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How the Brain Influences Behavior

How the Brain Influences Behavior
Management Strategies for Every Classroom

July 2008 | 264 pages | Corwin

"This is a timely topic with workable solutions that enables students to learn in today's classrooms. A must-read for educators working with diverse populations."
—Carolyn Chapman, Educational Consultant
Creative Learning Connection, Inc.

"This winning book presents clearly outlined brain research as it applies to proactively managing classroom discipline issues. A must-have for teachers who prefer to not only teach, but effectively reach every student too!"
—Toby J. Karten, Graduate Instructor
College of New Jersey, Gratz College

Use research-based strategies to improve behavior in the K–12 classroom!

Combining theory and practice, best-selling author David A. Sousa helps educators understand what is happening in the brains of students with behavior problems and offers practical, effective intervention strategies compatible with current findings in neuroscience.

In easy-to-understand language, the author presents current information on brain development and function and highlights factors that affect social and emotional decision making and negative behaviors like impulsivity, defiance, and violence. Comprehensive yet concise, this guide for K–12 teachers and counselors provides methods for teaching self-control and fostering positive relationships with troubled students and provides case studies that match effective strategies with specific behaviors. Educators will find answers to critical questions such as:

  • How does the rate of brain development explain the erratic behavior of adolescents?
  • What type of data collection can help teachers manage misbehavior?
  • Can peer influence help curb misbehavior rather than encourage it?
  • Why are boys more likely to misbehave than girls and what can teachers do about it?
  • How do school and classroom climates affect student behavior?

This invaluable handbook also features reproducible forms, worksheets, checklists, additional references, and an expanded list of primary research sources to help teachers understand and apply research-based principles for classroom and behavior management.

About the Author
Are Behavior Problems on the Rise?

Can Neuroscience Help?

About This Book

Questions This Book Will Answer

Chapter Contents

Other Helpful Tools

1. Handling Social Misbehavior
The Social and Emotional Brain

Emotional Processing

Pathways of Emotional Signals

What Leads to Social Misbehavior?

The Teacher Is the Key

Interventions for Handling Social Misbehavior

Dealing With Social Anxieties

Using Social Stories to Modify Behavior

A Case Study: Using a Social Story for a Verbally Aggressive Student

A Social Story for Angry Students


2. Dealing With Impulsive Behavior
What Leads to Impulsivity and Violent Behavior?

Genetic Variations

Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine

Cerebral Lesions

An Important Word About Testosterone

Ignorance of Rules of Behavior

Some Strategies for Controlling Impulsive Behavior

Cognitive and Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions

Putting Impulsive Problem Behavior in a Social Context

Using Picture Books to Curb Impulsive Anger or Anxiety

Other Suggested Strategies


3. Teaching Self-Control Through Self-Verbalization
Examining Self-Control

What Is Self-Control?

Are Children Learning Self-Control?

Brain Structures for Self-Control

Do Mirror Neurons Play a Role in Self-Control?

Losing Self-Control

Helping Students Regain Self-Control

Verbal Self-Contol of Aggressive, Defiant, or Other Behavior

The Power of Self-Talk

The ZIPPER Strategy

"Say No and Walk Away" to Resist Peer Pressure

Self-Control Through Self-Talk and Self-Monitoring

The Nature of Attention

Self-Monitoring for Other Problem Behaviors

Self-Control Through Self-Rating of Emotional Intensity

The Anger Thermometer


4. Managing the Behavior of Boys
Why a Concern With Boys?

Gender Differences in Behavior

Genetic and Environmental Factors

Impact of Biology

Some Research Findings on Behavioral Differences

Using Research-Based Strategies

Movement-Based Instruction and Classroom Management

Boy-Friendly Instruction and Discipline

The Responsibility Strategy

And What About Girls?

The Rise of Cyberbullying

Bullying Versus Cyberbullying

Dealing With Cyberbullying


5. Building Positive Relationships With Troubled Students
Relationships and Research

Insights From Neuroscience

Some Research Findings

Developing Teacher-Student Relationships

The Importance of Positive Relationships With and for Students

Reaching Unreachable Students With Dialogue Journals

The Lunch Bunch: An Educator's Idea

Managing Serious Behavior Problems Through Adult Mentoring


6. Using Peer Relationships to Modify Behavior
Examining Peer Relationships

Dealing With Peer Influence: A Two-Edged Sword

The Desire to Be Liked

Peer-Mediated Behavior Management Strategies

Peer-Mediated Anger Management

Factors to Consider in Peer Mediation

Peer Confrontation to Curb Misbehavior

The Mystery Motivator/Mystery Character Intervention to Decrease Inappropriate Behavior

Group Contingency Interventions


7. Managing Oppositional Behavior
What Is Oppositional Behavior?

Causes of Oppositional Behavior

Students With Oppositional Behavior in the Classroom

Teacher Knowledge of Oppositional Behavior

Teacher Frustration and Countercontrol

Defiant Students: Explosions Waiting to Happen

Avoiding Triggers for Misbehavior in the Classroom

Teaching Students to Relax

Other Strategies

What About Oppositional Defiant Disorder? (ODD)

Development of ODD

Treatment of ODD


8. Developing Positive Self-Esteem
The Nature of Self-Esteem

The Power of Self-Esteem

Research on Self-Esteem

Guidelines for Building Self-Esteem

Building a New Perspective on the Troubled Student: The Strength-Based Assessment

What Is Strength-Based Assessment?

Motivation and Attribution Retraining

Motivation Research and Attribution Theory

The "Shine My Light" Strategy


9. Putting It All Together
Educational Climate: Are We Happy Here?

What Is Classroom Climate?

The Biology of Happiness

Successful Behavior Management in the Classroom

Assessing Classroom Climate

Classrom Management and Cultural Diversity

Guidelines for Managing Diverse Classes

Positive Behavioral Supports in the Classroom

What Are Positive Behavioral Supports?

The Functional Assessment of Behavior

The Behavioral Improvement Plan

Multitiered Interventions and the Student Support Team




“This winning book presents clearly outlined brain research as it applies to proactively managing classroom discipline issues. A must-have for teachers who prefer to not only teach, but effectively reach every student too!”

Toby J. Karten, Graduate Instructor, College of New Jersey, Gratz College
Author, Inclusion Strategies That Work!

“This book is a must-read for those interested in managing classroom behavior in a manner that is both effective and research based.”

Stephen D. Shepperd, Principal
Sunnyside Elementary School, Kellogg, ID

“This is a timely topic with workable solutions that enables students to learn in today’s classrooms. A must-read for educators working with diverse populations.”

Carolyn Chapman, Educational Consultant, Creative Learning Connection, Inc.
Author, Differentiated Instructional Strategies

Written by the renound Sousa, this book combines theory and practice in a user-friendly approach. Research findings have been explored and applied to behaviour management in the classroom. The aim is to help teachers understand behaviour and how to deal with it effectively using strategies which have been experimented with in research. A really interesting read to help explain behaviour.

Sasha Pleasance
Care & Learning Opportunities, South Devon College
May 16, 2012
Key features
This exciting new book, written by a top-selling author at Corwin Press, will:

  • Provide research on how to apply brain-compatible learning to classroom management strategies
  • Understand how neuroscience research can be utilized to improve behavior in the K-12 classroom
  • Offer specific strategies and tips for working with specific student populations, including students that are defiant, violent, attention-seeking, and inattentive in the classroom
  • Discuss how the brain is different for boys and girls and how behavior varies among cultures 
  • Provide an expanded list of primary sources for those who wish to review the core research on the brain and behavior.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

For instructors

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