Student Crisis Management Strategies

student crisis management

Whether you are preparing for back-to-school or are in the throes of it all, we, as teachers, are always thinking about and addressing challenging behavior in some capacity. Maybe it’s not all the days, all the time, but it happens. And we gather as many tools as we can so we can support the diversity of our students’ needs. Supporting a student through a crisis can also one of the most fulfilling things we do as teachers. Crisis management is imperative!

I put together a resource for behavior management in the classroom, including visuals for crisis management. Here are some practice and basic techniques for crisis management and behavior management in the classroom, as we all know that these are some of the hardest hurdles to navigate!

This is “The Crisis Mountain” which I use to visually explain what a student goes through when experiencing a crisis.  

Proactive and Basic Techniques for Crisis Management

  • Reduce: Reduce expectations (minimize demands).
  • Reuse: Use previous strategies that were effective with that particular student
  • Recycle: Save problematic work or situations for a later time when student is in a better state to learn.
  • Keep the rest of the students on-task as much as possible and focused away from student in crisis.
  • Give space! Give the student the mental AND physical space they need (safely). Be mindful of your body and how intimidating you may seem, especially if you are working with a child.
  • Attempt to redirect, try to diffuse with positive talk about preferred topic.
  • Provide clear and acceptable choices! Give the student as MUCH power within certain boundaries that you can.
  • Reduce expectations (minimize demands).
  • Communicate with other staff your needs (for student or for staff self-care).
  • Be mindful of your environment. Keep dangerous items out of reach of student in crisis.
  • Reduce/eliminate verbals. If something needs to be said, keep it simple and clear and/or use written.
  • Avoid power struggles and going toe-to-toe. Set clear, but simple limits and expectations, something you know the student can do to be successful at.

Looking for Life Skills visuals for your classroom décor? These visuals cover a variety of needs for your special education, autism, ABA, or preschool classroom. Pictures are familiar Boardmaker™ symbols. Spice up your classroom with these clean and clear visuals! Steep discount for the bundle!

Looking for quick social emotional lessons for your preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten students? Wanting to do social skills activities in morning meeting or community circle? Are you doing social groups but need the simplest of content for your special education or speech students? Here is a buttload of social lessons for you!

  • Establish rapport and relationship with students PRIOR to crises! Make yourself the best reinforcer. Pair yourself with their favorite activities!
  • Use reflective listening and supportive language with students, especially when demonstrating anxiety. Use mirroring (repeating the last three words of what they said) to demonstrate empathy and encourage continued communication.
  • Use labeling when student is anxious. “It seems like…,” “It sounds like…,” “It looks like….” Also demonstrates empathy and understanding and validates feelings.
  • Slow it down! It’s OK to give students space to think and react and give them a chance to process and make decisions.
  • Playing dumb” is a great technique to encourage students to keep talking and processing their emotions. “Hmmm, tell me more about that…” “I think an elephant could fly if it really wanted to.” “I’m sure you can’t finish that in 5 minutes. Not even I could do that.”

***ALWAYS: individual behavior plan trumps all general strategies listed.

Crisis Life Cycle Strategies

And here is a quick snapshot of strategies to use as students go up and down the mountain.

behavior management in the classroom

More behavior ideas:

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!

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