Classroom Intervention Strategies, Part 1: Low Level Responses

North American

Every encounter between teachers and students matters. These encounters accumulate to help create the basis of the student’s impression of their school, church organization, God, and in some cases, their chosen profession. All teachers leave an impression. Thus, it is essential that Seventh-day Adventist teachers use a grace-based classroom management approach. The future spiritual health of their students may be at stake.

Effective classroom management can help transform a classroom into a peaceful learning environment. When a student misbehaves, the teacher strives to match the appropriate response to the misbehavior. The response should decrease the chance of defiance, not increase it. While misbehavior is frustrating, remember to use a neutral, pleasant tone of voice and check your body language – smile, keep your head up, walk slowly, and maintain your personal space.

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Responses should match the tone of the misbehavior, and should be as low key as possible. Don’t start talking as your first intervention. Use non-verbal or minimal responses first. There are 3 basic levels of responses: low level, medium level, and high level. In this article, we will look at several low level intervention techniques that can be used to quickly stop misbehavior without disrupting the class.

Low Level Responses
Use these techniques when the misbehavior begins. They communicate that the teacher is aware of the behavior, but unwilling to stop the flow of the class.

Proximity – Move closer to the misbehaving student to indicate your awareness of the misbehavior. Keep the flow of the class going from beside the student. When the misbehavior stops, move away. This allows the student to demonstrate self-control while not singling them out for their behavior.

Light Touch – Gently touch a student’s chair, table, notepad, book, or electronic device. Again, this indicates awareness of the behavior.

Gesture – Send a non-verbal message to the students to stop what they are doing: a finger over lips, shaking your head, holding up a finger or your hand, etc.

The Look – Make eye contact with the student.

The Pause – Stop talking in an inappropriate spot in a sentence. When the misbehavior stops, continue with whatever you were saying. Don’t indicate your frustration, just carry on as though nothing happened.

Use the Student’s Name – Say it as though it belongs in the sentence, but in a very awkward place in the sentence.

Focus on the Problem – Focus your correction on the object if possible instead of the student. For example, if a student is playing with their phone, you could touch the phone or quietly ask them to put it away instead of commenting on the behavior.

Pick Your Battles – Choose to ignore incidental misbehavior and reserve your energy for the most critical issues. For example, with a large group, there will be side conversations going on, as this is the reality of having a large group. You can also choose to ignore behavior that the student will most likely stop independently.

When low-level responses have been used without getting the desired results, it is time to move on to medium level responses. Check back in next Friday for the second part of this series, which focuses on medium and high level responses.


Sharon Aka is the Associate Director of the Adventist Learning Community & Associate Director for the North American Division Office of Education. In her role she supports content development and training for pastors, teachers, ministries, administrators, and believers and seekers. She has worked for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for 3 years, and continues to be excited about combining her faith and profession. Sharon is a Registered Nurse by trade, with 16 years experience as Surgical Nurse and Nurse Educator at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. She also has 11 years experience as a Professor of Nursing and Professional Development Specialist for faculty at Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto, Ontario. Sharon is a PhD student at Andrews University, USA.

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