Dealing with Disruptive Behavior in a Positive Way

A blog image of an upset little girl leaning against a wall and pouting.

A New Class of Students


If you are anything like me, you return to the classroom for the beginning of the school year trying to visualize what your students will be like this year.  There may be a few students that you observed the previous year that you either hope are in your class, or that you (secretly) pray are not in your class.  During the week of Pre-Planning, our ears are often not attuned to anything that is being said in the countless meetings that we are required to sit through.  What is on our minds is, “When am I going to get my class roster?”.  We are compelled by our need to know who we are going to spend this year with.


Behavior:  Seen and Unseen

When it comes to student behavior, we are not always aware of what will come through the classroom doorway.  Have you had students that you knew right away that they had a learning impediment, speech impediment, or the like?  Yet, when you asked the parents if they had any specific learning needs or identified physiological needs the answer is always, “No”.

Some behaviors are on display right away.  Others, take time to manifest themselves.  This was the case for me 3 years ago.  I had a student enter my Kindergarten classroom.  He was very sweet, quiet, and cooperative.  When I first met him, I knew that he was on the Spectrum and observed that his actions and reactions were indicative of Autism.  As teachers, we often know immediately if/when a student presents specific conditions; whether that be the need for Speech, emotional, or behavioral concerns.  His family did not share any medical concerns with me, and just shared that he was quiet and shy, and that it would take time for him to warm up to me.  


New Behaviors Revealed

Kindergarten was a good year.  He struggled with school work, but he was always calm, kind, and cooperative.  He had very good behavior and was well liked by his peers.  Well…. First Grade did not have the same rainbows and lollipops outcome.  It was awful!  He was twice the size of the other students; which garnered fear from the other students.  He was uncooperative, defiant, angry, aggressive, and had very disruptive behavior.  Teaching was almost impossible for me.


His mother tried to help but couldn’t.  She struggled with interacting with him and redirecting his behavior, too.  I loved teaching, but there were days where I didn’t necessarily want to go to work because I never knew what the day was going to be like.  Something had to give.  I needed help from someone with expertise in students with Autism.


Seeking Help When You Need It

As you know, getting help with student behavior can sometimes be next to impossible.  There are steps and processes.  More steps and processes.  An observation to see if others “see what you are seeing”.  Data collection…. You get the picture.  Quite possibly, you have experienced this first hand.  So, exactly what did I do?  I sought help.  I spoke with the head of our Special Education Department.  I explained to her what I was experiencing with this student’s behavior, and how it impacted the other students.  Then, I asked for her expertise.  I take that back!  I begged for her expertise.  She told me that with a student that had these specific needs, that I would need to use visual cues.  Verbal prompts and requests were not going to cut it- at all!

So, I did what any of us would do.  I ran home, hopped on the computer, and began to create visual cues.  I can tell you with all sincerity that they caught his attention immediately.  He didn’t like them initially, but he couldn’t deny the expectations that the pictures demonstrated.  It was a process!! But with diligence and consistency, they became effective.  I was actually able to be (physically) independent of him.  I could also actually make it through an entire lesson without disruptions.


A Little Update

I love that student.  I always (try to) speak to him when I see him in the hall.  I say try to because he hates when attention is placed on him.  But I know that he sees me, and loves me, too.  That year was a struggle, but I took away many lessons and a new sense of expertise that I would not have had if it were not for him.  <3

Behavior Modification Visual Cue Cards Were Born!

A photo of 5 Behavior Modification Visual Cue cards displayed on a wooden desk.

Click here to get your set of visual cue cards!

Use them for/with:

  • Students on the Autism Spectrum
  • ELL/ESOL Students
  • Calmly and quietly re-directing inappropriate, or undesired, student behavior without disturbing the entire class or interrupting your lessons
  • Visually Impaired Students- Poster-size visual cues are included in the resource.
  • Uncooperative Students
  • Re-directing off-task behaviors
  • Students that enter your classroom after the year has begun and they don’t know your rules, routine, or schedule yet
  • Students that blurt out answers or interrupt in other ways
  • As positive, quiet reminders for any student in your classroom
  • Maintaining a well structured, positive classroom environment


This set would be very helpful for:

  • You!
  • Your teammates- This would make a really nice “Back to School” gift!  It is easy to purchase a set for yourself, and then purchase additional licenses at a discounted price.
  • A colleague that has been struggling with student behavior
  • A first year teacher that may not know where to begin in regards to handling student behavior

I hope that you have an amazing school year!  Here’s to having an amazing class of students, and to creating and maintaining a positive classroom environment!


15 Responses

  1. I love these cards! I know that it would be great for non verbal reinforcement! Sometimes a child will act up just to get your attention! These would be great to walk around and just place on desks! LOOOOVE!

  2. Angel,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I love the idea of placing a card on a student's desk. I'll have to add that one to my list. : ) I'm glad that you love them!

  3. Visual and non-verbal cues also account for more than 70% of our effective communication skills, meaning we should definitely use these skills more than verbal cues. I love traffic light colour systems too! I've seen my cousin with Down syndrome also benefit from visual cue cards and talking tiles on her iPad to communicate quite effectively (and quite cheekily too lol) :-)

  4. It is so wonderful to hear your thoughts on this topic! I'm glad that visual cues are helping your cousin, too. That's wonderful! I will look into the traffic color system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A Black female standing in front of three black boxes that are stacked on top of each other. I am wearing a blue, denim dress that is tied at the waist. My hair is in long braids.

Hi, I'm Tania!

I help creative and time-conscious teachers plan student-centered lessons that interest and motivate student learning so that lesson planning takes less time and is actually enjoyable! 

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

Let's Connect!

[replace with ConvertKit Shortcode]