Teaching Tip # 20 – First Response to Misbehavior

Establishing classroom procedures, building relationships with students, thinking about the details of a lesson – all these practices are important in preventing misbehavior in the classroom. But if there is one truth in education, it is this: At some point, a student will make a behavioral mistake. What will be your first response to misbehavior?

The Three R’s

There are three initial responses to student misbehavior. Each response begins with an R (convenient, right?). These responses are explained below.


Students sometimes just forget. A quick reminder might be all a student needs to get back on track. This can be especially effective if you have been able to meet individually with the student about their behavior, and have built a positive relationship with the student.


If you assume students know what they are doing, you are probably going to have a bad time. Throughout their career, students have many different teachers, who all have different expectations. It is important to give students an opportunity to succeed at a behavioral level in your classroom. Taking time to reteach and model appropriate behavior, more than once, is a necessary step to student success.


Sometimes reminding and reteaching are not enough. Sometimes the student is distracted or unable to switch their behavior. This is where redirection comes in. Asking a student to come over by you, changing their seat, or giving the student a small task might be all that is necessary to help them fix their behavior. Redirection means “changing direction”, and sometimes students need the literal interpretation of that word to succeed at a behavioral level in the classroom (“Hey, can you grab that stack of papers for me?”).

Implementing the Three R’s

It should be pointed out that there will be times when using all Three R’s is necessary in a lesson. There may also be times that using all Three R’s is not going to be effective, or even possible. As you use these strategies more, you will begin to understand when to use all three, and when not to. There are a few easy ways to implement any of the three R’s during a lesson.

  • Proximity Reminder: Using proximity to walk near a student can be a strong reminder for students.
  • Non-Verbal Reminder / Redirection: Using a non-verbal strategy (such as the old-school ‘teacher’s eye’, or a shake of the head) can help maintain a relationship while still giving a reminder or redirection to the student.
  • Verbal Reminder / Redirection: Verbally saying a student’s name, or giving an explicit verbal reminder as to the expected behavior, is sometimes necessary for students who need the extra reminders.
  • Full-Stop Modeling: Sometimes extra skills need a full reteaching. Stopping a student, a group of students, or a whole class is sometimes necessary. Model the expected behavior, give students a chance to practice it, and then move back to the task at hand. This process does take time, but can help prevent further behavior issues in the future.

Recognizing What It Is

The most important part of responding to inappropriate classroom behavior is to recognize it for what it is. Students want to learn, and students want to succeed. There may be barriers in the way of this happening, but at the core I believe humans are motivated and curious. Don’t get down on yourself or a student if they show inappropriate behavior. Focus on going through these steps and focus on the positive relationship with the student. If you can redirect the student, and the student still feels welcome and accepted in your classroom, you have truly succeeded in that moment.

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