Management Tips for the Challenging Student(s)

Challenging Students? This post shares some tips I use to help with classroom management and dealing with difficult students

Hi Friends!

Happy Christmas Break to you! And Happy Almost Christmas Break to the rest of you who have yet to make it on break yet! 🙁 Just remember, when we are all gearing up to head back to school on the 3rd, you will be sippin’ your coffee in your jammies watchin’ the Today show. #itsthelittlethings

Many of y’all saw my instagram post a few weeks back referencing my challenging year. Here it is in case you missed it.

challenging year

This year has been challenging. I share 36 kids with my partner. But somehow it seems that all of our challenging students ended up in MY homeroom. I’m not sure how that happened and it seems pretty unfair, but….it is what it is. I will venture to say that this year isn’t quite as hard as my 2nd year of teaching. I nicknamed it “The Year to Hell and Back.”

However, I don’t know if this year seems less challenging because it truly is less challenging. Or if it is because I have more patience (hah!). Or possibly because I have learned to not take the challenges to heart as much. My 2nd year of teaching, every failure felt like a representation of ME. Over my 5 years in the classroom, I have learned how to separate my students behavior from my ability as a teacher. Yes, I need to have good classroom management and build relationships with my students in order to foster a healthy and comfortable learning environment. But, I have learned how to leave that at school and not take it home with me- which is something I did NOT know how to do year 2.

I know that I am not the only one with a challenging group of kiddos this year. Here are a few techniques I have implemented that have helped me manage behavior more effectively. I hope you are able to find a tip or two to try with your kids in the New Year!

Marble Jar

This was my first go to trick when I noticed this group of kids were going to give me a run for my money. I didn’t start out with it this year, but about a month in, I grabbed a glass jar out of my cabinet and began filling it with marbles to reward the whole group for good behavior and wise choices.

marble jar

Some changes I have made to it over the years:

The students brainstorm different Whole Group Rewards they would like to earn (pajama day, movie day, extra recess, free draw time, etc.) This time “Bring Milo to school” was on the list! I guess I will have to coordinate with Auntie Em to bring Milo Bear up to school one day so the kids can say hi.

I split the marble jar into 2-3 sections and draw lines on it with a permanent marker. Instead of waiting for the marble jar to fill ALL.THE.WAY.UP.  we only have to wait till it gets to the first line for a reward. Some classes need immediate rewards and it only takes us 1-2 days to reach the first line depending on how generous I am.

I also give more than 1 marble at a time. The first time I tried using a marble jar I gave 1 marble per good choice/compliment/etc. and it took a sweet forever. Now I say things like:

 “If you can make it to the carpet quickly and quietly, I will give you 3 marbles” 

“I am looking to give our class 5 marbles for getting in line quickly and quietly”

or, my favorite!

“If we can make it through this lesson with raising our hands and not interrupting, I will give us 10 MARBLES!”

This not only helps the students know what they are working for and know that a reward is on it’s way, it also does something for me. It prepares my mind and sets the expectations. I usually have a much better lesson when I do this.

Behavior Log

I have a few “Valuable Players” as I like to call them. And for these sweet friends, I have created a behavior log for each of them.

student behavior log

As you can see, they are nothing fancy. I printed them on colored paper and laminated them so that the kids can reuse them each day. Each student has their own goals specific to things they struggle with. (i.e. “I will raise my hand to be called on.” “I will keep my hands to myself.” “I will stay on task and complete my work.”) They use these charts in my class, my partner’s class, and all of the specials area classroom’s.

They can earn a smiley, straight, or frowny face. Each face is worth so many points, they add up the points at the end of the day to determine if they met their goal. I let them decide on their reward options (free draw, help a teacher, extra computer time, etc.) and then if they met their goal by the end of the day, they can choose which reward they would like to receive.

I have three of these right now, thinking about starting student #4 in January. It is a lot to keep up with, but I have noticed a change in my “Valuable Players” behavior because they know that they are working on and towards. Also, this is super helpful for RTI because I can easily write down the points they received each day to keep track of data points for behavior.

Wheel of Choice

I am a huge proponent of Class Meetings. I will be the first to admit I am not always consistent with them, that is a goal for 2017, but I love them and so do my students! We made a Wheel of Choice my first year teaching and haven’t done it again since. I don’t know why, it’s super easy and really helpful!

wheel of choice

This year I did it a little different. Actually, my student teacher did it. But I helped her with the idea, so that counts…right?!?!

We sat in a class meeting a brainstormedwheel of choice ideas all the different things we can do when we have an issue with another student.I love that the students come up with these ideas- not me! They have ownership in them. Next Melanie made 2 big circles out of butcher paper. One circle she left in tact, the other she cut into 8 pieces. Just like a pie. Then each student was assigned a partner and a “problem solving solution” to write and illustrate. When they were done, we glued all the pie pieces onto the circle that was still in tact, laminated it, and hung it on the back of our door.

Now when students come up to me because “HE LOOKED AT ME FUNNY!” I can say “Go to the Wheel of Choice to solve that problem because I AIN’T GOT TIME FOR THAT!!!!!!!” Just kidding, I don’t say that last part. But it usually fixes the problem and leaves me out of it! 🙂


These are not permanent fixes to the challenges that high need students bring to the classroom, however, they do help and I have noticed an improvement when I use these things. I think the hardest thing for me is to


I have found that when I am not being intentional about rewarding the class with marbles or filling out behavior logs, the kids forget about the expectations, I lose patience, and then sometimes I yell things that are maybe not the nicest I go crazy.

I hope that you are enjoying your Christmas Break and not thinking too much about your classroom. But, when you do, cause I know you will, I hope you are able to reflect on this past semester. We are only half way through the year with this group of kids. That means we have six more months with these babies. Six more months to love these kids. Six more months to encourage these kids. It also means we have six more months of opportunities to either lose our cool with that challenging student or six more months of opportunities to build that challenging child up and teach them the right way to handle problems and make good choices.

Until next time,

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