How to Structure a Behavior System in an Elementary Class

Behavior management is an essential component of a functional classroom. To unlock your classroom’s best potential, it is important to create a sound behavior system. These simple tips can be a great start to structuring an effective behavior system.

1.    Set a Few Clear Rules

Before students can perform desired classroom behaviors, they need to know and clearly understand what they are. When it comes to classroom rules, less is more. Try to keep your classroom rules to 5 for less for optimal effectiveness. The rules can be broad to cover a range of behaviors. For example, treat yourself and others with respect. This encompassing rule covers waiting your turn to speak and treating others with kindness. You’ll have to model what they look like so students have a clear understanding. Choose a few student volunteers to model respectful behavior and throw in a few non-examples for fun.

2.    Establish Classroom Expectations

You’ll want a concise guide for each activity and procedure in the classroom. For example, how should kids indicate that they need to use the restroom or get a pencil? Silent signals are a great strategy to minimize distraction. See the Silent Signals Resource for more ideas. Think about morning work procedures, material management, group work expectations, and procedures for turning in work. If you set clear expectations, students will have a guide to follow, which will help structure positive classroom behaviors. See this list for more classroom procedure ideas.

3.    Use Positive Praise

Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools in the classroom. Direct your praise to students who are following classroom expectations and rules by complimenting the desired action. For example, “thank you, Kim, for following directions quickly when I said to get out your notebook.” This positive attention will motivate other students to follow suit, for a chance to be praised as well. This strategy will work to eliminate off-task behavior with a subtle reminder about the expectations.

4.    Plan for Tiered Behavior Supports

While strong classroom rules and expectations, and positive praise work in tandem to catch most of your students, sometimes there are outliers who need more behavioral support. These students may need individual behavior plans, which can be a simple checklist for each subject or allotted time increment. Set 2 to 3 priority behavior expectations, and discuss motivations and interests with the student to determine an attainable goal to work toward. Decide the frequency that the student must demonstrate positive behaviors to reach their goal. Next, choose a reward that works for your student. It could be a positive note or a phone call home. Five minutes of free time at the end of the day to color, a small treat, or treasure box item. For example, if you have 5 subject areas during your day as well as lunch and recess, this gives the student 7 chances to earn a smiley face, sticker, or other positive markings. Determine a reasonable goal, remember to start small, and you can always increase the frequency once they’ve met the goal.

Say to begin, the student must achieve 4 stickers for the day to receive treasure box. Then, review their behavior sheet with them daily, even when they do not reach their goal, so you both can reflect on what is working and what is not.

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