Classroom Intervention Strategies, Part 2: Medium and High Level Responses

North American

In the first post in this series, we discussed low level responses to misbehavior in the classroom. In most cases, low level responses should be the first step to resolving classroom management issues that come up during a class period. If a low level response is not working, a medium or high level response may be needed.

Medium Level Response
This level of response should be used when the student continues the undesirable behavior after the teacher has implemented low-level responses with no effect.

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Squaring off – Deliberately focus on the student. Approach the student, smile, and maintain your calm demeanor. Pause, turn until your shoulders are square with the student, make eye contact, then give a minimal verbal request to stop the behavior. You can say things like, “shhhh,” “just a minute, please,” “stop,” “not now,” or “no more.” As soon as the student stops you should say “thank you” and walk away. There is no need to escalate your response or give a mini lecture if the misbehavior has stopped.

Elevated Response
When a student continues to misbehave after low level and medium level responses have been exhausted, then it is time to implement an elevated response. This level of response implements choices and consequences. Many of the consequences of bad choices should already be a part of your classroom norms or rules, so there are no surprises for students who choose to misbehave.

Choices: Give the student responsibility for their behavior by offering them a choice. The choice needs to be related to the misbehavior and given immediately, and should be appropriate, fair, and allow for follow through. The choice is given in a neutral tone of voice and is neither a punishment nor an ultimatum, but an opportunity to make a good choice.

Giving a choice might sound like this, “You have two choices: (desired behavior) or (bad behavior with consequence).” For example, “You have two choices: Put your pencil away or keep hitting Jim’s head with your pencil and come sit in the front for 15 minutes.

Consequences: Consequences for common behaviors should be in the course outline. Consequences should be reviewed frequently if misbehavior is increasing. A teacher can then refer to the classroom norms when a student misbehaves.  The teacher may say, “When you choose to _______, the consequence is _________.”

It is important to use “when” instead of “if.” “If” often implies control, as in, “If you don’t stop that, I am going to make you sit up front for 15 minutes.” Using the word ‘when’ emphasizes the student’s responsibility. The sentence sounds entirely different: “When you choose to bounce your pencil off another student’s head, the consequence is sitting up front for 15 minutes.”

Using intervention skills to manage misbehavior is a continuous process in a classroom. However, if done well, intervention skills can help a teacher create a positive, safe environment where students are empowered to control their own behavior. Remember, every student is different, and not all strategies work on all students, so getting to know your students is essential.

Additional Reading

For a more in-depth look at effective interventions in the classroom, consider reading Bennett and Smilanich’s book Classroom Management: A Thinking and Caring Approach.


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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