child is a victim of bullying or engaging in bullying behaviors, don't give up. Indicate that your child and all children in school have a right to feel safe and feel they belong in school. Indicate that together with your child, and the school personnel, you will create a team approach to achieve the goals of safety for all students.

MEMO 2 Example


  • Discuss the school’s Code of Conduct with your child. The Code of Conduct describes the rules your child’s school follows. You can obtain a copy of the Code of Conduct from the school, your child’s Student Handbook, or visit our school’s website, which is (xxx). Show your support for the school rules. Help your child understand the reasons for the school rules.
  • Involve your child in setting rules for appropriate behavior at home, highlighting the importance of rules. Have your child bring in his/her home rules to school to share with the class.
  • Listen to your child if he or she shares concerns about friends and about other students. Ask explicitly if your child has witnessed “bullying,” that is someone being picked on, shoved, or someone rejected by fellow students. Has that ever happened to them? What did they do? What did other students who were bystanders do? If your child had a problem in school, does your child have the name of a trusted teacher or staff member that he or she could go to for help? Please share the information you obtain from your child with trusted school personnel.
  • Know what is going on in your child’s school. Keep a bulletin board at home. Hang the school calendar that we send home to post key dates and special events. Hang teacher communications such as the Peek of the Week memos, names of key school contact people, weekly meals, and other school related information.
  • Set up a daily time to check-in with your child about school. We welcome your involvement in your child’s school life by supporting and reviewing your child’s homework and schoolwork. Please sign and return all requested teacher and school communications.
  • Encourage your child to take part in school activities.
  • Involve your child in family and community activities.
  • Please attend school functions such as school and class programs, and parent conferences.
  • Volunteer to participate in school and in community–related activities, if time permits.
  • Please call, email, submit suggestions on how we can work as a team to make our school safer and a better learning place.
  • We make a commitment that we will remain in touch with you and we invite you to remain in touch with us.
Thank you for being a partner in the education of your child. Your involvement is very important and unique.

Oral Communication (Phone Calls And Meetings) with Parents
  • Call each parent (at least once per year, preferably once per term) to give feedback conveying something the student did well.
  • Implement a LIFT program – Linking The Interest of Families and Teachers. This is a skills training program for both students and parents and includes a LIFT LINE of phone-message/answering machine that allows teachers to record messages to parents about classroom and homework activities, and provide information regarding their children. Parents can leave feedback messages for teachers on teachers’ answering machines. It costs about $60 per month per classroom to implement the LIFT LINE: establish bilingual hotlines. For more information, see:
    Eddy. J., Reid, J. & Tetrow, R. (2000). An elementary school-based prevention program targeting modifiable antecedents of youth delinquency and violence: Linking the interests of families and teachers (LIFT). Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8, 165-176

    Walker, H. M., Ramsey, E., & Gresham, F. M. (2004). Antisocial behavior in school. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning
  • Return parents' calls and notes in a timely manner.
  • Keep a running log of each telephone call, noting date, topic, follow-up plan.
  • Schedule meetings with parents to review their child’s progress and classroom behavior. Students may attend some parent-teacher conferences, showing work and becoming a self-advocate.
  • Communicate with parents about homework and how they can be of help (e.g., rules about settings, times, ways to motivate students and ways to balance homework with other activities).
3) Proactive Steps to Involve Parents
  • Invite parents to attend and participate in various school activities (e.g. stay with children during lunch, visit morning assemblies, classroom, student-led activities).
  • Encourage attendance at parent-teacher meetings, back-to-school nights, open houses where students have opportunities to showcase their work.
  • Invite parents to assist in class, volunteer, have list of things parents can do to help at school.
  • Welcome parents’ input about their son’s/daughter’s progress.
  • Address possible barriers to parent involvement such as demands on their time (both parents work) by using a flexible schedule, provide transportation, provide child care while parent visits school, address possible parental attitudinal reservations about visiting school.
  • Involve parents and grandparents as classroom presenters to share history and to engage in projects with students.
  • Have students generate and post family trees in class.
  • Undertake specific out-reach efforts to engage parents. For example, use respected community leaders to reach out to parents, have family learning centers in storefronts or churches, hold parent-night in a laundromat where parents who attend have free access to washers and dryers.
  • Provide parents with training on how to read stories to their children, improve behavior management, and help with homework.
  • Engage parents in their child’s learning process (e.g., math assignments, interviews, etc.).
For examples of ways to engage parents in their children’s learning, see

Meichenbaum, D. & Biemiller, A. (1998). Nurturing Independent Learners: Helping Students Take Charge of Their Learning. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
  • For students who are having behavioral and learning problems, teachers can implement a HOME-SCHOOL CARD, where the student’s behavior is monitored throughout the school day and a contingent reward schedule is established at the home in the form of a behavioral contract (See LINK to Classroom Management MENU V C2).

4) Providing Administrative Support for Parent Involvement

  • Conduct an assessment of what the school is now doing to involve parents and staff; generate both intervention and evaluation plans to determine their effectiveness.
  • Monitor parent attendance and involvement. Try to understand the factors that contribute to nonparticipation and adjust accordingly (e.g., cultural compatibility of parental requests).
  • Provide workshops for teachers on how to work collaboratively with parents.
  • Support teacher efforts to involve parents (provide time, resources and money).
  • Provide before-school and after-school programs for students to help accommodate parents’ work schedules.
  • Provide specific skills programs for parents; help them access local services, GED programs, parent support groups, home-visiting outreach programs,
    mental health services.
  • Develop an active truancy prevention program that involves parents.
  • Parents are encouraged to view their involvement as a responsibility and they are asked to sign a behavioral contract indicating their responsibilities to the education of their children (e.g., encourage parents to ask their son/daughter specific questions about classroom activities).
  1. How many of these activities to involve parents does your school engage in?


    Dear (name of Principal)

    My wife and I have recently learned that our son/daughter (NAME) has been a victim of bullying at school (has engaged in bullying behavior) (has been a victim of bullying and on occasion has also bullied others). The source of our information comes from (indicate source – from your child, from other children, other sources of information). We are deeply concerned and would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and son/daughter’s name teacher. We would like to consider what we can all do to change the situation.

    At our meeting, we would like to raise some questions, if that is okay.
    1. We are wondering if this bullying incident is unique to our child or is bullying a general problem at your school? How do you presently assess for the incidence of bullying?
    2. In our situation, the bullying occurred at recess in an unsupervised area. Are there any ways to improve the playground activities and improve the level of supervision?
    3. What are you doing school-wide and in the classroom to reduce bullying?
    4. Are your teachers trained to identify bullying incidents and on ways to intervene?
    5. How can parents help reduce bullying?
    6. Are there specific school services you provide to victims of bullies, to children who bully, to children who are both a bully and a victim?
We recently came across a WEBSITE that we found helpful in formulating our concerns about bullying. It is

Thank you for arranging a meeting with us and helping our son/daughter (NAME). We look forward to the meeting. Please let us know what would be a convenient time to meet. Please call and leave a message.

Sincerely yours,


American Association of School Administrators: 106 ways parents can help students achieve

Guide for Parents: You are the experts on raising ‘violence-free” children

Massachusetts Medical Society: Bullying- It's Not O. K.

National Education Association: Parenting

Oregon Social learning Center for parenting material

Parent Institute
1. How to Intervene in Bullying Incidents

There is no formula as to how best to intervene when a teacher or staff suspects or observes a bullying incident. Issues regarding safety of all students, age and gender of the students, circumstances such as behavior of bystanders, will all influence the nature of the adult’s response. Doing nothing or ignoring the incident only reinforces bullying and sends a message to all students.

The following illustrative list of teacher strategies highlights examples of how adults can intervene.
At the teacher training sessions on bullying it would be helpful to consider and practice other means of intervening.

Illustrative Teacher Strategies for Handling Bullying


I noticed (saw, heard)…
What is the problem?
Looks like…is not having fun.
Are you upset? (You or name others) is upset, looks angry afraid, sad).
Do you need some help with …?
I understand that …
I have received a report that …
I am concerned about what I see happening when…
It looks like some hurtful things are happening to …


Tell me what’s going on.
Tell me what happened from your point of view.
Do you need help with …


This looks like (sounds like) bullying to me.
You know our rules about bullying, name-calling, teasing. This behavior is
not allowed in our school.


X is a form of bullying. You wouldn’t like somebody to do that to you. You
would expect somebody to stop it. I might have to protect you the next time.
We do not tolerate bullying.


What can you say or do differently next time?

How can you use what we talked about and practiced the next time you are in situation X with Y?

It would be helpful for the teacher to:
  1. Speak to each offender and victim separately to find out what occurred (get the facts);
  2. Have the student propose an alternative response for future situations;
  3. Assign consequences as you would in any other situation;
  4. With victim ask what it will take to feel safe again;
  5. Record the bullying incident on the Critical Incident Form;
(See LINK to V H for a detailed discussion on Ways to Defuse Angry Students)

2) How to Improve Classroom Management

A well-managed classroom is less likely to experience bullying. Improved classroom teaching and management have been linked to:
  1. a democratic leadership where teachers respect the integrity of their students and who expect them to act responsibly;
  2. teachers who encourage and teach students to examine and resolve their own problems;
  3. teachers who actively involve students in classroom discussions,
  4. activities, decisions about class rules and the learning process;
  5. teachers who provide clearly defined classroom activities, the purpose of which were explained to students for which students find them meaningful and “authentic” or “relevant;”
  6. teachers who clearly communicate expectations, rules, procedures and sanctions.
For example, consider the following teacher description of rules offered by Larson (2005, p. 41):

“Our classroom is like a place people like your daddy and mommy work. In
our classroom your job is to learn different things and my job is to help you
you learn. In order for each of us to do our jobs, we have to agree on some
rules to follow. The best rules are those stated in positive terms of what you
are suppose to do, rather than what you are not supposed to do. For
example, a rule in a mechanic’s shop might say, “Return tools to their
proper place when finished,” rather than say “Don’t leave tools lying
around.” This rule reminds the workers to know exactly what is expected
and what to do. Let’s start by thinking about what rule we should have in
place when you are entering the classroom from the hallway at the beginning
of class. Let me see raised hands with suggestions about a rule that will help
us avoid problems and help everybody get settled to work when you first enter
our classroom. How should everyone enter the classroom?”

This example offered by Larson highlights the purpose of rules and engages students in a collaborative discussion of class rules they will follow. This approach is quite different from a teacher who tells his/her class that in my classroom there are two simple rules for success.

Rule 1: Do what I tell you to do.
Rule 2: See Rule 1.

It is best that students and teachers generate collaboratively no more than six (6) classroom rules. For example:

- Be on time for class.

- Enter the classroom quietly.

- Go to your assignment areas promptly.

- Listen to the teacher’s directions or explanations.

- Raise your hand if you wish to talk or if you need assistance.

Such rules should be posted in a central place and the teacher should regularly make reference to the rules and review them with the class on a regular basis. As stated, these rules explicitly convey in functional terms what the teacher wants the students to do. They help to create an orderly classroom environment with firm limits, but high expectations. Embedded in the classroom formulation of rules, the teacher should have students consider such questions as:

“What would happen if we did not have this rule?”

“Why do we have this rule?”

It is not enough to have students help generate rules, but there is a need to have students appreciate the reasons why such rules are required. Warm, respectful teacher-student relationships are critical in making classroom rules effective.

Research has also indicated that classroom rules are more likely to be followed when teachers:
  1. keep their requests clear, simple, direct and specific, using about 4:1 or 5:1 initiating-to-terminating commands;
  2. use fewer words when making requests (minimal verbalization) as compared with overly wordy directives that contain multiple instructions;
  3. convey requests in a polite respectful manner, using such phrases as “Please,” “Thank you,” “Let’s try X instead of Y,” “Do you need a reminder to follow rule A?”;
  4. give students a sense of control and choice instead of using threats such as, “I am warning you;” ensure that students understand exactly what is expected and are capable of doing what is being asked;
  5. use soft reprimands, where teachers go up to students quietly and give students individual feedback, as compared to loud reprimands that are conveyed across the entire classroom;
  6. offer four (4) to five (5) positive statements to students in the classroom for every negative, critical statement (namely, ratio of positive to negative interactions).

A good rule of thumb in considering the teacher’s classroom management style is to consider how would the teacher feel if his/ her classroom interactions with his/ her students were broadcast on the evening news. Would the teacher be embarrassed or proud of what would be broadcast? It is recognized that all teachers have “good” and “bad” days and that classes vary markedly in their level of student noncompliance with rules. But overall how the teacher manages the classroom goes a long way to establish a tone that will influence how students get along with each other. When the classroom is viewed as a cooperative, collaborative learning environment, the incidence of bullying and harassment will be reduced.

There are a group of students who may fail to respond to these teacher efforts and more intense interventions are required. This may take the form of some behavior modification procedures that involve:
  1. a careful functional analysis of the disruptive behaviors (when, where, how much, what form, with what consequences does the disruptive behavior occur);
  2. some student-teacher-parent behavioral contract with meaningful contingencies;
  3. the implementation of a home-school contingency management program with daily cards sent by the teacher home to parents who can review students progress and use meaningful consequences.
Such school-home notes have proven effective across grades in reducing a variety of children’s problematic behaviors including inattentive, disruptive classroom behavior, lack of class work or homework completion, and talking out without permission. In order for school-home notes to work, the student, teacher and parents need to identify and define specific behaviors to increase or decrease.

The teacher needs to evaluate the designated student at certain times during the day. Parents need to praise their student for bringing home the daily report and provide promised consequences for changed behaviors. There is a need to include follow-up sessions in order to monitor the effectiveness of the intervention. Most importantly, teachers need to overcome any potential barrier of feelings that they do not have the time for regular communication with parents and that they view parents as being indifferent, uncooperative or irresponsible.

  1. A set of collaboratively generated firm, but fair classroom rules
  2. Meaningful well-structured classroom activities
  3. Effective command giving
  4. High ratio of positive to negative reinforcement (5:1)
  5. Use of behavior modification procedures such as response/cost procedure
  6. Use of group contingencies
  7. Parent involvement (daily home reports) for difficult students
3) How to Recognize and Reinforce Students’ Behaviors

Research shows that the way to increase behavior that is desirable is to provide positive reinforcement. It is important, therefore that teachers and principals recognize and reinforce student efforts. One way to acknowledge such efforts is to use a Positive Incident Report.


For: (Student’s name)

You did it!

__ Academics

__ Creativity

__ Concern for others

__ Volunteered

__ Performed well under tough circumstances

__ Other
You earned this PIR because: __________________________________

I Saw It!


You are being recognized for going beyond the call of duty! Keep moving forward. You’re fantastic!

Teacher’s Signature Parent’s Signature
Date Date


Some students will need supplementary supports to help them with their classroom behavior because of problems due to ADHD or learning disabilities or as a result of victimization experiences. These children need supports or "cognitive prosthetic devices" to aid them with attentional, memory, and self-regulatory deficits. For example, students who have physical disabilities and who use wheelchairs need prosthetic devices such as ramps, user-friendly bathroom facilities, and the like.

Similarly, students who have impulse-control and self-control problems and rule-generative deficits also need assistance in the form of Cognitive and Metacognitive Prosthetic Devices. The following classroom management suggestions come from Barkley (2006) and Meichenbaum and Biemiller (1998).
  • September is the time to establish behavioral control.
  • Seat the disruptive child close to teaching area.
  • Target productivity first, accuracy later.
  • Allow some restlessness at work area.
  • Give exercise breaks. Help students with organization (e.g., use color-coded binders and organizing systems, use color highlighters for texts).
  • Use participatory teaching methods.
  • Post homework at start of class.
  • Assign a homework "study-buddy" and use peer tutoring for those students in need.
  • Break class into dyads and have one student tutor or quiz the other.
  • Circulate, supervise and coach dyads.
  • Teach students how to be a tutor (e.g., how to give hints and not answers, how to praise efforts of tutee).
  • Reorganize into new dyads weekly.
  • Find "fall-back" classmates for lost or missing assignments.
  • Reinforce group efforts and post progress made by students (i.e., percentage of improvement).
  • Convey that those students who do well on tasks "know more strategies" and these can be learned.
  • Intersperse low appeal with high appeal activities.
  • Be enthusiastic and animated when teaching.
  • Provide an Advance Organizer or overview of what is to be taught and why and how it follows from what they have learned.
  • Scaffold instruction or ensure that the tasks are only slightly above students' capacities (not too easy, nor too difficult), so students can learn. Fade supports as students develop competence.
  • Give students choice in selecting tasks that have been graded for difficulty.
  • Give smaller quotas of work at a time and gradually increase demands.
  • Teach skills to a level of proficiency and then have the student explain back in own words, or demonstrate skill, or teach others the skills (put student in a "consultative" role).
  • Schedule the most difficult subjects in the AM.
  • Use direct instruction, programmed learning and worksheets.
  • Have student pre-state work goals.
  • Use computers for skills building, train keyboarding and word processing as early as possible.
  • Give after-school tutoring, books on tape, videos, set up a homework help telephone hotline.
  • Teach students how to take notes (e.g., give a short-presentation and show students two sets of students' notes. Which student took better notes, and why?).
  • Require continuous note-taking during lectures and while reading school material. Have students learn to self-evaluate note-taking. Allow taping of important lectures.
  • Use transition planning (Explain ahead of time what the schedule will be, give warning of transitions. Keep surprises to a minimal.)
  • Post rules for each work period and have students repeat them aloud. Refer to rules and reinforce students by indicating how they followed the rules.
  • Place laminated cards with rules of class activity on students' desks. Have student restate rules at the start of each activity.
  • Encourage students to use soft vocal self-instructions during work.
  • Use timers and signals during tasks. Ask student how you can help him/her with reminders to follow the rules. Work out an individualized memory system with students who require assistance.
  • Increase praise, approval and expressions of appreciation (have 4-5 positive to every negative). Reinforce effort and not only product.
  • Use the "language of becoming," highlighting how the student is using his/her "planning," "checking," "asking," behaviors, and "trying" skills. Give specific examples of how the student is becoming more and more a "strategic
  • Highlight "possible selves" and future orientation of how learning these skills and strategies can be used outside of class, at home, and in the future. Ask for examples of where students have used their executive metacognitive skills and followed rules.
  • Teacher should model the use of such metacognitive skills by thinking out loud for the class. Encourage parents to use similar procedures.
  • Use a point or token system to organize consequences.
  • Use team-based group rewards (4-5 students per team). Have students explain the reason for rewards.
  • Consider a daily behavior report card. Move to self-evaluation after 2+ good weeks.
  • Establish a link between classroom performance and home rewards. (For example, teacher can rate students from excellent (4) to good (3), fair (2), poor (1) in a variety of areas several times a day; Class participation; Performs assigned class work; Follows class rules; Gets along with others; Completes homework assignments).
  • Provide ongoing feedback and when punishment (negative feedback) is warranted, use "soft" (not loud reprimands), that is, mild, private, personal and direct reprimands.
  • Immediacy and consistency are the keys to discipline. Convey what students did "wrong" and what rules were not followed. Nurture rule-generative behaviors.
  • Use a response cost system (loss of privileges or tokens) and highlight reasons why there was a loss.
  • Use "moral" essays on "Why I will not hit others and the reasons why."
  • Use a problem-solving defusing approach, as described below. Help students turn perceived provocations into "a problems-to-be-solved."
  • Establish a "chill out" location for regaining control (Hallway time-outs don't work).
  • Send disruptive student to administrators' office, and have student fill out A Personal Problem-Solving Sheet with help from the counselor, Assistant Principal, or Principal.

What happened __________________________________
I was feeling __________________________________
My problem is __________________________________
My goal is __________________________________
Another solution I can try is __________________________________
My plan for solving my problem is that I will __________________________________
The next time I will __________________________________
Whenever X occurs, I will try __________________________________
I will remind myself to __________________________________
I will know it works if __________________________________

Have student share Problem Solving Sheet with teacher and parents.

  • Use in-school suspensions, if necessary. Out of school suspensions, usually do not work, especially if unsupervised.
  • Have students identify someone they can go to in the school if they are having problems. Find a "coach" or "mentor." Reinforce school connectedness.
  • For students who need assistance, keep an extra set of books at home.
  • Minimize distractions during homework and test taking. Don't overwhelm students with homework (10 minutes per grade level).
  • Encourage students to attend after-school help sessions and summer review sessions.
  • Schedule regular parent-teacher review meetings (e.g. every 6 weeks, not just at the 9 week grading period). Make proactive efforts to engage parents, as described under ways to Enhance Parent Involvement.
  • Help parents support teacher's efforts to nurture rule-generative behavior in students. May refer them to parent training program.
  • Help parents alter their expectations of their children, who may manifest a developmental delay of up to 30%, especially if they meet the diagnostic criteria of ADHD (Barkley, 2006). These children are likely to have deficits in performance, rather than a skills deficit. ("Doing what they know, instead of not knowing what to do. It is the when and where, not so much the how and what to do.") Such students need cognitive prosthetic devices to help them turn their intentions into actions. There is a need to engineer the school and home environments of such students, by such means as:
    1. Externalizing important information (make lists, posters, list of rules)
    2. Externalizing time periods related to tasks (use timers, reminders, nurture a future orientation)
    3. Internalizing rules ( student use self-instructions, repeat rules and reasons)
    4. Breaking current and future tasks into smaller doable tasks
    5. Providing organizational prompts and reminders
    6. Externalizing sources of motivation (token systems, tangible rewards)
This web site has been produced by The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators. The web site has been made possible with the generous support of the Robert and Renee Belfer Foundation and other supporters.
The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators
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