Helping Students Manage Behavior in the Moment

Moment to Moment: A Positive Approach to Managing Classroom Behavior
By Joey Mandel
(Pembroke Publishers, 2013 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Linda BIondi

If you walk into a classroom, you will observe teachers working with students, making sure their academic needs are being met. Teachers’ lesson plans will have notes on how to differentiate the material to best meet the needs of different academic levels. If you open and read most teachers’ editions, there are guidelines on how to differentiate the lesson to meet the students’ needs. All these are examples of how to differentiate best – academically.

As educators, we know that unless our students’ basic needs are met, their academic progress will suffer. Therefore, it is critical that we address their social and emotional needs because what may seem small to an outsider is overwhelming to the child and can easily get them “off track” or not “on track” at all.

Helping students with social and emotional skills deficits

Moment to Moment: A Positive Approach to Managing Classroom Behavior by Joey Mandel is written to help teachers work with students who have social and emotional skills deficits so that they can be successful now and in the future.

Why moment to moment? What exactly is the book about? We often teach a skill like taking turns or speaking kindly to others. To many of our students, it is second nature. But many other students might be able to identify the skill but are not able to use that skill “moment to moment.” He or she may not be able to gauge what “triggers” a negative behavior and consequently are not able to rely on the social and/or emotional skills they have been taught in the past.

Moment to Moment is a book of empowerment. It empowers students to recognize what may “trigger” a problem and what to do at that moment. This book is also about empowering teachers to look beyond a behavior that is occurring and look for common patterns such as why a student may have a meltdown during math class but not during reading.


  1. Supporting Students Moment to Moment
  2. Actively Developing Physical Skills
  3. Actively Developing Language Skills
  4. Actively Developing Social Skills
  5. Actively Developing Emotional Skills
  6. Actively Developing Cognitive Skills
  7. Dealing with Meltdowns

A model to use schoolwide

This is a book with limitless possibilities. I can see it being used in regular and special education classrooms, guidance classes, after school programs or groups such as the Boys and Girls Club. However, to best meet the needs of ALL students, I recommend that it be used as a schoolwide model. All educators within the school environment should be following the same protocol and use common language. The author cites four important steps that should be followed to create a consistent program: (p.13)

  1. Look beyond the behavior to understand what specific behaviors and their triggers reveal about the social and emotional deficits of a child.
  2. Understand the social-emotional skills by type to assess what skill deficits underlie specific behaviors and plan how these skills can be taught.
  3. Introduce the skills in the classroom activities.
  4. Have moment-to-moment support of individual students practicing the social-emotional skills.

Just as you pre-assess your students’ ability in math and other subjects, you need to pre-assess your students’ social-emotional skills. Mandel provides the reader with a very thorough survey to pinpoint specific skills deficiencies in their classroom that need to be addressed. Once a profile of the class is compiled, specific skill deficits that need to be addressed are identified. This, in turn, provides the teacher with data to choose which “Active Skill Development games” to use. Students will be learning and having fun at the same time.

Helpful case studies

From the very beginning, Mandel introduces the reader to case study profiles of students. You get to know these children, their profiles, weaknesses, triggers, physical and social skills, and find strategies to teach them the social-emotional skills effectively. Throughout the book, you get to know each featured child a bit more and are able to understand why specific interventions are used.

I also love how the activities are structured. Not only are the instructions thorough and easy to follow, but there are ideas on how to discuss the activity with your students before and after implementation. In addition, moment-to-moment support strategies that can be applied – such as peer scaffolding and grouping – and how to model the activity are included.

Be aware that the games and activities are not age based but skills based because they are aimed to assist children who are missing that particular part of their social and emotional development. Mandel is there, like a guide on the side, with extensive explanations on how to scaffold the activities.

Activities to use moment to moment

As I read the book, I thought about the students I’ve taught in the past, wishing this 2013 book had been written long ago. I thought about the students whom I had seen in the principal’s office or in the guidance office, trying not to melt down. My heart ached for these students who were struggling with their behaviors because they weren’t able to act appropriately “moment to moment.”

I encourage all educators and districts to obtain this book for their teachers. If adequate resources are not available, I encourage them to at least purchase a copy for each grade level team. Although the book is aimed at grades K-6, the activities can be adapted to reach beyond those grade levels.

Moment to Moment: A Positive Approach to Managing Classroom Behavior can be an educator’s best friend. Thank you, Joey Mandel.

Linda Biondi recently retired from her position as fourth grade teacher at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, NJ. She has been the recipient of several educational grants, a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project, and a participant on the NJ Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel and with ECET2 Celebrate Teaching. She hopes to continue her work in schools as a teacher mentor and trainer.



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