We've all had those days, and moments, where a student loses it. Let me start by saying 9/10 times, the student isn't actually upset at you. Usually, when I find out what's going on outside of school, I can see I didn't do anything to the student; they just chose to explode on me. So regardless of what happens, remember to give lots of grace (to the student and yourself). I can guarantee you're probably not the source of their anger.
Here are just a few ways to combat "negative" behavior in a classroom. I know these may not always work in the lower grades, but I have used them at the middle/high school level.
1. Build routines I'm a firm believer in routines, and I also think they help combat poor behavior. Set your expectations for your routines from the beginning of the year. Also, it is never too late to start to build routines. Students are always capable of learning new skills at any point. I have an entire blog post on building routines click here to read it. ;)
2. Take students in the hallway to chat
This is a classic move, which usually gets their attention. I honestly think I do this on a daily basis. Ok, maybe not that often; it just feels like it. There is nothing wrong with stopping, mid-lesson, and having a chat. Brining a student into the hallway can help neutralize a potential tense situation. It also usually makes the student have a more rational conversation without feeding off of their peers.
3. Reinforce positive behaviors
One way to combat negative behaviors is to acknowledge students who are showing positive actions. This is one of the oldest tricks in the "teacher book," but it often works. I also try really hard to acknowledge when a student was acting poorly, correct them, and then if they change their behavior I give them great praise. Students need to receive praise. I would argue praise is one of the best ways to combat poor behavior.
4. Don't be afraid to call in reinforcements
As I said, behavior is often a major issue in my classrooms. Many of my students do not receive any type of discipline at home, so when they come to class they don't know how to handle structure/correction. Often, I will ask a coworker how the same student is acting in their class. I'll try to find any tips that work in their room. If a student is just acting out in my room, I try to figure out why. Is it their classmates? Is it something I have personally done? Do I perhaps remind them of a previous teacher they disliked? Is it because I'm a female (often our students will respond differently to a male vs. female because of their past)? Use reinforcements from others to help with behaviors. You never know what you'll learn from others.
5. Don't be afraid to take it to the "next level"
After multiple conversations, in a one-on-one environment, I am never afraid to write someone up. I also am never afraid to send them to the office. I know we often tell ourselves, as teachers, to use the office as a last resort. However, that is not how our school operates. As I said earlier, behavior problems are very common. For example, I had three straight days in a row (just last week) where I sent someone to the office. If you have that type of relationship/agreement with your administration, don't be afraid to send students to the office. I have had several students who majorly changed, after I "kick them out" of class. Sometimes this approach works and sometimes it doesn't.
6. Don't be afraid to schedule a meeting with a parent/guardian.
Utilize calls home, encourage meetings, and use conferences to catchup. You never know what impact this can have on a student's progress.
7. Ask the intervention team if a behavior plan is possible
I've been amazed at the impact a behavior plan can have on a student. This doesn't even have to be anything official; you could easily create something yourself. There are also a lot of resources readily available for behavior. There's no need to recreate the wheel when someone has designed something that would work for you.
My biggest piece of advice is to deal with behavior case-by-case. There is no quick fix to any behavior. Each student is different, and each of their behaviors will be too. Regardless of what happens, remember poor behavior usually doesn't have anything to do with you. :) I hope you find what works best for you and your students.