Authors: Laura Hemberger, M.A.T. and Kathryn Morrow, M.A.T. Trinity University


Even with preventative structures and strategies in place, it is likely that students will occasionally engage in off-task or otherwise inappropriate behavior.  Below is a list of suggestions for teachers to use in the event of inappropriate student behaviors:

  1. Take a moment to check in with the student privately.  Perhaps there are issues about which you are unaware.  Has the student had a bad day?  Is some piece of assistive technology not functioning properly?  Are other health issues affecting the student?
  2. Explain appropriate behaviors ahead of time for any new or unfamiliar tasks or transitions and have the student echo those expectations back to you to check for understanding.
  3. Use intentional facial responses to indicate inappropriate or off-task behavior.  Deaf students are very tuned into visual cues, so a look of disapproval can go a long way.  However, it is important to remember that this method of redirection is only effective once you have the student’s attention.
  4. Use a redirection signal with the student.  This may be a word or phrase in ASL or a made-up signal agreed upon by teacher and student.
  5. Use proximity control, as described by Redl and Wattenberg (Charles, Senter, and Barr, 1995).  When student fails to respond to the above signals, move closer to communicate that you are aware of a problem and would like to help redirect behavior.
  6.  If proximity control does not result in the desired effect, you may need to place a hand on the student’s desk, lightly tap the child on the shoulder, or wave one hand. (Reserve the waving of both hands for emergency situations only) (Mullis & Otwell, 1998).
  7. While you may want to use Canter's broken-record technique (Charles, Senter, and Barr, 1995) of repeating your statement several times, be aware that you might need to rephrase your request rather than using the same words over and over, in order to insure that the student understands what you are saying.  In this case, make sure to use concise, directive phrases.
  8. To reinforce positive classroom participation and work completion, use reinforcers of various kinds after the behavior is observed:
    1. Non-verbal social reinforcers—a smile, gesture, nod, wink, thumbs up, a light touch or pat, "high five" ;
    2. Graphic reinforcers—stickers or stamps on a chart, any marks that indicate a positive achievement for the child (more effective for younger children).  These reinforcers can be collected to earn larger rewards over time;
    3. Activity reinforcers—any activity the student prefers. These reinforcers work well for students of all ages;
    4. Tangible reinforcers—real objects students can earn as a reward for desired behavior.  Food items such as popcorn or raisins, school supplies, books, or inexpensive toys or games (Charles, Senter, and Barr (1995).
  9. Talk with parents about the behavior management strategies employed at home and whether a home-school behavior contract might be effective for the child.

We must never forget that the student is a child first and an individual with hearing impairment second.  Behaviors at school may be frustrating, confusing, or difficult to manage, and it is in your best interest to work as a collaborative team with other professionals. A key component for any effective teacher is flexibility, a sense of humor, and the willingness to learn as you go.