Awesome Teachers Know The Difference Between A Behavior Management System And A Behavior Tool (GMTT – 12)

This article was inspired from an Instagram post I read recently. A teacher was venting about administrators who tell her to “ignore” or never say “no” to a student. While this may very well be true, I would be hard pressed to find a behavior specialist who would encourage teachers to just always “ignore.” Ignoring is a behavior tool. It’s used in specific instances to produce a specific result (or rather, to stop a behavior). Ignoring would not work across a whole class period because it only addresses a behavior that is seeking attention. So I challenge you to take 5-10 extra minutes this week (just 5% more effort) and make sure your behavior systems are actually systems, and not behavior tools.

Examples Of Behavior Management Systems

  • Play the game “Teacher vs. Student.” Set clear expectations about how the class can earn a point (correct answers, sitting in their sets, being ready to answer, etc.) and how the teacher can earn a point (talking out of turn, not being ready to answer, etc.). Then if the students win (they should win A LOT), let them pick a class reward.
  • Moving clips on a behavior chart as good or bad decisions are made. This can be private or public.
  • Have students earn tokens or points on an individual basis for performing expectations. These can be cashed in at a later time.
  • Give students praise when they do things correctly. Keep praising until most of the students are performing the task. Use specific names.
  • Set a time for the entire group to work. As long as everyone is on task, the timer continues. If students are off task, then the timer stops, and the desired activity at the end of the class is automatically shortened.

Examples of Behavior Tools

Tools are specific and meant to be used on an individual or small group basis. These are the back ups when the whole group management is failing a student. Each of these are intended to meet a various behavior need.

  • Ignoring a specific behavior. (Stops a behavior that a student is exhibiting to receive attention from the teacher. Or when intervention creates a shut down.)
  • Giving a student a timed break. (Provides time for a student who is severely struggling with work loads)
  • Adding a timer. (Helps a student to feel control. Understand that time is finite. This will end.)
  • Providing a schedule. (More student control over their environment. Predictability.)
  • Precision requests (NOTE: These are a tool. Only to be used when all preemptive management systems fail). (Explicit instructions for a redirection.)
  • Avoiding a reprimand for a specific behavior. (Avoids a triggering shut down situation.)
  • Providing positive feedback before a negative behavior occurs. (Gives a student craved attention before they go seeking for it.)
  • Giving expectations beforehand. (how should students be sitting, answering, interacting, etc.) (Gives students boundaries and a desired performance.)

What It Does For You AND How To Do It

Taking time to ensure you are using a behavior management system, reduces the amount of individual tools you need to use. In my experience, when a teacher comes to me and is at their wits end with a difficult student, it’s typically because they have not been using enough “big picture” behavior systems to help prevent behaviors. (There a few exceptions, but you will probably know those students before they show up in your class)

I know that is a hard pill to swallow. And trust me, I get it. I have been on both sides of this coin. Not only have I helped teachers problem solve their behavior issues, I have also taught a general ed class of 30 sixth graders in an inner city school. It was tough. And I failed frequently. I had 3 students who just seemed wildly unable to even sit in class. The answer was to make behavior management my first priority and teaching content second.

This seems counter intuitive but it’s not. Implementing enough proactive behavior management doesn’t happen naturally. It has to be practiced and created into the building blocks of every lesson. Then you place your content into the behavior management framework.

Wrapping It Up

Creating content within a consistent behavior management framework fluently, would be way more than 5% extra effort for this week. What you can do right away is to identify if you have a whole group behavior management system, or if you are throwing out lots of behavior tools? Pick a whole group system and reduce your tools! You will talk less. Focus more on positive behaviors. Remove power struggles with students. And you will feel less stressed. I promise.

Soon to come is another post on using a behavior management system as your lesson plan framework. For now if you have questions on this, contact me here, or look me up on social media @enableteachers.

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