Many of the classroom management strategies that we discuss have a more general application. Let’s take a look at some strategies for students who need to move around during class time. The first thing we need to determine is what need is the behavior attempting to satisfy. Our best guess of the top three possibilities is a good starter. Monitor the student’s behavior and his response to your actions and words. That is the best way to discover which of your explanations is correct and decide how to respond.
When the student is wandering around and you speak to him, if he responds appropriately then you can be pretty sure that it is your attention that is being sought. What are some ways that you can be proactive and give this student the attention he seeks from you?
1. Have a brief (10 to 30) second chat with him as he enters class. What did you do last night? I like your shirt. Make sure you do this for every student at least once each day. (Small investment, big returns.)
2. Solicit his responses or ideas as you teach the lesson and respond to what he says to reaffirm that you are interested in and value what he has to say.
3. As soon as you have finished teaching the lesson pass by his desk and speak to him. You can reinforce the way he has gotten started so quickly. You could also ask him if he has a question about what he is to do. There might be some common link between the lesson and his interests that you could comment on.
4. At home time ask him if he has everything he needs. Do you have any questions about your homework? Good luck with the game tonight.
If the student only wanders from his desk to the desk of one of his friends then he is probably trying to satisfy his need to belong. The best classroom management strategy to satisfy this need is build group activities into your program.
1. Have your classroom set up so that students are sitting in groups of two to six people. The groups should be as heterogeneous as possible. Include boys and girls, high and low performing students, students with special needs, different ethnic backgrounds. And yes even friends.
2. In each subject have time for group activities.
3. For group activities assign each student a specific role and alternate the roles each day.
4. Be certain to include at least one activity that each student is good at so they can excel and make a positive contribution to the group.
5. Change groups frequently so that everyone gets to work with every other student as some point during the year.
If this behavior only occurs during math class then the wandering is probably an avoidance behavior.
1. Talk to the student and find out what concerns him about mathematics.
2. Conduct some informal diagnostic work to see what aspects of last years’ curriculum he has not mastered.
3. Offer to give him extra help out of class time.
4. Visit him soon after teaching the lesson (not always first). Ask him to work on the first question until he gets stuck and then raise his hand.
5. Buddy him up with someone who can answer his questions right away.
6. Check back with him several times to be sure he understands what to do and how to do it.
7. Make certain that he has several correct examples that he can refer to at home when he is doing his homework.
8. If getting work done at home is a problem try to get a homework room set up in your school. There will be lots more like him who could use some quiet supervised time to complete homework.
If the wandering can be attributed to ADD or ADHD, that is a story for another day.
The classroom management strategies discussed above can be used for many students in your class. Making them part of your everyday routine will eliminate problems before they occur… the best way to manage your class.