Positive Behavior Supports: Inattentive/Unfocused

Unfocused and inattentive students are a frequent concern of teachers in all grade levels, especially lower elementary. Following are Tier 1 supports and Tier 2 interventions to help these students become successful:

Tier 1 supports work for the whole class:

1. Most importantly, notice and support them when they are paying attention. Call them by name and say “I like how you are listening… participating… cooperating… writing…focused… attending… helping others…”

2. Take breaks or give the student extra movement breaks in the form of errands. They might walk a note to the office, sharpen the dull pencil bucket, or collect library books around the classroom. This gives them an opportunity to refocus and get back to work on the assigned task.

3. Call on them to respond to questions or share their work. This gives you an opportunity to see where they are in the process and call their attention back to the assigned task.

4. Make sure you have their attention before giving directions. If they do not respond when you say “all eyes on me,” you should say or do something additional to get their attention. This might be something like asking all the boys to stand or everyone in a red shirt to touch their nose. After a direction or two, this child will want to join the fun, then you can start your lesson or give your directions.

5. Chunk or break down assignments into smaller pieces. This could mean folding or cutting the worksheet or rubric to only show the first section where the student should begin. This may help students who struggle with too much information and get lost in the details that are meant to be used later in the project.

6. Ask students to repeat directions back. Call on multiple students to repeat the directions you have given, including the student who often seems to not be listening.

7. Post procedures and Expectations where they can be referred back to if they get lost or forget a step in the process. Children often forget the first step or two and start on step three if they are not written down.

Tier 2 interventions are for the few who need extra input to be successful:

1. Talk to parents, let them know about the struggles you see in their child. They may see the same thing at home but have not sought outside supports because they were not aware it was affecting their school work.

2. Use a timer to help students who need reminders to initiate or complete an assigned task.

3. Decrease distractions by turning their desk away from areas of excess movement or activity in the classroom.

4. Teach them to use reflective statements to repeat back to you the directions that you have given. “what I heard you say is…” or ” now you want us to…”

5. Students who are unfocused or inattentive may need help organizing information, materials, and ideas.

6. Use a highlighter to identify key points on which the student should focus when completing a task.

7. Check-in with the student frequently to be sure they are on task and not lost in thought.

There are many ways a teacher can support an inattentive/unfocused student. It may take some time to determine the function of the distraction and how to move past it. The more you spend time working with the student on staying alert and comprehending the expectations, the better he should be at keeping on task.


Positive Behavior Supports: Anger Management Strategies

Anger Management Strategies are a Tier 2 support that can help a student understand and respond appropriately to anger and frustration.

1. Teach the student the difference between behavior and feelings. It is appropriate to be angry, but it is not appropriate to express that anger with physical, verbal or object aggression. They need to understand the underlying cause of the anger and to how to label that feeling. Is it a disappointment, embarrassment, fear or really anger? Until they have been taught the difference, kids may not know the difference. They act out their feelings in a negative way when they don’t understand them or know appropriate ways to respond and get what they really need.

2. Model appropriate social-emotional skills for your students. You teach them a lot more than just what’s in their textbook or on the overhead projector. When students see you react inappropriately to situations in the classroom, especially if you are reacting to their behavior, it gives them a mental picture of ways to respond in similar situations. Do you make faces or comment under your breath when they do things that annoy you, then wonder why they do the same thing weeks later? It’s important that adults model appropriate behavior, social interactions, and emotional responses for students. This is especially true in lower grades or in special education settings where students are not mature enough to understand the difference between your frustration and their aggressive anger.

3. Establish anger rules. This might be a list on their desk to help them remember the appropriate way to respond to the feelings they will face in the classroom. Please note, it is just as important to teach replacement behaviors. What should they do instead of hitting, throwing, spitting, biting, etc? They can talk about their feelings with a trusted adult. Maybe they need a visual break card or a set of amotion cards that they hand to the teacher when they need to discuss their feelings. I know there is rarely an ideal time for a student to need to talk with you about social-emotional strategies, but if you have a student who really struggles it is in the best interest of the whole class to teach these skills ever opportunity you get. In the long run, there will be fewer moments of evacuating the class to deal with explosive behavior.

Teachers Pay Teachers has free Anger Rules options like this one https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Time-Out-Signs-791751 or you can create your own.

Or a set of Coping Skills posters can be found at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/RELAX-with-Coping-Skills-Posters-During-Times-of-Frustration-1416184

4. Always positively reinforce approximations or attempts the child makes at using their anger rules and coping skills. They are not an immediate fix and will take a lot of care and time to implement. Be patient and supportive. Every child, even the difficult ones, need to hear four praises for every correction. Load them up with love and praise. Kids should never be expected to follow the rules just because that’s what’s expected of them. You don’t come to work every day just because it’s expected of you. You come to work every day to get reinforced in the form of a paycheck. Yes, we also come to work because we love our students, enjoy our jobs and the people we work with, but that’s not enough to make us come back every day. It’s not enough for most of your students either. Love and support them for the 9 months you have them. Give them a reason to remember you as their favorite teacher when they look back years from now. My favorite teachers from elementary are the ones who loved me unconditionally, flaws and all. They supported me through the good times and the bad, they did not turn their backs on me when I was struggling, just because they thought I should know better. Be the best adult they know!

If you need help, a list of positive statements you can post around your room as reminders can be found at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Encouraging-Statements-for-a-Positive-Classroom-Environment-3289839

Positive Behavior Supports: The Good Behavior Game

img_0629Are you struggling to gain attention and compliance from your students? Are the expectations you’ve taught, evaluated and  retaught still not getting the behavior you need for the best teaching environment? It may be time to teach them a game! The research-based Good Behavior Game (GBG) , which was originally designed by University of Kansas researchers Harriet Barrish, Muriel Saunders, and Montrose Wolf in 1969, is a group contingency that may be just what you need to make your students successful. A group contingency means teams either win or lose as a team. No one is solely responsible so it supports a peer-mediated system whereby students comply in order to support the group as a whole, even if they typically do not see compliance as a benefit for themselves alone. It is a great way to teach appropriate behavior and expectations to your class in a fun game-style learning format. There are several ways to play the GBG, but here are the basics:

  1. Divide the class into 2 or more groups; by table, row, or other common system of dividing them.
  2. Post a scoring sheet as shown above with each of the teams identified or use one of the many free online scoreboard apps.
  3. Determine when the game will begin and end. It is typically suggested that the game be played 2-3 times per day for up to an hour each time. However, this game can be used in any way that fits the time constraints of your classroom, meaning if you have 40 minutes to spare, implement the game and watch your classroom behavior transform. Additionally, you can chose to start out with a shorter time frame, and build up to an hour. This may be especially effective in younger grades such as Kindergarten or first.
  4. Review posted expectations in the classroom, choosing about 3 of them to be the focus of the game. Explain these expectations and how points are earned or lost.
  5. Teams can earn negative points, positive points, or both
    • PAX, who has a variation of the GBG, gives only negative points called “spleems”, which are just a silly way of identifying them without calling them by a negative term.
    • California’s Positive Environment Network of Trainers (PENT) also has a variation of the GBG in which students are given positive points for compliance and may lose points for non-compliance.
  6. During the game, class continues as usual. This could be played at any time during the day with any lesson.
  7. At the end of the specified time frame, teams can win a tangible (recommended early on in learning the game) or non-tangible (suggested once tangibles are faded out after the game is well understood).
    • Tangibles could include
      • treasure box
      • edibles
      • stars, stamps, tickets toward a larger reward
    • Non-tangibles could include 1-2 minutes of one of the following:
      • dance party
      • act like a monkey
      • talk like a pirate
      • drum solo on their desks
  8. How to win the game should be set in advance.
    • For example, on the PAX video below, the teacher advises that a team will only win if they have 4 or fewer Spleems.
    • Another option might be based on the number of positive points they receive. For example, a team might be required to obtain at least 4 positive points.

The next one adds a Most Valuable Player award for one student. It’s just one of several great twists he adds to the game for these older students! Check it out

Please ask questions if there is anything you need clarified! I look forward to your feedback.

Positive Behavior Supports: Routines & Procedures

Everything we do through the course of our day works best when we know and understand the routines and procedures that help us to act effortlessly with little thought. When we drive the same route to work each morning that is a routine that we have learned, practiced, and solidified in our brain so that we eventually get to a point that we do it without much effort. It is a habit we have created within ourselves from what was originally a step by step procedure. These routines and procedures operate in many different ways in our mind. Without them, things would be more difficult and time consuming.

When we first learn to fill the dishwasher as a child, we typically have an adult who directs us through the procedure of which items go where so that we can get the most out of one wash cycle. After a while this procedure becomes routine and we can work through it without trying to remember where the cups go, versus the flatware. Routines and procedures are a crucial part of an effective and well managed classroom. They help to manage classroom efficiency by giving students control over their environment. They help them to establish a predictable pattern of expectation. They can help to reduce anxiety so that students can focus and learn without fear of what to do next. Children with neurological differences, executive functioning difficulties, or even typically developing children who are new to an environment, operate best in a setting where they can work independently according to a common plan. The more consistent the environment, the more calm most students will be within it.

Tier1StrategiesPart1Classroom procedures must be taught, monitored, evaluated, and retaught. There is a cycle through which these procedures become a classroom routine. It is not something you teach the first week of school and expect students to perfectly follow for the remainder of the school year. Just like when we determine to restrict something in our own lives and over time our bad habits creep back in, students who are not reminded and redirected toward the correct execution of a procedure will not develop a proper routine. They may develop of a routine that is less than what you had hoped or worse, nothing like you had in mind. It is your job as the teacher to monitor them and provide feedback.  This cycle of teaching, evaluating, correcting, and reteaching is as much a part of your job as teaching them to spell and count. One of the biggest obstacles to student learning is student behavior. Teaching them routines and procedures in a key in the process of teaching proper behavior.

Routines & Procedures may include:

Morning routine: what to do when they arrive each day. Here are some ideas:

Lunch routine: what does it take to get from the classroom to the lunchroom and back to class. What should the line look like?  Where will we sit? Where are hands and feet expected to be? Who sits where? What is the voice level expectation? How do I buy my lunch? What if I brought my lunch? What is my parent is joining me for lunch?

Hallway procedures: how to walk down the hall. Where are hands, feet and mouths during this transition? Where do we stop? When do we start? How do we handle things that do not go as planned due to others in the hallway? I will cover this in more detail on a future post. Here are some ideas:

Attention Getters: Here is a great example of procedures for gaining attention:

Managing student work: turning it in, missed work, etc. Here are some real life examples:

End of day or end of class procedures: What should students do to prepare to leave you room? What should they take with them? What should they leave behind? Where should they leave materials? Here are some examples:

This is not an exhaustive list of routines and procedures for the classroom, but a good example of where to start. It is never too late to implement these in your classroom. They not only support your students need for structure, but support the teachers ability to maintain that structure.

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.