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By Tina Jennings, Guest Author
A strong behavior management plan is essential to running your classroom smoothly. When outlining and implementing your plan, it’s essential to spend time thinking through the details and teaching it to your students. Every child comes to your class with a different understanding of appropriate and inappropriate behavioral choices for school. Instead of assuming that students simply know how to behave, a thorough plan removes any guesswork — and ultimately helps to maintain your own sanity.
The basics of a behavior management plan include:
As you create your classroom plan, keep in mind these three valuable principles: being firm, clear, and consistent.
After establishing the rules of the plan, they become the very thread upon which your classroom environment is bound. You want the students to understand them like the laws in our own society. In this sense, be wary of those students who want to argue, negotiate, or manipulate the rules. Avoid engaging in their dialogue. Be resolute that the classroom plan is non-negotiable.
Over time, this will actually make your job easier. When students break rules, you have less inner conflict about how to solve a problem, or how to tame an upset student. You can keep your cool knowing that each student in your classroom follows the same rules and has the same consequences, plain and simple.
Document your plan in clear, concise language that your students understand. Then, post the plan in a place where kids can see it. Alternatively, create behavior journals which the students use to write an end-of-day reflection. Glue the behavior plan at the front of each notebook so that each student has a copy. Whether posted or for personal reference, it’s something you can refer to throughout the day.
When a student receives a consequence, make sure your language remains clear. This is particularly important for students who are younger. When delivering a consequence, stick to the same language pattern of addressing what happened, what class rule it broke, and what consequence they’ll receive. For example, “I saw you use your hands for hitting, which goes against our classroom rule to be kind. So your consequence is to move your card down on the behavior chart.”
Understanding the reason behind consequences makes them meaningful and effective. For example, in my classroom, when a student moves their card to the color orange on the behavior chart, they know their parent will be notified. If a student goes to red, they must write a behavior reflection with questions that ask them to reflect on what happened.
After creating your plan and teaching all of its parts, it must be consistently followed in the same way every day.
If your students receive three reminders for their behavior before receiving a consequence, you must do your best to stick to that plan. It’s unfair and inconsistent for you to give any child the most severe consequence the first time they break a rule. This happens most often when teachers react emotionally and feel frustrated by a child’s actions. If you recognize after the fact that the consequence doesn’t fit the crime, discuss the mistake you made with the offender, and return to following your rules. This will uphold the integrity of your behavioral plan.
Here are some more tips to keep in mind when creating and implementing your behavior plan:
Check our our Creating a Behavior Contract lesson plan for a step-by-step guide in completing this process with your students.
At the start of the year, teach this plan and all of its components so students have a clear understanding of the rules and expectations of your classroom. Monthly, weekly, and even daily maintenance may be required to reiterate the guidelines of your plan.
If you have a daily Morning Meeting time, or end-of-day check in, use these as opportunities to reflect on your behavior plan. Use read-aloud, made up scenarios, and role-playing as examples for students to connect back to the behavior plan. Talk about weekly goals with your students on an individual and whole-class basis. Keeping expectations at the forefront of your students’ minds will lead to a more positive classroom environment.
Adjustments to the plan may need to be made throughout the year. As you get to know your students, you will learn more about their personalities and behavioral needs and you may come to learn they are more motivated by certain behavioral rewards and consequences than others. If this is the case, sure, go ahead and adjust. But, to keep it consistent, you must teach each change to your students.
When teaching a new part of your plan, deliver it in the same way you would a reading or math lesson; model, guided, independent. First, describe the new part of the plan; next, have the students discuss it in pairs or try it out as a group; last, have the students independently demonstrate some understanding of the lesson. Students may need an opportunity to practice or role play so that it really settles into their understanding.
Now you have everything you need to start a firm, clear, and consistent behavior plan in your classroom. Don’t be discouraged if you are reading this article mid-year and haven’t developed a plan. It’s never too late to create a classroom where clear rules, boundaries, and consequences are the norm. Good luck!
Tina Jennings, M.A. is a second grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Santa Monica, CA. She received her undergraduate degree in 2006 from The State University of New York at Purchase with a major in art history. In 2010, Tina began her teaching career at Aspire Public Schools, a charter school system working in low-income communities. She was a founding teacher at Aspire Firestone Academy while simultaneously earning her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of the Pacific. Since then she has taught second grade and loves working in a close-knit community so near to her home. In addition to teaching, Tina is a freelance writer.