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Tips for Behavior Management During Distance Learning

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

The global pandemic that March 2020 brought us forced teachers everywhere to get creative and do what has never been done before. After months of distance learning, here are some things that I have learned to help with virtual behavior management!

1. Use breakout rooms for processing! It’s not really appropriate to talk through things in depth with one student in front of everyone else on your zoom call. In the classroom, I might write a note for a student, whisper a reminder in their ear, give a gestural prompt, or have a 1:1 conversation to remind them of expected behaviors or to process when something triggering happens (i.e., completing a think sheet). A breakout room provides a great option for a private, 1:1 conversation!

2. The mute button is your BEST FRIEND. While we are absolutely working on demonstrating expected behaviors & the mute button isn’t a realistic intervention for real life, it is a great tool for ignoring attention-seeking behaviors.

3. Provide specific coping strategies for students to utilize. I have a slide that I show before every single lesson that gives examples of strategies specific to distance learning that students can utilize if they see or hear something that bothers them (i.e., covering someone’s face, requesting a breakout room, etc.). We remind students that it’s okay to use these strategies to stay regulated and calm!

4. Just like in-person teaching, provide frequent reminders of expections. We review our five finger contract before and after literally EVERYTHING. It’s almost overkill, but absolutely needed!

5. Again, this is also a staple practice for in-person teaching, but provide frequent and specific positive reinforcement when your students are demonstrating expected behaviors! When we are teaching in-person, we tend to use so many non-verbal cues (i.e., thumbs up, high fives, facial expressions, etc.). However, when you're teaching through a computer, students may not realize what you are referring to. Use specific language so that students understand what behaviors you are reinforcing. We have a point system, where students can earn points and cash in for a reward on Friday! This, along with frequent verbal praise, has been extremely helpful!

BONUS TIP: Assign a check-in form that students can complete to let you know how they’re doing & how you can support them from home! I use a daily Google form for this!

Above all else, continue to create and maintain positive relationships with your students. Don't worry if you lose a minute here or there because students are chatting with one another or sharing what they ate for dinner last night. Those relationships should come first and the rest of the tips I shared above will follow. What are your tips for behavior management during distance learning?

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