Identifying At-Risk Behaviors in Students


Students who possess at-risk behaviors face higher chances of dropping out of school before graduation. This is due to high standards that have been set in learning institutions that seem to disregard this cluster of minority and disadvantaged students. At-risk students are not successful in their academics and have been classified as low achievers. They suffer from low self-esteem and exhibit distinct and unusual characteristics from other normal students. Teachers should therefore take responsibility to identify such students and help them before the situation gets out of hand (Kruger and Maher, 1990). Through a case study, this paper will help the reader to understand the at-risk behaviors in students and propose interventions that a teacher should apply to deal with the identified problems.

Case Study

A seventh-grader student aged thirteen years not only reads at a second-grade level but has poor reading understanding skills. The student is regularly sleeping, daydreaming, or drawing in class hence decreasing his level of attentiveness. He, therefore, gets worked up easily, and the frustration leads the student to abandon most of the academic tasks assigned by the teacher. On the contrary, the student loves drawing and recess. He is also being brought up by a divorced parent. Nevertheless, the student is always late for classes, and though he is friendly, he has very few friends. He also finds it difficult to sit still until the lesson is over.

The At-Risk Behaviors Identified

From the case study, the student seems to exhibit various types of at-risk behaviors. As his teacher, it is important to address notable behaviors that are most detrimental to his success. The most outstanding risky behavior identified is portrayed in his poor reading and understanding skills. The behavior is visible through his slow nature to grasp information in class. This substandard skill decreases his level of confidence and lowers his self-esteem. Recent studies indicate that students who have poor reading skills may suffer from anxiety and depression. This should be of concern as it can lead to major consequences such as delinquency or even suicidal ideations and attempts in a student (Crone, Hawken and Horner, 2010).

The other at-risk behavior identified is the student’s inability to concentrate and stay engaged in challenging academic tasks. The student, therefore, abandons most of his tasks before completion. This leads to frustration and discouragement. The behavior is often characterized by the student’s failure to possess adequate skills to solve problems hence decreasing his self-esteem. He begins to see himself as a failure. The behavior, popularly termed as a failure syndrome, leads to the student abandoning the school tasks at hand. This behavior should be of concern as it can lead to violent outbursts and unfulfilled life if not intervened early enough.

The other notable at-risk behavior is his chronic tardiness. The student’s lateness places him in academic jeopardy. This is attributed to the fact that by being constantly late, the student loses much time required for instruction. However, his lateness may be due to various reasons. It is important to note that the student hails in a family of a single parent who is probably unconcerned about his welfare.

He might also be experiencing personal problems that hinder him from getting to school on time. This is a risky behavior as the student is bound to fall behind in his studies. This is due to his inability to follow the class instructions that he meets halfway. This habit of lateness can result in truancy and delinquency if not intervened in its earlier stages.

The other at-risk behavior worth noting is his constant behavior to daydream in class. This behavior leads to the student losing his concentration in what the teacher is teaching and can negatively contribute to his academic performance. The habit of constantly daydreaming may be due to the fact that the student finds the class boring or that he lacks interest in what is going on hence switching his mind to other things. This destructive behavior is very risky as it may end up shutting the student out of reality in the future.

The Possible Interventions for The Above At-Risk Behaviors

As the student’s teacher, several interventions need to be implemented to handle the at-risk behaviors before it is too late. Certain interventions can be applied to curb his poor reading and understanding skills. The first intervention that can be applied is to use books that have an audio component on the student. The strategy is implemented by ensuring that the student uses the audio component to improve his reading pace. The intervention which has been tested by other scholars provides a workable solution to the student by ensuring that he does not avoid reading and that he increases the reading pace (Rathvon 2008). The second intervention would be to find out the books he finds interesting and to assign him to work based on those books. This can be implemented by allowing him to choose his preferred books, whether they are based on art or fiction. The books are bound to challenge his capability to read. The ability to read and understand his favorite books will instill in him an interest in reading other difficult books in class. The last intervention is to require him to have a journal of questions that should be tackled every morning. The journal allows him to ask any difficult question he encounters throughout the course of his reading and that includes definitions or confusion in any assignment directions. This strategy helps the student to understand the task instructions and definitions relating to his assignments in the future. It, therefore, assists the student to stay abreast with other students throughout the course work.

To deal with his lack of concentration and inability to persevere in challenging academic tasks, the first intervention that needs to be applied is to divide the tasks into smaller workable elements. This will ensure that he handles and complete each element of the task given. This strategy is bound to succeed as it increases his level of confidence and puts in him some sense of self-worth in each task he accomplishes. The ability to successfully complete all the tasks not only increases his morale but also his frustration decreases drastically. The second intervention is to give the student a considerable amount of time to work at his own pace. This strategy promotes the first one in the sense that the student does not feel pressured when other students finish their work before him. Minimizing time constraints on such a student is a strategy that is bound to work as it will motivate the student to finish all the school projects, no matter how long they take. Despite the fact that he will move at a slower pace than his fellow students, the strategy will allow him to focus on the task beforehand hence leading to better understanding. The student’s working pace is also bound to improve in time hence catching up with the other students. The other intervention is to apply the individualized scaffolding method that arouses his interest. In such a student’s case, a more aggressive approach is used to calm his frustrations. This is done by gearing him towards solutions by putting across him simple and general questions to trigger his inner ability to solve problems. As his perseverance builds up, more challenging questions are then used to increase his level of concentration when solving any problem.

The first intervention to deal with the at-risk behavior of chronic tardiness is to inform the student’s parents and ask for a meeting with them. This is despite the fact that his parents have divorced. It is their responsibility to mind the welfare of their child and should therefore be involved in his activities. The face-to-face meeting with the parents is important as it allows the teacher to raise his concerns about the student’s lateness in class and to be able to get a reaction from the parents regarding the problem. Suggestions such as buying an alarm clock for the student can be recommended to the parents if they are genuinely unaware of their child’s problem. If the problem is perpetuated by personal reasons that the parents are aware of, then the teacher can recommend counseling to the family by explaining to them that their child’s academic achievement is at stake if they do not intervene. The other intervention that can be applied is to assign the student a role to ensure that a certain task is performed before the first class begins. For example, since the student love to draw, he can be asked to put up a motivational drawing for the day every morning, at least 10 minutes before class. The strategy is bound to excite the student to get to class early enough to engage in something he likes doing. This strategy ensures that the student does not view the task as a punishment but rather as an engaging activity that helps other students to face the rest of the day positively. In addition, the student will ensure that they get to class on time to perform his responsibility. The last intervention that is bound to work is to implement a new penalty policy for students who come to class late. This policy should apply to the whole class so that the student does not feel victimized. For example, any late student is given an extra task to handle during the time preserved for recess. The student will therefore feel the burden of working when other students are relaxing. This strategy is also likely to affect the student as he enjoys recess time. He will therefore ensure that he gets to class on time so that he does not miss out on the chance to enjoy his recess.

One intervention to handle the problem of daydreaming is through interactive teaching or cooperative learning. This is a strategy that involves students’ participation in class. The teacher might adopt the habit of calling out the name of the student regularly to answer a question connected with the topic at hand hence making him alert at all times. The other intervention is to introduce visual aids as a teaching strategy to arouse the student’s interest. The appropriate aids are an addition to the normal routine that the students may find boring. This strategy helps the student to stay focused at all times and to gain his interest in the lesson. The use of such aids not only captivates the daydreaming student but also helps to make the learning experience memorable. The last applicable intervention is to come up with interval breaks in between the lesson and to allow the students to engage in simple activities. This strategy helps to break the monotony of the lesson that might drive the student to daydream. The interval breaks allow the student to get back to the lesson re-energized hence boosting his concentration and reducing chances of daydreaming.


At-risk students have a chance to regain their academic prowess through such interventions. Such students, if neglected, can become socially disadvantaged later in life. It is therefore the teacher’s burden to identify them early enough and to help them handle the problem before it is too late.

Reference List

  1. Crone, D., Hawken, L., and Horner, R. (2010). Responding to problem behavior in schools: the behavior education program. New York: The Gulliford Press.
  2. Kruger, L., and Maher, C. (1990). Promoting success with at-risk students: Emerging perspectives and Practical Approaches. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc.
  3. Rathvon, N. (2008). Effective school interventions: Evidence-based strategies for improving student outcomes. New York: The Gulliford Press.