Helping Students Manage Impulses in the Classroom

In the book Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind: 16 Characteristics for Success, author, researcher, and educator A. L. Costa, identified and addressed a rather substantial list of habits beneficial for students, teachers, and schools.  Managing impulses is one of the characteristics.  Students must learn to manage their impulses if they are going to accomplish their academic and lifetime goals.    

How can teachers help the students in their classrooms manage their impulses?  The following suggestions were compiled by the editors of ADDitude and presented on their webpage (

  1. Create and display clearly defined rules for the classroom.  Have students help create the list and provide definitions that are easily understood.  Establishing a set of behaviors that are adopted and practiced school-wide can also help students know how they are to behave in school. 
  2. Address noncompliance immediately.  If the interval between the incident and the discipline/redirection is short, it is more likely that the student will close the consequence-action loop and learn to make better behavioral choices. 
  3. Maintain visual reminders regarding behavior and behavior tracking.  Some classes use clothespins and red/yellow/green cards to help students “see” how their behavior is trending.  Some teachers also work directly with students to create a common phrase or a hand gesture that lets students know they need to better monitor and control their behavior.  Experiment with a variety of methods and use what fits your students and classroom. 
  4. Develop and implement a recognition and award system for appropriate behaviors.  Individual classrooms can have such systems.  A school-wide system such as PBIS can also be beneficial in this regard. 
  5. Write the schedule for the day on the board.  Students benefit greatly from seeing a roadmap for the day.  
  6. Issue alerts prior to activity transitions.  Giving students a verbal prompt (i.e. In two minutes we will close our books and move on to the next task) helps them mentally prepare for the change in instruction or content.  
  7. Implement a daily check-in/check-out or report card system for students who are struggling with behavior.  The system doesn’t have to be overly complex.  It can be a simple sticker or plus/minus marking on a page.  Always find a way to add some encouragement whenever using any type of system. 
  8. Use clear language.  The example provided by the ADDitude team is as follows:  Don’t tell students to “be good” on the playground.  Tell them to “wait in line for the slide” and “don’t push other students.”  These are very clearly understood behaviors. 
  9. Hold students accountable.  

As you prepare for next week, think about how you might incorporate these into your classroom practice.  You and your students will be glad you did!

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