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Dr. Ken Shore's Classroom Problem Solver


Classroom Management for Specials


Regular classroom teachers aren't the only educators who confront behavioral problems. Teachers of special subjects, such as art, music, and physical education also face the challenge of dealing with disciplinary issues. In fact, students might see those classes as an opportunity to have a good time, and be more apt to misbehave. It is not surprising, therefore, that children who act like angels in their regular classrooms can become hellions when they go to "specials."


"Specials" have less instructional time with students than do regular classroom teachers. As a result, specials have less time to impress upon students their expectations and fewer opportunities to shape student behavior. In addition, classroom activities during special classes often are highly stimulating, which can increase the likelihood that students will act out.


Establish the tone at the start of class. If students are allowed to talk to one another at the start of class, settling them down will be more difficult. Tell your students you expect them to enter class quietly and to be ready immediately to follow instructions or begin the task posted on the chalkboard. Try to start your lesson as soon as students are seated; before they have a chance to misbehave.

Set and post your classroom rules. Do not have more than five classroom rules, stated simply, clearly, and in positive terms. Post rules where students can see them easily. Discuss the rules the first week of class and refer to them as necessary throughout the year. You might consider having the same rules as their regular classroom teacher.

Remind problem-prone students of your rules as they enter class. If you have a student who regularly misbehaves in your class, briefly talk with him as he walks in the door. Greet him in a positive manner and remind him of the class rules, emphasizing those he has violated in the past. If he is well behaved during that class period, let him know that you are pleased with his behavior. You might even call his parents to let them know how well he behaved in your class.

Put up a sign from the classroom teacher. If you are informed that a particular class has been misbehaving on the day you see them, consider posting a notice from the regular classroom teacher on your chalkboard. The notice might read, for example, "My students have been behaving poorly today. Please let me know of any students who misbehave during your class. I also can provide students' telephone numbers so you can contact their parents if necessary." Adapt the notice to fit your situation, but don't post it every time you have that class. Use it only on those days when the regular classroom teacher anticipates a problem in your classroom.

Use the regular classroom teacher's behavior modification plan. If the regular classroom teacher uses a behavior modification plan with a student or with the entire class, ask the teacher if you can be included on that plan. Try to keep it simple. For example, if a student has a point card that he uses in his regular classroom, you might have him bring the card to your class and assign points based on his behavior with you. The student can use the points to earn rewards or privileges from you as well as from his regular classroom teacher.

Prepare activities for students to do as they line up to leave. If the classroom teacher is delayed picking up students, they might exhibit behavior problems while waiting in line. You can prevent that by planning a few waiting activities that are both fun and educational. As an example, you might play "Art Jeopardy" or "Music Jeopardy," in which you give answers and students provide the questions.


About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist and chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools. He has written five books, including Special Kids Problem Solver and Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver.

Click to read a complete bio.