Behavior Management

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    Behavior management is a very important component of any classroom or school.  Teachers need to plan and prepare for behaviors in the classroom.  By breaking down the process and looking at the components of a good behavior management system the teacher can figure out some basic steps to follow to be a positive force in the students’ lives.  Some of the steps the teacher goes through to create a good behavior management system should include creating a working rapport with students, maintaining themselves as an authority figure, developing a list of possible “Intervention Alternatives,” and creating effective interventions (McIntyre, 2001).  Some effective behavior management systems and some schools that have developed their own plans will be presented here.

    One of the steps in creating a good behavior management system is developing a good working rapport with the students.  This does not mean becoming the students’ best friend.  However, it does mean being friendly with them.  The teacher should appear interested in the student as a person and have knowledge of the student’s interests.  There are many ways that the teacher can learn about students including student questionnaires, journals, and current events worksheets that include reactionary questions.  The teacher can demonstrate concern and interest by making personal comments and inquiries and by greeting the students individually and pleasantly.  Also, remember to minimize the use of the desk as a barrier when interacting with students.

    Creating a good working rapport with the students also requires the teacher to be a “real person” and let the students know a little about themselves such as interests, family, and even what led the teacher to become their teacher.  Avoid “talking down” to students and using sarcastic, condescending, or patronizing remarks (Bennett, 1996).  It’s important to take the time to explain “why” when asked.  A good working rapport helps with communication when situations become strained.

    Another important aspect of a good behavior management system is the teacher’s ability to remain an authority figure.  A teacher must require respect from students.  Teachers should not let their students treat them in any way that would cause the respect for their position to be diminished.  One way to assure this is to let your expectations be known clearly and explicitly.  A rules list is a good way to let the students know your expectations.  Some teachers devise these guidelines previous to the start of the school year, and students enter the room to find them posted on the board.  Other teachers prefer to involve the students, although the instructor probably has an idea what the final outcome should look like, and tends to direct the pupils in their contributions.  Remember, rules should be positive and clear.  Instead of the rule “don’t run” use “walk.” Rules work better when the list is short and to the point.  Finally, remember to post your class rules for the benefit of your students and yourself.

                Another component of a good behavior management system is to develop a list of possible “Intervention Alternatives.”  This means planning in advance and knowing what disciplinary or management alternatives are available to the teacher in the classroom and finding out what kind of back up support the teacher can expect from the administration (McIntyre, 2001).  Make a list of possible things the teacher can do to respond to situations when they develop.  Order your list into a sequence ranging from gentle to severe.  Some interventions benefit from skill development such as role-playing, recognizing different viewpoints, and conflict management instruction (Bennett, 1996).  Also, keep the parents informed and updated.  It’s important to try to get the parents invested in the student’s behavior.

    Teachers also need to develop effective interventions.  They should choose an intervention based on the severity of the situation and expectations and knowledge of the student.  The teacher should try to develop a system that takes into account their own personality, the student’s age and personality, and how others who are present might respond.  The teacher must assess what the student is ready or able to hear and how far they can go before the student becomes too closed or unmanageable.  Avoid escalation of conflict by getting into a shouting match with a student.  Don’t encourage an argument or discussion when it might be better to avoid it.  It is important to avoid or minimize conflicts that will gain little and reinforce attention-getting arguments (McIntyre & Forness, 1996).

    Another thing teachers need to remember is to be role models.  The teacher should not do anything that they won’t allow the students to do and do things that the teacher would like the students to do.  During a conflict, the teacher should not invite the student to gain control by asking a “why?” question until their authority and control over the situation has been established (McIntyre, 2001).

    A good example of a school wide behavior management approach that uses a number of the above steps is the Positive Behavioral Support System.  The Positive Behavioral Support approach centers on understanding why a behavior occurs and not seeing the individual as the sole problem that needs to be “fixed”.  Positive Behavioral Support is a long-term approach used to reduce challenging behaviors.  The goal is to replace challenging behaviors with more appropriate behaviors while providing related supports for successful outcomes.  IDEA requires “the IEP team to consider positive behavioral support to address behavior that impedes the child’s learning and/or the learning of another” (Carr, Horner & Doolabh, 1997).

    A review of research studies involving individuals with MR, autism, and PDD between 1985 and 1996 shows that “Positive Behavioral Support is widely successful with serious challenging behaviors” and “Positive Behavioral Support is effective in reducing problem behavior by 80% in two-thirds of the cases.”  It was also pointed out that success rates were even higher when an intervention was based on a functional assessment (Carr, Horner & Doolabh, 1997).  This shows that behavior plans that focus on negative behaviors can be modified to focus on the acceptable behaviors and remain successful.

    It should also be noted that implementing Positive Behavioral Support strategies in schools is positive for all students.  One middle school reported a 42% drop in office referrals in the first year of a school wide positive behavioral support plan with about 85% of students benefiting from the school’s support, however 9 % needed specific setting support and 6 %, the most challenging cases, needed individualized support (Carr, Horner & Doolabh, 1997).  For school wide plans to be effective the teacher must have teacher support, clear and positive purposes and expectations, school wide procedures for teaching expectation, implementation, monitoring, and encouragement of expected behaviors while discouraging violations.  Administrators and teachers are the key to a successful positive behavioral support plan.

    One example of the expectations in a school wide positive behavioral support plan is the “High Five Expectations: be respectful, be responsible, follow directions, keep hands and feet to one’s self, and be there and be ready” (Carr, Horner & Doolabh, 1997).  This school made posters and hung them throughout the school.  They also implemented a school wide token economy that reinforced appropriate behaviors.  The school provided support for the individuals who needed more attention by developing an individualized behavior plan.

    It is important to recognize positive behavior.  All too often the only students that get individualized attention are the ones who have behavioral issues.  Students learn from this and some eventually make the connection that I have to have a behavior to get the attention I need or desire.  I’ve always believed the teacher catch more flies with sugar than vinegar. 

    It is very important that any behavior management plan has good communication, consistency, and be individualized.  The Positive Behavioral Support approach involves communication, provides consistencies, and allows for individual needs.  These factors might be some of the reasons why the Positive Behavioral Support approach is so successful.

    Another example of a behavior management approach that incorporates a number of the above steps is the process used by the Babock Middle School and Westerly High School.  The schools goal is to help students with emotional and behavioral issues succeed.  The people involved in the program say the key to their success is their high expectations for the learning and appropriate behavior of all students and their close collaboration with the families.

    The first step in the process used by Babock and Westerly Schools is making sure that every student and teacher knows the rules they are expected to follow.  Students who need help learning to control their own behavior have a number of people from teachers to school psychologists to work with.  Each school has a planning room that is supervised by a special education teacher with experience in behavior management.  The planning room is a place where students can get emotional support, extra help with schoolwork, or assistance with problem solving.  The planning room teacher also helps the family make community connections when warranted.  Each student with emotional and behavioral problems has an IEP that establishes clear expectations for behaviors including time in the planning room.  Behavior management may include providing rewards for good behavior, consequences for inappropriate behavior, family involvement, in-school suspension, or creative out of school suspension like supervised community service. 

    The Babock and Westerly Schools also believe that classroom organization is also important when setting up an environment to help the students to learn.  The general education and special education teachers use team teaching to provide new information and individualized instruction simultaneously.  Ongoing professional development is essential to successful team-teaching.  The funding for the planning room and its staff came from the savings of sending students with emotional and behavioral problems to separate schools.  The participants of schools believe that these new ways of working has led to improved grades, achievement, and attendance of students with emotional and behavioral problems and a decrease of disciplinary referrals (Gable, 1998).

    Finally, it should be pointed out that the teacher must have a functional assessment to truly address a behavior.  If the teacher doesn’t look at the antecedents to the behavior and try to determine what the student is trying to communicate, the teacher can’t guide the student to a more acceptable form of communication.  The behavior modification should also benefit the student.  If the teacher changes a behavior without improving the individual’s life what is the purpose?






    Bennett, N. (1996). Something to say. Reaching Today’s Youth, 1(1), 11.


    Carr, E.G., Horner & Doolabh, A. (1997). Positive behavior support. Exceptional Children, 63, 211-227.


    Gable, R. A. (1998). Behavior problems. Preventing School Failure, Spring, 42(3) 26-35.


    McIntyre, T., & Forness, S. R. (1996). Is there a new definition yet or are our kids still seriously emotionally disturbed? Beyond Behavior, 7(3), 4-9.


    McIntyre, T. (2001). Creating a Behavior Management System for Your Classroom. 715HomePage.html