Positive Behavior Supports: Attention Maintained Behavior

512860481Some students, for various reasons, require more attention than others and may act out to obtain that attention. In behavior circles this is known as attention-seeking, or more appropriately, attention-maintained behavior because responding to these overt “requests” for attention will support or maintain the unwanted negative behavior. The recipe for combating this is as follows:

  • Planned ignoring, which means ignoring the behavior but not the child, is the key to extinguishing or at least diminishing this behavior
    • Make no eye contact or gestures toward the child while he is misbehaving, this could accidentally reinforce the behavior
    • If another student points out the behavior, nod or mildly acknowledge that child’s concern without acknowledging the behavior or calling more attention to it.
    • Over time, peers will learn how to ignore the behavior themselves.
    • You might say something like “thank you Suzie, and I really like how you’re sitting quietly on the rug”
    • This ignoring stops the instant the child becomes compliant with expectations
    • Be prepared to praise the student as often as possible for this compliance
    • Praise must be given before the child reverts back to negative measures for attention
    • Waiting to provide the attention could accidentally reinforce a subsequent negative behavior
    • It is a careful balancing act that requires a lot of attention to detail in the beginning
  • Acknowledge and praise other students for appropriate behavior
    • if the target student is not sitting appropriately, give specific verbal praise to others for “sitting with their feet on the floor” or “sitting crisscross applesauce”
    • if he is not walking in the hallway, give specific verbal feedback to others who are “walking nicely on the green line” or “staying directly behind the student in front of them”
    • if he is talking out of turn, never acknowledge this behavior by addressing it as “blurting” or “talking out”, instead verbally thank others for “keeping a bubble in their mouth” or “waiting quietly to be called on”
  • When the child complies with expectations, reinforce the behavior with acknowledgement, praise as quickly as possible,  and make sure he knows how he earned it
    • Thank him for “sitting so nicely on the rug”
    • Put a sticker on his chart while he is watching you
    • Tell him you’re “moving his clip to purple for being such as good listener”
    • Give him a ticket and verbal praise for “lining up quickly and quietly”
    • Punch his card and verbally praise him for “sharing materials with a peer”
    • Give him Class Dojo points while making eye contact and giving him a thumbs up for “waiting patiently for his turn at your table”
  • Provide as much non-contingent positive attention to the child as possible when he is behaving appropriately. You might think of this as a random act of kindness. Some ideas are:
    • pat him on the shoulder
    • give a high five or side hug when he arrives in the morning
    • give him a thumbs up
    • check in during solo time
    • call on him to respond to questions in class
    • give him classroom tasks to complete such as turning off the light or sharpening pencils
    • make eye contact and smile
  • Realize that all of these are good teaching strategies that can, and should, be employed with all of your students, but should be more purposefully given to the student with attention maintained behavior.
  • Also note that over time, you should begin to diminish or fade the “extra” attention to the level of the rest of the class.
    • Give smaller, less obvious, types of attention
    • Give fewer, less often, occurrences of attention
    • Always continue to give as much attention as you are giving to other typical students in your classroom

There are hyperlinks above for editable tickets and punch cards that are free on TeachersPayTeachers. These are easy to make yourself, but even better when you start from someone else’s template.


Supporting Angry Students

enhanceWhen your student becomes angry and even hostile, you as the teacher must remain in control and do what is best for the student and the class. Here are a few tips and strategies to get you and the class through the situation and on to better days.

  1. Stay calm. Take a deep breath.
  2. Do not take it personally.
  3. Take a moment to collect yourself if necessary. Do not respond to the student in an overly negative or positive manner. You should have a neutral affect. Your attitude and response will set the tone for what happens next.
  4. Step back from the student in a supportive, non-threatening, but firm stance. You should not be close enough to get injured should things take a negative turn.
  5. Provide information, but do not get into a verbal power struggle with the student.
  6. Provide a cool down spot for the student.
  7.  Once calm, help student to use problem solving to work through the situation.
  8. Document episodes to determine the trigger(s).
  9.  This behavior is typically caused by one or a combination of the following:
    • Peer Influence
    • Modeling by peers or adults
    • Lack of Social Skills
    • Negative self-image
  10.  If Peer influence is determined to be part of the problem, remove the student from access to the peer as much as possible, especially if the peer is the trigger.
  11. If negative self-image, home life or adult modeling is determined to be part of the problem, the student may benefit from joining a group led by the school counselor to learn coping skills to avoid this behavior.
    • Small group counseling with students who have similar needs
    • PALS – one on one with an older student to provide support and stability
  12.  If Social Skills is determined to be part of the problem, set aside time each week to teach him the deficient social skills that contribute to this behavior.

These pieces take time to create an implement in your classroom. Do not stress yourself out over trying to do it all at once. You know your student best and can use that knowledge to guide you in which pieces to implement over time. These behaviors were not learned in a day and they are not going to be corrected in a day either. I would suggest that you give a strategy at least two weeks of consistent use before determining that it doesn’t work. Often if it does not seem to be working, it is not being implemented correctly. If at first you don’t succeed, try it again, in a different way, until you get it right. I look forward to hearing your success stories.


Student Behavior Self-Assessment & Goal Setting

Student self-assessment and progress monitoring for academic goals is a great way of teaching students to recognize their strengths and weaknesses as well as being responsible for their improvement. So, why not take it a step further and have students self assess and progress monitor their behavior as well. This is actually a Tier 1 behavior strategy that works for all students in your classroom, not just those who are struggling with specific behaviors. There is always room for all of us to improve our behavior and make better choices. In fact, I’m working on putting together a Teacher self-assessment as well that will give teachers the opportunity to model this strategy with their own data collection and honest feedback.

original-3521323-1This is a two-step process. The first step is this checklist of campus and classroom behavior expectations. It is free in an editable Microsoft Excel format on my Teacher Pay Teacher site here. It is also available for free in a non-editable Adobe pdf format here. My suggestion is that you edit it to mirror the actual expectations you have taught and support for your students. I created this list based on social contracts and expectations posted in various schools that I support.

original-3521323-2As you read the list aloud, you should explain what each expectations looks like and what it does not look like. Students will use the Student Self Assessment sheet to grade themselves on each behavior, quantifying it according the following rating scale:

1- poor, 2 – sad, 3 – ok, 4 – weak, and 5 – perfect.

Next, Students choose the 3 or 4 behaviors they feel need the most attention, and write goals for improving those behaviors over a period of time on the Student Behavior Goal Setting sheet. This is a great time to remind students of  (or introduce) SMART goals.

If you are not familiar with SMART goals, it’s easy to find in a quick search on Pinterest, Google, or a freebie from Teachers Pay Teachers like this.

Goal setting is always in season. There is never a wrong time to set new goals. The beginning of the year, of course is the best time so that expectations are set, modeled and followed from the beginning. However, a new 6 weeks, a new month, even a new calendar year or semester is a great time to teach students to analyze where they are, determine where they should be, and plot a course for improvement.


Monthly Themed Units

enhance (1)Using monthly theme units in your class rooms helps to provide connection between different subjects for students. They realize that math, science, reading, writing, and social studies are incorporated into everything they do. Some of these themes will easily flow with district grade level expectations, but even when they don’t, they serve to enhance those expectations when synthesized. Students are always looking for connections and this will give you an opportunity to create additional connections in their minds. The things I most remember from my early years of school are those multi-leveled units where connections were made with all of my senses and a variety of subject areas. I will never forget making homemade apple sauce and shaking a jar of creams to make butter when I was in the kindergarten. I will also never forget the emotional connections I made with the teacher who took the time to first introduce me to these elements. Here are some suggestions for monthly themes that can be used as weekly themes during each month or all month long. Making learning fun and engaging is what great teachers do best.

August – Rules & Expectations, Citizenship, All about Me, Safety, My School Community, Germs – handwashing, cough & sneeze protocol.

September – Labor Day, All About My Family, Patriots Day, Autumn Leaves, Constitution Day, Grandparents Day, Apple Life Cycle, Johnny Appleseed, Community Helpers

October – Pumpkin Life Cycle, Columbus Day, Harvest, Life Cycle of Trees, Halloween, Bats – Echolocation, Soundwaves, Bones – skeletons, Spiders

November – Veterans Day, Election Day, Voting, Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Turkeys, Native Americans, Landforms, Maps

December – Holidays around the World, Family Traditions, Gingerbread Man, Christmas Trees, Reindeer, The Grinch, Fire Safety

January – Snowflakes, Snowmen, Winter Weather, Resolutions, Hibernation, Martin Luther King, Animal Habitats, Arctic Animals

February – Presidents Day, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Groundhogs Day, Valentine’s Day, Dental Health Month, Black History Month, 100th Day of School, Technology

March – Spring, Easter, Dr. Seuss Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Flower Life Cycle, Eggs, Flower parts, your state history & culture

April – Butterfly Life Cycle, April Fool’s Day, Living v Nonliving, Frog Life Cycle, Earth Day, Recycling, Baby Animals, Plant Life Cycle, Insects, Zoo Animals

May – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Space – sun, moon, stars, planets

June – Father’s Day, Ocean Habitats, Beach, Ocean Animals, Transportation

July – Independence Day, Travel

Just looking at a calendar can give you a lot of ideas for what is important in each month. That’s where my list started, then I added other key elements based on the seasons and cultural things common to my part of the country.

Positive Behavior Supports: Expectations

enhancePositive expectations and affirmations are an easy way to support classroom behavior. This should not include “don’t” and “no”. Frame written and verbal expectations and directives in the positive. “Feet on the floor” rather than “no feet on the table”. “Quiet mouth” rather than “no talking.” “Nice hands” rather than “don’t touch”. Positive praise, catching them being good, and rewarding appropriate choices are sure to raise the level of compliance in your room. Some positive behavior supports include:

  1. You should give 4 positive verbal affirmations for every one negative correction.
  2. You should make positive statements to your class every 5 minutes throughout the day.
  3. When correcting, state the correction and disengage quickly. Do not get into a power struggle with the student.
  4. Give positive feedback to students when they comply after being corrected for behavior.
  5. Refer to your posted written expectations when you ask a student to comply. Seeing the visual helps support what you are saying.

Posted classroom rules and expectations should be limited to 5 simple directives, stated in the positive. For example:

In this class we –

  • use walking feet
  • raise our hand to ask a question
  • sit crisscross on the carpet
  • keep our feet under the table while working
  • listen attentively

Obviously, for different ages and grades these expectations will be different. For older students instead of:

Class Rules-

  • No fighting
  • Stay out of others lockers
  • Respect your teacher
  • Be polite, honest, and kind
  • No running

Try something like:

We promise to –

  • Keep our belongings orderly
  • Use kind words with our peers
  • Keep our hands to ourselves
  • Keep our feet on the floor
  • Respect the belongings of our peers

The expectation should always be for students and teachers to use positive language when speaking to each other. With teachers modeling this affirmation in their own speech, students are more likely to respect the environment you have created.



Positive Behavior Supports: Autism

Autism-Heart-Button-Pins-600x578-1If you are a general education teacher who has not previously experienced the joy of having a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger Syndrome,  there are a few things you should know before stepping foot into a classroom with this child. The first thing to know is that having had one child on the spectrum means you know how to support that one child. Every child is different. However, there are some strategies which are helpful with many of these students. The most prevalent deficits in a student with Autism are social skills and communication, which can lead to negative behavior. Here are some suggestions:

  • Will do best with information that is very black and white, especially if it’s written and posted. Posting written expectations is a Tier 1 RTI/PBIS strategy.
  • Be direct with your instructions, options have their place, but not when you need specific outcome. You can provide optional locations to complete the work, but the work must still be completed.
  • Don’t ask it as a question unless you’re ready to accept no as an answer. (T – “Can you get started on your math?” S – “No, thank you”).
  • May not understand sarcasm or exaggerations like “I’m dying for a drink” or “my feet are killing me.” Some students will be very concerned about your health after hearing these statements.
  • May not fully understand emotions – this includes facial expressions and body language. Be very clear and direct in your information delivery.
  • May take some time to learn the unspoken rules of the classroom, like when it’s appropriate to sharpen his pencil (not during silent reading or class discussion).  Specific written expectations with visuals are best. Chris over at Autism Classroom News calls this discovering the hidden curriculum.
  • May need space to work away from other students. This may be for focus or even sensory reasons. Sensory processing is a whole other article in itself, but well worth looking into to further. Here is a great resource: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)Resource Center.
  • Possibly thinks in pictures, patterns, and symbols which makes it easier for him to explain without written words. Temple Grandin does a great job of explaining this in her book Thinking in Pictures.

Positive Behavior Supports: Defiance

tug-of-warIn dealing with a child who is typically oppositional or defiant, provide more attention to the students positive behaviors than you do to their negative behaviors. It’s important to notice and praise them quickly before a difficult behavior over shadows the positive one. It’s easy to end up reinforcing the negative behavior if it happens quickly after the positive.

Ignore negative behavior to the greatest extent possible. Obviously, you do not want to allow a student to hurt himself or others, but if a child is dropping paper in the floor or jumping up and down at the back of the room during morning meeting, let them do it. They are seeking attention, and you should not give it to them. When it is necessary to redirect them, disengage quickly. Do not get into a power struggle with defiant children. As Douglas Riley, author of The Defiant Child, put it, “don’t get into a spraying match with a skunk.” Defiant children believe themselves to be equal with adults, telling them that they are not, does not change their defiant way of thinking. A power struggle of this type only gives the student more power, which is what you are trying to avoid.

It’s important to provide wait time for the student to process the request and decide the follow it. Often defiance is made worse by staff who want an immediate response to a demand they have placed. When asking the class to sit, the defiant student does not sit. Next, the child is given a direct instruction to sit and again does not respond. While this is a form of defiance, it is not as serious as the student who tells you “no” when refusing to sit. It’s possible the student needs time to process the request and decide in their mind what sitting looks and feels like before responding. It’s also possible that the student does not want to sit in response to an adult directive, though they may not be opposed to sitting in general. Often, when the adult walks away and moves on with class, the student will then comply under what they perceive as their own free will rather than your will.

If removed from the classroom for their behavior, they should not be greeted with shame upon reentry. The fact that they have returned to try again should mean a clean slate and not an opportunity to remind them of previous behavior. Shaming any student is never a good move, but it’s especially detrimental in a situation where the student already thinks they are above or equal to you. A low blow like this proves to them that they are correct in their flawed thinking. You don’t have to like their prior behavior, you just have to let it go.

Don’t take it personally. Defiant behavior has more to do with the student than it has to to with you. The student is struggling with many things, and while you may be the person initiating some of the things that seem to cause these struggles, the issue is still not you. As long as you are using necessary strategies to support the student, you are not part of the problem, but you may be the only person able to help the student get past it.

Of course there are a few non-negotiable behaviors including when students distract the class with their verbal behavior, destroy or attempt to destroy property should be removed from the room. These are behaviors that should be addressed by the office and not expected to be addressed by classroom or Specials teachers.

Remember these students are still children who need love and attention as much as all others, if not more. Make time to get to know them and teach them better coping strategies to benefit everyone in their circle.