Editor's Note: The following list has suggestions for working with students with behavior problems, but the ideas are easily modified for any student.
- Provide students with adequate space around their desks. If students are seated so that they can touch each other easily without getting up, stealing and hitting problems could escalate.
- Keep all items not in immediate use in cabinets or closets. Lock the cabinets or closets if possible. The more items available for an angry child to throw, the more rewarding and potentially harmful the tantrum becomes.
- Keep scissors, X-acto knives, and other potential weapons out of students' reach.
- Closely supervise art and cooking activities. Make it clear that these activities will stop if rules are not followed.
- If necessary, arrange furniture to provide students with visual barriers during independent work times.
- Make areas of the room activity specific. For example, desks are for work; the rug is for play; the large table is for group discussion; and the time-out corner is for cooling off and thinking. This helps the students develop constructive classroom behavior habits and reduces confusion over what behavior is expected at a given place and time.
- Check activity-specific areas for appropriate space, lighting, storage, and furniture needs.
- Remove everything from the room that is not absolutely necessary.
- Make furniture and materials accessible to students in order to increase productivity and decrease anger and frustration.
- Actively enforce the rule that people are not for hurting.
Excerpted from Tough to Reach, Tough to Teach.