Ah, the joys of the very combative and controlling student! Many of our kiddos with emotional disabilities display these behaviors. Here's a few tips I've learned along the way to help manage these students so you can stop the disruption and keep teaching.
I know, you're thinking, "DUH." But it needs to be said. You are the teacher & the "tone setter". If you are becoming agitated and your voice, face, and body are showing it... all bets are off. Take a deep breath, and honestly - SMILE. There is surprisingly a lot of research that states that it is really hard to stay angry if you're smiling. Not only will it help YOU to relax and calm yourself, but it sets the tone visually for the class. Even if you're NOT calm, you need to fake it 'til you make it with this student.
No power struggles.
This student wants power. Giving it to them in small doses is perfectly acceptable, but getting yourself in a power struggle with a child is not. Repeat yourself once or twice, but do not continue after that. You will only engage and feed the student's negative behavior, otherwise known as reinforcing -YUP! If you give in to this power struggle you are literally telling the student they have an opportunity for what they want. Don't do that to yourself, the student, or the rest of your class. Some lines I use regularly to shut down a power struggle are:
"Okay, I'll wait." (followed by silence)
"That's the answer. I'm not going to talk about this anymore." (followed by silence and returning to the lesson)
"We can have this conversation later when you are calm and ready to listen." (followed by silence and returning to the lesson)
These kiddos are typically not huge fans of authority and following directives, hence the desire for power & control. Give them constant opportunities to have teacher made choices so they have some time when they do have the power and control over their own learning. Some examples are choosing from 3 books to read for next week's guided reading group, if they want a black or red marker, if they want to use paper or a white board, or which type of seat they would like to sit in. Flexible seating is a great choice for these types of students as they have elements of choice in their day.
Jobs are a great way for the student to have ownership & power over something. If they're not ready for a "table captain" type job, create something FOR them. They can be in charge of cleaning up the carpet the last 5 minutes of every day, or doing lunch count. You could even make something up, like putting popsicle sticks back in a cup after you use them for cold-calling. This also provides a really powerful and meaningful distraction if the student is caught up in a struggle.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. What do you do to help keep the classroom calm with students who crave power & control?