Forgotten Favorite Strategies for Unmotivated, Difficult, and Misbehaved Students


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We have so many interventions that sometimes even some of our favorite devices can be forgotten. These techniques used to be regulary included in our popular Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshops but not so often now, though perhaps they should be. So, here are some old but golden strategies that should be used not forgotten.

If you love these solutions, and want more, our web site has information on our workshops and books plus hundreds more attention-grabbing, ready-to-use interventions to turnaround troubled youth and children. You can find our site at


To teach hand-raising, wave your arms all around and name that “windshield wiper arms" or “helicopter arms. " To show students correct hand-raising technique, hold your arm in the air and still and call it “flagpole arm. " Using these images may work better than conventional approaches.


Have the youth create before and after ads, similar to weight loss commercials. You can even photocopy weight loss ads from magazines and let students insert their own pictures or art work that portrays their own personal before and after. This device is especially good with withdrawn children who dislike talking.


Have the kids create a magazine about what they do well over the next month. The magazine can feature a picture of the student on the cover and highlight successes that the student has. Name the magazine “Esteem Magazine, " with a motto of “for students who know that Esteem is more than hot air. " The magazine may also contain articles on self-worth and lists such as “The Top 10 Things People Like About Me. "


Here are the very latest numbers that show once more that education pays and pays and pays! These new numbers make an old intervention even more profound and even more powerful! Use play money to illustrate or put this information in a chart on your board, or do both. Follow up by having students experience how much money is worth by visiting a store, car dealership or reviewing housing classified ads. As of January, 2000, drop-outs can expect to earn just over $16,000, based on 1998 dollars. High school grads earn nearly $23,000 and college grads almost $45,000. Ask your kids to pick their salary for the new millennium.


For kids who are frequently absent, bring in a lot of legos or lincoln logs. Ask the students to copy a model you create out of the legos. The students will easily do it and discuss that with the class. Next, begin to make a second model but this time, part way through the building process, ask some of the students to leave the room, then hide several legos inside the model. Recall the students and ask them to compare their model to yours. Assist the class to notice the poorer quality that resulted from the absences then discuss if being absent matters.


Peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol is nonstop but here is a quick device to chip away at the power of the pressure. Divide your students into two groups. Give one group bags of M&Ms and give the other group bags of litter. Allow the students to mingle. The students with the litter will try to get others to take their bags while the students with the candy will want to keep their bags and will not force others to take the M&Ms. Relate this phenomena to peer pressure to use substances by discussing that people seldom need to pressure people to do good things, only bad.

Get much more information on this topic at

Author Ruth Herman Wells MS is the director of Youth Change, ( ) Sign up for her free Problem-Kid Problem-Solver magazine at the site and see hundreds more of her innovative methods. Ruth is the author of dozens of books and provides workshops and training throughout North America.


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