An Example of Teacher Intervention for At-Risk Behavor

by on October 8th, 2010
Share Button

A student who is a sixteen year old tenth grader sleeps in class, defaces desks and textbooks in class, and blatantly refuses to answer direct questions. The student is reading at a sixth grade reading level and has few if any friends. There are a lot of concerns with this student, who we will call Rita. Rita has some major concerns for her at-risk behaviors. To define at-risk NAREN (National At-Risk Education Network) has proposed the following definition: “Students are placed at-risk when they experience a significant mismatch between their circumstances and needs, and the capacity or willingness of the school to accept, accommodate, and respond to them in a manner that supports and enables their maximum social, emotional and intellectual growth and development.”(NAREN, 2011). Rita’s at-risk behaviors will be addressed as well as providing intervention plans.

Rita’s reading level is of major concern because it affects her self-esteem and fear of failure, which will in essence produce a lack of interest and motivation. “Problems in reading can affect performance across several academic content areas, occupational endeavors, and other functional skills that are used in everyday life activities.” (Joseph, 2006) Rita will not be able to participate in class activities and assignments if unable to read at an adequate level to keep up with the class material.

The first intervention after contacting the school counselor or psychologist to see if an IEP (Independent Education Plan) is or needs to be put into place for Rita, is to provide more one-on-one instruction and help for Rita, e.g. reading her assignments and tests to her. During class assignments, it would benefit Rita for the teacher to assist her personally even for short periods of time to monitor and assist her in her assignments. This would give her more motivation to learn if she feels she is being helped rather than ignored, unimportant, and forgotten. Secondly, when the class works together in teams or groups it benefits in their learning. Placing Rita with a buddy partner and/or group of peers will be a positive influence and will be beneficial. It will help Rita with her reading and comprehension, as well as helping her feel more accepted by their peers. Feelings of “I am stupid”, “I will never learn to read”, and “I hate school”, will also be minimized. Getting to know Rita a little better, her interests and possible goals in life, and what does she want to obtain will help target her personal interests in the subject matter. This is important with all of the students so that the material can be presented in a way that is of interest to them, which creates motivation to learn.

Sleeping in class is of concern because she isn’t participating and if she isn’t participating she isn’t learning. By putting her head on her desk and sleeping during class it is disruptive to the teaching and to the other students. Other students notice it and the teacher is losing control by allowing it. The first action would be to move Rita’s desk to the front of the class so that she is “up-front” and it’s easier to make sure she isn’t falling asleep.

When she is starting to sleep in class, I would approach her and sincerely ask if she is feeling okay. Another way of handling the sleeping in class is, ask her a question that I know she can answer or mention her name in the lecture. For example, “Rita likes to sew and wants to know how much material she will need to make her dress for the prom, how would she calculate the amount of material she would need?” Increasing the motivation for Rita would also involve finding out some of the hobbies, likes, dislikes, and things that interest her. This way those can be incorporated into the class lecture to gain and hold her attention. Also, she could be assigned as the teacher’s assistant for the class. She can take attendance, pass out papers, and collect assignments among other little miscellaneous chores.

Defacing desks and textbooks in class is another concern because it is disruptive and destructive behavior. Defacing the textbooks by drawing and writing in them, or destroying pages in textbooks as well as carving into the desks is destructive behavior and disrespecting school property. Creating teambuilding activities benefits the whole class and prevents boredom. In Rita’s case, it will help with possible fear of failure. Constructing a private working contract with Rita outlining behaviors that acceptable and unacceptable and praising her when she abides by the contract. When noticing Rita defacing either the textbooks or the desks, moving to where Rita is sitting so that she knows she is being observed without interrupting the class will let her know that what she is doing is inappropriate behavior. The teacher may also place her hand on the corner of Rita’s desk to get her attention.

Blatantly refusing to answer questions directed at her is yet another disruptive behavior and displays a lack of interest and motivation. A result of Rita not being able to read at the tenth grade level she isn’t learning which results in boredom and being totally lost in class. From her work there should be an indication of what she is not understanding, which from her behavior I would assume it is most of the material. Helping her with her reading is a start. Giving her alternative reading material that covers the material for her at level she can read and understand will help her stay on track. By giving her more appropriate classwork suitable to her level of reading and comprehension it would help her understand the material. Creating personal activities/assignments for her rather than the general assignments, which are better suited for her. If she is having problems understanding the material Rita would benefit from similar activities and/or assignments from a different grade level in which she could understand the key points of the lessons. Asking Rita questions in class that she knows the answers would improve her self-esteem and give her more confidence in answering questions in class. By helping her on a one-to-one basis what Rita is, learning can be used to target questions that she is knowledgeable about. This would also motivate her to continue to learn. Rita’s blatant refusal to answer questions is due to her not understanding the material and she most likely feels put on the spot but if she is asked questions she knows the answers to then she is more likely to respond.

Not having friends is of extreme concern because peer acceptance is important in school, especially as a teenager. Not having peer acceptance is a major factor for dropping out of school. She may not be making friends because she feels she doesn’t fit in and can’t relate to her peers because of not being able to read at their level. She is an outsider by not being able to stay abreast of the current events of her peers. Incorporating some of the current interests of the students in class to the subject being taught would bring her more into their circle of interest. Having the class in teams of several students, in which she is paired with her buddy in the class will allow conversations about other interests that are happening with them. This would allow her to form a friendship and hopefully more will come from them. Giving Rita and another student the responsibility to decorate the classroom with posters pertaining to the class subject would give her the opportunity to become involved in the class as well as making a friend. Giving her and another student the job of keeping a bulletin board with current events happening in the school would give her the same opportunity to become involved in school activities as well as getting to know another student. Assigning Rita with a third student the responsibility of keeping the classroom organized. Rita and her classmate would be responsible for making sure the incoming assignments are picked up and outgoing assignments are handed back to students. Also, if the class had a pet like a gerbil that Rita and a couple of other students are responsible for caring for would give Rita responsibility and a chance to interact with other students.

Students with at-risk behaviors like Rita’s need to be guided in a different direction than the one they are on if they are to become successful and achieve their goals in life. Intervention is essential in helping them learn adequate skills as students and in their future as a part of society.


Joseph, Laurice M. (2006). In Understanding Assessing and Intervening on Reading Problems. (pp. 803). National Association of School Psychologists.

NAREN. Retrieved November 09, 2011, from

Prev Article: »
Next Article: «

Related Articles