- To begin with, we used visual cues-a big red STOP sign on the shelves indicate that they were off limits for the day—for all students.
- Second, we went over behavioral expectations everyday—with the whole group and privately with the impulsive student. (To give students more control, we incorporated students’ choices when we planned for the week ahead).
- Third, we went over the consequences. “What do you think will happen if you pulled out the materials from the shelves whenever you want?” You lose learning time because you haven’t completed the work set out, it disrupts the class, and there are consequences from the teachers…”
- Next, we worked on alternate methods of asking to explore the materials—“Please may I look at … during lunch time/before dismissal?” "Can we plan a lesson using...?"
- Last,we used an incentive system to recognize/reward the students' appropriate behaviors.
In general strategies to control responses must include
- Environmental adaptations,
- Teaching alternate methods to respond to the task/situation (it helps to identify a STOP and THINK cue), and
- Understanding the consequences of impulsive actions.
- Use a reward based behavioral management plan if appropriate for the student and the situation.
- Model the behavior you want your students to learn. If you are deliberate (stop/think/act) in your actions, they get to see how it is done.
2. Use self talk i.e., the thoughts/ideas that spring to mind in response to a problem or task. Narrate out aloud how you arrive at a plan to deal with the situation. Let the students see/hear you modify your steps when you make a mistake. “There are five sums on this page. I will start on the first sum. Maybe I should cover the other four with an extra paper. I must finish this sum before I uncover the second sum…”
While encouraging the student to use self talk, also be aware of how it impacts the others around him. If he is too loud, it will disturb them. Choose peers who have good attention skills to sit with him, or position him in a quieter area. Slowly work on reducing the volume—ideally the student should work towards ‘talking in his head.’
3. Cue students to stop and think about the consequences of their actions. “What do you think will happen if you do…?” “What will happen if you do it the other way?” “How will your action affect you, your friends, your academic work and your social circle?”
4. Generate alternate actions to delay the response—get a drink of water or take a walk for a few minutes. The intensity of the response comes down because the student has had a few minutes to think/cool off/plan.
Be prepared to use any strategy for a good length of time—it takes time to substitute impulsive reactions with planned responses. In the case of my student mentioned above, we worked on this for nearly three months before we saw significant changes. Even after six months he needed occasional reminders. Did it make our work easier? Did the student feel more in control of his behavior? Did the rest of the class benefit from putting in a little extra effort for one student? Yes!
You may find that learning to control responses in one situation doesn’t neccessarily generalize to other situations. For example, say your student has learned to raise his hand before blurting out the answer in class. It doesn’t necessarily follow that he will not interrupt when two of his peers are having an argument. Unfortunately that may lead to a bigger social fracas. You have to teach the same skill in different contexts (with multiple repetitions).