Awesome Teachers Use Precision Requests When They Need To Change Student Behavior (GMTT – #5)

I LOVE precision requests. I might even like the name more than the actual action. I am going to say a precise request with power behind it. Doesn’t it give you the teacher shivers a little bit? Okay, maybe it doesn’t, but it should. And it can! Awesome teachers use these instead of reprimands because it redirects behavior where you want it to be. And bonus, it might even take less than 5% more effort!

I’ll be honest, when I whip out a precision request, I am ALL BUSINESS. I put on my “This is serious,” face and mean what I say. If you use these in conjunction with excellent “pre” instructions, and a rocking behavior system (maybe consider a group behavioral system??), you are going to have a dynamite lesson. And BONUS: This works for parenting too.

What It Does For You

  • Allows you to change behavior quickly and efficiently.
  • Keeps you from reprimanding too often.
  • Keeps your positive to negative ratios from getting out of control. (research says the best ratio is 5 positives to 1 negative)
  • Gives you a system before a consequence. You can build this into your consequences. For example, you ask it twice and then students loose their group points.)
  • Provide clear steps for students. I even put this on my class behavioral charts. (i.e. I will ask you. Then I will say “I need you to,” Then you receive ________ consequence.)

How To Use Them

A precision request is asking the student to begin doing a specific behavior.

  • Please open your book.
  • It’s time to read out loud.
  • Please solve your math problem.

If student(s) do not start right away, add the word “need.” I give typically developing students 30 seconds before adding a second request. Also you need to do something to let the student know you’re serious. This doesn’t mean yelling or getting angry, it does mean lowering your tone (don’t be all sing-song-y), and be flat faced.

  • I need you to open your book right now.
  • I need you to start reading out loud.
  • I need you to start your math problem, or you are going to get a consequence.

Then if a student is still not working, it’s time for a consequence. That could be taking away “points” (I am always free and loose with points so that I have a reserve to remove some as needed), a loss of a desired activity, having to do that work later, or a note home. Be careful on the notes home. If that is always the consequence, you may be reporting too much negative with parents.

After the consequence is given, give the student space. Move on. A lot of students relish in the attention negative consequences bring. Give the consequence nonchalantly. The student will either be in a foul mood, or get going. If the student is shutting down, you may need a better positive consequence for them specifically, give them an opportunity to earn back lost privileges, or work with a behavioral specialist to come up with custom rewards/help.

Wrapping It UP

There is a fantastic book called Best Practices: Behavioral And Educational Strategies For Teachers, by Reavis, Sweeten, Jenson, Morgan, Andrews, and Fister. Unfortunately, I have only recently been able to find this book used. They walk through all of the troubleshooting issues with precision commands. (From kids being goofy, to more shutting down, or stalling until the last second, etc.)

Or you can comment your problems here or on my social media accounts and I will give you more specific help! Let me know! Either way, I promise using precision commands will help your teaching drastically.

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