Preventive cueing is a technique for stopping disruptive behaviour before it begins and for avoiding confrontation or embarrassment of the student in front of peers. The teacher arranges privately with the student a predetermined hand signal or word signal to cue the student to calm down, pay attention, stop talking out, stop rocking in chair, these are all quiet reminders.
Examples of cueing:
- Use traffic light or stop signal to indicate slow down/stop behaviour.
- Go over to the student, look directly into his/her eyes and tap your chin a few times to indicate that you want him/her to focus on you.
- Use the two-thumbs up sign indicating that the student can get up and move to another part of the room or outside the door.
- Students to whom you have taught relaxation strategies, can be cued with a word or two to start using the specific strategies to relax and regain control.
How effectively they will be able to use the strategy will depend on how much they practice and internalize the technique. For example, I have taught some students to visualize a color that is calming and peaceful to them. The students are taught to ‘breathe in’ that specific color and to send it throughout their bodies to relax and feel peaceful and in control. When one of those students begins to ‘lose it’ in class, the goal is for me to be able to walk over to that student and try cueing him/her to apply the strategy. With a word or a few quiet words and cues (e.g., breathe, send the turquoise through your body, the student may be able to calm himself/herself and regain control.
- Student ‘help’ signs or colored card can be given to students to place or prop up on their desks. Examples:
- I’m working (green card)
- I’m finished (blue card)
- I need help (red card)
- Send student short, handwritten notes, please remember to
- Use reminder cards on desks of students (written directions or picture clues)
Try to keep in mind that these children are not ‘out to get you,’ and annoying disruptive behaviour are often not intentional or even in the child’s awareness, help by doing following:
- Avoid criticism and ‘don’t’ statements, teach and explain what behaviour you do want to see. Make your expectation clear.
- Show respect for the student and, whenever possible, keep your sense of humor.
What should I do about?
- The child who is totally out of control-yelling, swearing, hiding under desk: first, have the child removed from your classroom immediately. Some schools have a crisis team to deal with such problems. When a child is totally out of control, the office is immediately alerted and someone from the team (e.g., principal, VP, counsellor) comes to the classroom to deal with the child while the teacher takes the rest of the class out of the room. For extreme cases you need administrative support and immediate involvement from your site consultation team to meet with parents, plan strategies, and give you support and assistance.
- The child who can’t stay seated and who is constantly falling out of the chair: in private time with student, explain your concern and expectation that he/she remain seated. Ask student why he/she can’t stay seated. Sometimes the size of the chair is inappropriate and not comfortable. Sometimes seat cushions help, other times allowing the student to straddle the back of the chair is helpful. Most of these children generally have a physiological need for mobility. Make sure your instruction allows for active involvement and some movement. Work out a system with the student that gives him/her more opportunity to get up when needed and to move around. Some students need the structure of masking tape boundaries on the floor indicating the space they are allowed. Try a contract for ‘sitting in chair’ with positive reinforcement. Start with a baseline of time they may be able to stay seated and work to build up that amount of time, try a private cue with the student. A logical consequence for a student who cannot sit in a chair without causing a disturbance is to temporarily lose the privilege to sit. Have the student remain standing for a specified amount of time. Seat work might have to be done standing or kneeling. Some children cannot physically remain seated for any length of time, you will have to be tolerant and willing to ignore some of this behaviour, allowing some children to stand up by their seats as needed.
- The impulsive child who blurts out in class all the time: try a contract and positive reinforcement for raising a hand, a token system may be effective for reminding a student who does not have the inner controls to stop himself/herself. Begin the day by giving the student a certain amount of chips/tokens in a little cup. Whenever he/she blurts out inappropriately in class, remove a chip from the cup with a quiet reminder or signal to raise a hand. Don’t acknowledge this student’s answer or response during blurt-outs. Ignore what he/she said, when all chips are gone, the remain at the end of the day (or specified amount of time), positive reinforcement follows. This child needs proximity control with teachers that are physical (gentle touch) and auditory (e.g, whispering to student or talking in a soft voice):
- The child who is constantly angry or upset about something:
Find time to talk with and listen to the student, refer to the counsellor for assistance. Acknowledge the child’s feelings and offer acceptable, more appropriate responses or alternatives.
- Provide for a release of physical tension-running track, writing about anger in a journal or on paper.
- Teach relaxation strategies
- Teach the student to become aware of his/her internal feelings when he/she is becoming upset and to practice techniques such as: deep breathing, giving self reminders (chill out, count backwards from 25 before doing or saying anything)
- ADD/ADHD students often have peer problems due to generally weak social skills. Incorporate social skill training/awareness whenever you can, especially in cooperative learning groups.
- Try a contract with positive reinforcement, obvious negative consequences will occur if the student breaks rules out of anger.
- The child who is always irritating peers: often this child is unaware of how annoying he/she is to others and it is best to bring it to the child’s attention at a time when he/she would not be humiliated in front of peers. Talk about how it makes others feel and how it would make them feel if their space was invaded. Take a good look at environmental alternatives. Give this student space-leg room, extra tabletop space, extra seating space. Reward the student (praise) when he/she is facing forwarding and seated properly. Make a big deal out of how great it is to see the child seated appropriately.