Observation in SEN school TS5 & 7

I am currently on a 2-week placement at a SEN school. I have been observing and teaching in a class of 11-13 year olds, who are studying at about a Year 4-5 level.  The children are streamed into 2 classes for Maths and English, the higher ability group coming into our room.

On one particular day as the second class arrived, one of the boys(JB) stormed in and started yelling immediately at another boy(RT).  I heard the teacher give JB a clear, direct warning in a calm low voice to step away. He was very angry because the other boy(RT) was sat in his chair.

RT refused to move, and JB got angrier.  The teacher immediately stepped forward and kept calming telling JB to move away and sit in a different seat.  Initially he refused and threatened the other boy, but then went and sat down.  The teacher then turned to the class and asked all the children to open their books and write in the LO for the lesson.  As everyone was busy, he went over to JB.  He got down on his level and whispered to him.  JB was visibly still angry.  The teacher gently told him, he needed to calm down, and gave him several choices. To stay in the classroom and sit there, and get on with his work, go for a walk and calm down or go and sit outside for 10 minutes, and come in again when you are ready.  JB got up and said he was going for a walk and left the classroom.  The lesson resumed.  5 minutes later JB returned, after walking up and down the corridor for 5 mins, sat down in his ‘new seat’ and got on with his work.

I was initially shocked at the severity of the outburst and the speed at which it escalated.  I thought “how am I going to deal with this?”. “How will the class teacher deal with this before it turns violent? “.  I was surprised at how calm the teacher remained.  He didn’t raise his voice, he stepped forward towards the two boys, but not too close for them to feel threatened by his presence and he de-escalated the situation in less than a minute by being firm in his warnings, and then calmly following up with good choices for JB, who was still visibly angry.

Whilst not pleasant to watch, this was fairly typical behaviour of this group of children. This group all have ASD and majority have ADHD(some medicated, some not), along with various learning difficulties, and social communication difficulties.  It was interesting to see the triggers to these behaviours could be as simple as someone sat in their seat, or over a pencil.  Behaviour escalates so quickly.  But the most valuable tool for me, was the de-escalation techniques used daily, hourly, even every few minutes by the class teacher and how effective these can be.  In this instance, giving a firm but calm warning distracted them both, then JB was told clearly and directly to move away, as the class teacher quickly managed the situation.  Crucial to the outburst was the follow-up.  The class teacher could see JB was still bubbling.  He gave him a number of good choices he could make and allowed JB to take ownership of his own behaviour and needs, resulting in the situation being quickly diffused and for the rest of the class to almost immediately continue with their learning.

There are many different de-escalation techniques to use when behaviour becomes aggressive in the classroom, and many different ways of using these.  They all have the same goal though, and that is to calm down a situation, or pupil and be able to continue to deliver your lesson.

Below are just 3 of hundreds of papers, blogs, journals, and guidelines all aimed at de-escalation techniques in the classroom.




In the future, I hope to utilise some of these de-escalation techniques within my own classes, especially when a situation is obviously escalating. My aim being to disrupt the lesson and the other children’s learning as little as possible.  And to promote a good environment in which to learn.

In this particular case, I think the unwanted behaviour was minimised quickly, efficiently and without much disruption to the classes learning, with the best outcome possible.

If a similar situation arose again, I would definitely attempt a similar technique, of speaking firmly and stepping forward to try and de-escalate an aggressive situation, as long as it was safe for me to do so.

Alternatively I would attempt to use another of the many techniques I have observed this week, including using humour, praising good choices, threatening sanctions, or even making a radio call for some direct assistance.  I feel I am armed with some great strategies to help de-escalate a situation and promote good choices and continued learning.