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As a principal of an alternative school, I work with middle and high school students who have been caught with drugs, who have out-of-control behavior, or have mental health issues. I’m often asked how I “control” the students. I’m asked what consequences I use. I’m asked how we MAKE them behave.
Well, I do none of those things!
I take the time to get to know each student. I want to know favorite hobbies/sports/friends. We talk football, hunting, movies, (I cannot talk music…clueless) etc. I share stories about my family. We play games (designed to improve brain processing) and laugh and laugh.
Each student should be heard! S/he has something positive to offer. Adults just need to take time to listen or help the student find it. The other day one of my new students thanked the staff for what we do. He said, “You really do care about us!” You’ve heard the saying, “A student needs to know how much you care before he cares how much you know.” Once I establish a good relationship, the student is going to be receptive to my requests for improved behavior.
Below, Randy Sprick has a simple outline on how to positive interact with students:
Interact positively with students. This involves three different skills.
A. Interact in a welcoming manner with every student.
Say hello, use students’ names
Show an interest in students—listen, converse.
B. Provide age appropriate, non-embarrassing positive feedback.
C. Strive to interact more frequently with every student when s/he is engaged in positive behavior than when s/he is engaged in negative behavior.
- Some students are starved for attention.
- What you pay the most attention to is what will occur more frequently in the future.
- Strive for at least 3:1 positive to negative ratios.
Designing Positive School-Wide Discipline Plans
Randy Sprick, Ph.D.
One of the ways I pay attention to appropriate/positive behavior is by rewarding students with Positive Reinforcement Coupons. Even middle and high school students love the rewards. Here are few examples of the coupons:
I made coupons that can be printed in black and white (saves $$$).
The coupons can be printed or copied on colorful paper for middle and high school students. Yes, these are the same coupons above…just printed on colorful paper! This method lets the student write his name on the back in case it gets misplaced.
There are also some very cute coupons designed for elementary students. Students can take the coupon home to show their parents.
I also made colorful coupons that can be laminated and reused for middle and high school students. Although it does cost more initially, the long-term cost is minimal because the coupons are reused.
The most important thing is pay attention to the student when s/he is being good!
Welcome back. Last month I showed you how I level behaviors. I used these levels to develop office referral forms. It is important to have a well-developed office referral system. A well-developed system allows you to easily organize and analyze behavior. Before you can change behavior, you have to analyze it so you can understand what is happening.
For example, I worked with a school that would inconsistently labeled fights as “school fight”, “fighting”, “student fight”, “students fighting”, etc. No software will accurately sort this information. The only way we could get an accurate count of how many fights were in school was to manually count them. HUGE TIME DRAIN! Once we cleaned this up, we discovered the bulk of the fights were happening in the boys’ bathroom after lunch. We quickly changed bathroom procedures and supervision to eliminate that problem.
The first has an emphasis for the FUNCTION of the student’s behavior. Notice the question:
What is the function of the behavior?
Remember, all behavior has a function. It is to avoid something or obtain something. In order to change a student’s behavior, you have to understand the function. See my post Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment.
All three samples have check boxes for Staff Member Interventions. This is to remind staff that many strategies exist before an office referral (note: all Level 3 behaviors are immediate referrals). If a student has a behavior plan, it should be noted (and reviewed). The Administrative Actions is a list of consequences ranging from less severe to most severe.
These forms are available in Word and are editable. You can personalize it for your school. By taking the time to clean up what behaviors go to the office and using consistent office referral form, you will be able to analyze behaviors. This fall, I will show you how to analyze behaviors using an Excel Pivot Table. It’s worth the wait….
When I was Behavior Consultant in my school district, one of my duties was to review the office referral data in all the schools. I noticed the administrators were overwhelmed with the number of students being sent to the office for disciplinary reasons. In one school, students were sent to the office for chewing gum or not having a pencil in class!
Goodness! I was amazed that the administrator had to deal will all kinds of behavior…chewing gum, having no pencil, horseplaying, name calling, bullying, cussing, fighting, etc. Because he had such high numbers of students to discipline, he spent approximately 2 minutes per student. He was simply reacting to the issues as he did not have time to effectively change behavior. This administrator had no time to help with curriculum or any other school issue. He managed student behavior ALL DAY! YUCK!
Following best practice and guidelines of Positive Behavior Instructional Support, Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline and other proactive experts, I developed Levels of Behavior for our district.
Level 1 behaviors are minor behaviors that the teacher can handle in class. If a student is chewing gum, have him spit it out if it is against your school’s policy. Better yet, let him chew the gum. Chewing gum helps some students focus. If a student doesn’t have her materials, the teacher can loan her a pencil. Other minor Level 1 behaviors include: cheating, running in the hall, talking in class, off task, etc.
Let’s jump to Level III behaviors. They are severe behaviors. Level III behaviors are illegal acts, physically dangerous acts, or severe acts of defiance. Level III behaviors include: alcohol, drugs, vandalism, fighting, inciting violence, etc. The administrator is immediately involved. Often the School Resource Officer must also be involved. If the behavior is illegal, court involvement may follow.
Level II behaviors are the moderate behaviors. Office Referral paperwork is entered for future data analysis. The administrator talking directly with the child is optional. Whether or not the child sees the principal depends on the behavior. A third tardy may automatically have the consequence without the involvement of the principal. On the other hand, a student with an office referral for harassment/teasing/threatening should definitely speak to the principal.
By understanding the different levels of behavior, staff is better prepared to manage behavior. The administrator will now have the time to address Level II and Level III behaviors. The administrator can work with the student who has been disrespectful to a teacher and who may have underlying issues which are causing stress. The administrator will also have time to work on long range goals for school improvement.
My Levels of Behavior can be downloaded for free. Use it to develop your own levels. Stop by next month, I’ll show you how to turn the levels of behavior into an office referral form.
Does it seem like your student explodes instantly?
Actually there are many signs before an explosion. This handout, The Cycle of Anger, will help you and the student recognize these signs in order to avoid the explosion.
Step 1: High Risk Situations-this identifies what was going on and where the student was when the problem started. By analyzing this data, you may notice a student always has a problem in a specific activity (math, PE, free time, etc.) or in a certain location (bathroom, hallway, music class, etc.).
Step 2: The Trigger-what happened that triggered a student? What set him off? It could be as simple as the teacher giving a direction or another student making a face.
Step 3: How are you feeling? The student’s body is giving him signals. At first, it will be difficult for the student to recognize these signals. You need to pay attention and help him identify what his body is doing. It may be increased breathing, increased heart rate, tightening of the jaw, tapping fingers on desk, etc.
Step 4: EXIT-this the first opportunity to get off the cycle of anger. What can the student do to avoid blowing up? The de-escalation strategies listed here should be want works for this student. Don’t just make a generic list. What specifically will work for this one student?
Step 5: How are you feeling now? This is similar to step 3. It’s recognizing body signals. The signals may be huffing and puffing breaths, slumped body in chair or rigid body, grumbling, etc.
Step 6: EXIT-the student has another opportunity to get off the cycle of anger. Again, what can the student do to avoid blowing up? He may need to take a walk, take a time out, etc.
Step 7: Harmful Behavior. This is what happens when the student does not use an exit behavior and get off the cycle of anger. It’s an unacceptable behavior. It may be talking back, slamming a book, fighting or threatening others. The harmful behavior will following with discipline.
Step 8: How can you avoid the problem next time? This is the whole reason for processing behavior. Step 8 should connect to Step 1. You want to encourage the student to avoid high risk situations.
Once I had a 4th grader who would yell, knock over chairs and desks. In the heat of the moment, I could only hope to contain the student to keep everyone safe. After he calmed, we reviewed what happened. We used the Cycle of Anger to help process what happened. We discovered his body was giving him signals…he squinted his eyes and squeezed his lips tightly when getting angry. We finished the worksheet and he had a consequence for his outburst. Days later, he started to get angry…his eyes squinted, his lips squeezed in a line. Because we had analyzed his behavior and body signals earlier, I was able to point out what his body was telling him. I let him know that this is the time to make good decisions (take 10 deep breaths, etc). He was surprised and was able to stop his explosion. This was a wonderful breakthrough; it was the first time he changed his behavior! We praised him and he was happy. Several days later, he again was getting angry. When he squinted his eyes and squeezed his lips, he gasped when he recognized what his body was telling him! He was able to change his behavior on his own!!! He had very few disruptions after understanding his outbursts and being able to control them.
Just the other day, a young lady in high school used the Cycle of Anger after just one introduction to it. It was her first day our program. I reviewed the Cycle of Anger and explained part of the program is understanding behavior in order to control it. Later that day, she was irritated by a boy in class. She told me she remembered the Cycle of Anger and instead of “going off”, she closed her eyes and took slow calming breaths. Now THAT’S excellent control!
IMPORTANT: In order for time out to work, you must first understand the function of the student’s behavior. If his behavior is to avoid work, then time out is giving him what he wants. Make sure he has the skill to perform the task and try to motivate the student.
- The location of your time out should be in an area you can easily supervise and is not in view of other students. Some students are embarrassed and need privacy to recover. Some will enjoy disrupting others and try to create a power and control battle with you. I always made my time out spot with a sturdy shelf (would not turn over) against a wall with room for a beanbag, or file cabinet and beanbag, or 3-sided wall partition and a bean bag. This is NOT an isolated time out room. There are specific laws about isolation rooms and, frankly, I don’t believe they belong in school.
- My rules were:
- I don’t hear you.
- I don’t see you (means student stays in time out spot).
- Time out is 2 minutes.
These rules are unusual in that they are negative and go against the “dead man rule” (if a dead man can do it, it’s not a good rule). However, I did not care if the student was rolling on the floor, hiding under the beanbag (happened often), was trying to stand on his head, or was lying on his back with feet in the air. I did not want to engage in a power struggle on how to sit in time out. I just want him to stay in the time out spot and to be quiet in order to not disrupt the rest of the class. That’s all. The general rule for minutes in time out is 1 minute per age of the child. I found two minutes was usually enough. If a child was calm and compliant in two minutes, why wait another 6 minutes just because he was 8 years old? If a child was not compliant in two minutes, I waited until he was compliant. Sometimes that would take several minutes, but I would check on him every two minutes. It sounds time consuming but it is not. Takes seconds.
- On a desk or shelf outside the time out spot is a basket with Time Out Notes and pencils.
- When the child is ready to follow directions, he steps out to get one Time Out Note and a pencil. He goes back into the time out area to fill out the note. The first line, “I chose time out when,” helps the child understand he had a choice and it was his behavior that led to time out. The next line, “next time I will,” helps him choose a replacement behavior. The next line, “I need to apologize to,” helps the child understand his behavior affected someone else and he needs to correct that. Some adults feel a child should only apologize if the apology is sincere. I think it is good practice to apologize whether it’s sincere or not. When a student is still agitated, he may yell out for help or complain he doesn’t understand the Time Out Note. This is another sign he is not yet compliant. Calmly tell him you will help when he is in time out quietly for 2 minutes.
- The student does not choose when to come out of time out. The teacher invites the student to return by giving the student a request, “Sam, come talk to me, please.” DO NOT ASK “Are you ready to follow directions?” or “Are you ready to come out of time out?” Some of your toughest kids will be ready to come out of time out but are not ready to be compliant. When I request a student to come talk to me, I am observing if he is being resistant or compliant. I often will also give a quick request as he is walking towards me (“Please push in that chair”, “Please bring me that book,” “Please throw that paper in the garbage”). This is to give the student practice following my directions. I can immediately assess if he is going to be complaint by doing that. If he is not compliant, I simply tell him it seems he is not ready and send him back to time out. Sometimes you will have a student who refuses to come out of time out. That’s ok. He’s just trying to get in a power struggle. Don’t play. Just tell him you will check on him in a couple of minutes…then ignore him. He eventually will get tired of being in time out and will be willing to be compliant.
- After you and the child quickly review the Time Out Note together, politely tell the child what he needs to do to get back engaged in class. For example, “Joe, after you apologize to Bob, join the blue group for this science project.” You want to make sure you help the student be successful.
- Some students need time out often. That’s ok. Four 2-minute time outs are better learning experiences than one 20-minute time out. I remember when I sent a student to time out for the fifth time, he yelled, “I’m sick of time out!” I calmly responded, “Then simply follow directions.” That was his last visit to time out.
- There is absolutely no justification for a teacher to be angry when putting a student in time out. Nor should a teacher feel like she “got him”. Time out is not a matter of the teacher winning and the student losing. If you have these feelings, you are misusing time out. Time out is an absence of reinforcement. It is an opportunity for the student to recover and change his behavior. So, when a student returns to the class, he has a clean slate.
- File the Time Out Note. This data can be graphed for analysis.
Weeelll…I’m going to cause a stir…I’m just going to say it…I do not think the flip card (color card) system for classroom management works! There! I said it! Classroom teachers, stay with me…
Here are the systems I’ve seen: Each student has 5 colors in order (often blue, green, yellow, orange, and red) in a pouch with his name. When he misbehaves, the teacher tells the student to flip a card. When the card gets to red, it’s a trip to the principal and a call home. Another system I heard about had rainbows, sun, raindrops, storm clouds, and even lightning bolts. Whew! Some teachers attach rewards/consequences to the various colors…trip to the treasure box if you stay on blue, walk at recess if you are on orange, etc.
Now for the huge majority of students, the flip card system works. However…and here is the problem…it does not work for the student with chronic misbehavior. You can add the whole range of ROY G BIV and it still won’t work. I know. I’ve tried it. I have tried multiple ways to make the teacher’s current flip card system work for the student with chronic misbehavior. It was frustrating, and a huge waste of time. Also, for the majority of students, a simple redirection is all that needed. The leveled system, such as the flip cards, is not necessary. So why use a system that doesn’t work with students that have the toughest behaviors and the other students don’t need?
Let me introduce you to Thomas Phelan’s 1,2,3 Magic! I absolutely love it! It is a behavior management system designed for children 2-12 years of age. By the way, I am NOT affiliated with this company. I get nothing from them. I just absolutely think it is the best system I have ever used, and I want to share it with you!
I have used 1,2,3 Magic with my self-contained elementary students with severe behavior. I’ve used it with my resource students who have learning disabilities. I’ve help regular elementary teachers implement it in their classrooms very successfully. I’ve used it with my three children! I even used it with a 14 year old with the maturity level of a 12 year old to teach him to stop talking back—it worked!
I was watching the 1,2,3 Magic video to refresh my memory with my teenage daughter. She said, “I hate that!” I was shocked and asked why. She replied, “Because when you said ‘That’s one’, I knew you meant it and I HAD to follow directions.” She was correct. When I followed the guidelines of 1,2,3 Magic, I did mean it.
The system sounds simple, but you must fully understand the potential pitfalls in order to implement it well. When the child is doing something you want him to stop, look at him and calmly say, “That’s one.” You continue teaching/washing dishes. You are giving the child the opportunity to comply. If you stare at him, the child may perceive that as a challenge and misbehave more. If he stops, you may thank him. If he continues to act out, calmly say, “That’s two.” Again, give him the opportunity to comply. If he continues, say, “That’s three. Time out.” Dr. Phelan says, “That’s three. Take five (minutes of time out).”
The absolutely hardest part of this system is getting the ADULT to STOP TALKING! You cannot say, “See I told you if you continued, I’d count” or “I’ll count again if you don’t stop running around” or “2 and a half, 2 and three quarters….” When I found myself too emotional or too talkative, I stopped immediately and tried to remember the rules Dr. Phelan outlined.
One time, I was talking with a contractor in my house and my 9 year old daughter was being a bit of a nuisance. After one minor disruption from her, I quickly looked at her and calmly said, “That’s one” and continued talking with the contractor. My daughter quieted immediately and after a few minutes wandered off to play. The contractor asked what that was. He knew something happened but could not figure it out. That is what I like about it. I did not embarrass my daughter. I did not engage her in a power struggle. I simply gave her an opportunity to behave. She did. My daughter is now working in day care and guess what system she is using? 1,2,3 Magic! Love it!
When I taught in the classroom, I had a designated spot for time out. It was often a beanbag on the floor behind a file cabinet or a 3-sided wall partition in the corner of the room. It was always where I could easily supervise but not visible to other students and away from distractions (manipulatives, window, doorway, etc). Outside the time out spot, I had Time Out Notes. This was a way to keep data on who was in time out, when and how long. It was also a learning tool for the child. When the child felt he was ready to follow directions, he stepped out to get the Time Out Note and a pencil (of course, I noticed when he did this). I would request the student to come talk to me. The Time Out Note was the basis for our 2 minute conversation on the misbehavior. I filed the note for future data use.
When people say time out doesn’t work, it’s usually adult misuse that causes its failure. Check out 1,2,3 Magic (I now give it as a baby shower gift!) and Time Out Note.
There’s a reason for every student’s behavior! Jack has not “lost his mind”. Jill is not “trying to drive you crazy”. He or she is trying to get something or avoid something. Now you have to be the detective and figure out what it is. Many teachers overlook this detective step and skip to a quick fix.
Imagine if you went to the doctor and complained of pain in your arm and the doctor just said to take some ibuprofen. Well, if your arm is broken, that ibuprofen will not work. This is the same thing for student behavior. If a student is not doing his school work, you may send him to time out. If he is avoiding doing school work because he doesn’t understand it, your discipline will not fix the problem. It is actually helping the student avoid work.
I call this a Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment because it just takes a few minutes to do. This is not a formal assessment many specialists prefer. It’s for the classroom teacher who has to deal with tough behaviors all the time.
One of my favorite encounters with a 3rd grade teacher was when she stopped me in the hallway and explained a problem she was having with a student. Before I could say a thing, she went on to quickly analyze his behavior. She specifically described his behavior, said he acted out at specific times, she thought he was doing it because ____, and thought she could take care of the problem by ____. She then thanked me for the help! I said, “You’re welcome!” and smiled all the way to my classroom. She did a Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment right there in the hallway in less than 5 minutes!
In the next few days, I will show you how to use this Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment and turn it into a behavior intervention plan.
See you soon, LuAnne