Giving Students a Choice Reduces Challenging Behaviour

“I’m not doing the stupid math!!” This statement is usually said in a loud voice, with defiance. And, it happens often if you are a teacher. Not only math but language, science, pretty much anything! When students are digging in their heels, looking at you with their fight face, instead of getting into a power struggle, insisting they do the work, offer them a choice.

This is called a forced choice – they can’t choose to do anything, but they can choose from the options you give them. They could choose which page they want to work on, where they want to sit, who will help them, whether to do it now or do language now and math later. Any choice you give them helps students feel more in control and lessens the change they will call you names “under their breath” but so you can still hear.

In fact, if you know you are entering a situation which triggers challenging behaviour, you can give a choice at the beginning – students can do questions 1, 3, 5… or 2, 4, 6… or they can do a worksheet or a page in a text book or the activity on the Smart Board. They can choose which type of format they want to present with – a paper, an oral presentation or a video. There are many ways to include choice in your classroom and decrease challenging behaviour. Notice I said, “decrease” and not “eliminate” – if I could do that, I’d really be rich!

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