Roughhousing can be a tricky area of classroom management.
Although nearly every teacher has a rule forbidding it, it can be difficult to get rid of.
Especially once it gets a toehold in your classroom.
Enforcement and consistency are key, of course.
But because the behavior is so impulsive, some students seem unable to control themselves.
Despite being held accountable.
It isn’t uncommon to have otherwise solid classroom management and still struggle to get students to stop wrestling, play-fighting, and the like.
So what’s the solution?
Well, the first step is to make sure that you’re indeed enforcing your classroom management plan in response to every incident. Consistency is number one in importance and will do a majority of the heavy lifting.
Once that’s established, however, there are two strategies that will make the rule resonate with students and end the behavior.
The first is to model what roughhousing actually is and what it looks like. Many students assume that “keep your hands and feet to yourself” refers only to malicious intent, even if you say otherwise.
Modeling the exact roughhousing behavior you’re witnessing, or have witnessed in the past, makes it real and clarifies the definition.
Just thinking of putting a friend in a headlock, then, triggers the vision of you modeling the same behavior, which gives them pause enough not to follow through.
Although you certainly wouldn’t role-play roughhousing with a student-volunteer, you can act as if you’re grabbing a friend around the collar or feigning a karate move.
Which is every bit as effective.
When you model the exact behavior your students are engaging in, and how you’ll enforce it, you’ll see far less of that behavior.
The second strategy can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s powerful and worth every minute. It has a unique way of deepening comprehension and making the behavior seem absurd or out of place.
The way it works is that you’re going to do your modeling in the area or areas you see the behavior happening.
Typically, it’s just outside in the hallway or while entering and exiting the room. It may also be in line on the way to lunch or during transitions.
Whatever the case, the more you can recreate the scene, the stronger you’ll make the association with it being unacceptable.
By modeling in the place or places where it occurs, it reframes the act of roughhousing from harmless fun to a stigma they don’t want to be part of.
In other words, it makes the line more difficult to cross.
Many teachers try to use the force of their personality to make the point of how egregious the behavior is—or can be. (Roughhousing can both lead to bullying and be a form of bullying.)
So they lecture and raise their voice. They become angry and dramatize their disappointment. They threaten and remove freedoms the entire class enjoys.
But the trick is to bring the behavior into sharper focus. It’s to label roughhousing as silly, absurd, and unacceptable within a place of learning—not through your words, but through your actions.
Your students, in turn, will finally make the connection.
And refrain from the behavior.
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