How to Redirect Off-Task Behavior In the Classroom

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Classroom management is an essential part of the learning process. Ideally, all students would be attentive and engaged in a lesson, but as many educators know, that is not always the case. Sometimes students get off task, and it is up to the teacher to redirect that behavior. There are some strategies that teachers can follow to redirect off-task students.

1 Keep the transitions

Keep the transitions between activities moving along with little dead time. Plan accordingly, and always have your materials ready. If you do not have everything on hand, the time taken in between lessons increases, thereby giving the students more chances for off-task behavior.

2 Use non-verbal cues

Use non-verbal cues if it is one or two particular students who are exhibiting off-task behavior, such as making eye contact with them, or putting your finger to your lips in order to represent silence. This lets the students know that you are aware of their behavior without bringing it to the attention of the rest of the class, and it keeps the lesson moving.

3 Utilize an ambiguous verbal cue

Utilize an ambiguous verbal cue if off-task behavior continues, such as “I hear talking,” or “I don’t see everyone at their desks.” Making a general statement lets the students know that you are aware that they are off task and wish for them to stop, without embarrassing them in front of the whole class.

4 Use a signal

Use a signal if a larger number of students is showing off-task behavior, such as raising your hand and waiting for all of the students to raise their hands. Establish this signal at the beginning of the school year, when you let the students know the class rules and guidelines. State that whenever they see your hand in the air, they must mimic that gesture. For younger students, a series of gestures or a portion of a song is always helpful.

5 Move

Move closer to the student or students who are off task. Combine this action with non-verbal or verbal cues, if necessary. Increasing your proximity between yourself and the students makes them aware of your presence and is likely to stop any off-task behavior.

6 Address the students'

Address the students' behavior directly if all other means have not redirected the improper behavior. This requires either going to the students and quietly reminding them to get back on task, or addressing their behavior from your position in the classroom. If you choose the latter method, you must address the behavior in a way that does not embarrass the students.

  • Sometimes a student will act out if he does not understand the lesson. Make sure that is not the case before issuing any type of redirection.
  • Always remember that the point of redirection is to correct a behavior and not to humiliate the student.

Born and raised in Texas, Jacob Guerra is a college instructional designer who began writing professionally in 2009. His work appears on eHow. He holds a Master of Science in computer education and cognitive systems from the University of North Texas and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Texas-Pan American.