The essentials of classroom behavior management
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The Essentials of Classroom Behavior Management. Presented by Jessica Sprick, M.S. Safe and Civil Schools. Why are we here?. Misbehavior makes us crazy !. Core Understanding:. Behavior CAN be changed!. W ith any behavior you don’t like, manipulate something .

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The Essentials of Classroom Behavior Management

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The Essentials of Classroom Behavior Management

Presented by Jessica Sprick, M.S.

Safe and Civil Schools

Why are we here?

  • Misbehavior makes us crazy!

Core Understanding:

  • Behavior CAN be changed!

  • With any behavior you don’t like, manipulate

  • something.

  • The way a setting is structured and managed has a

  • huge impact on behavior and the attitude of students.


  • Identify practical strategies that address the issues you see in YOUR classroom

  • Create a plan of action that identifies key variables for you to manipulate

Community Guidelines

  • Conversation: Quiet on topic side conversations okay. Look for social cues. If you need to text or talk on a phone, please step outside the session.

  • Help: Ask questions and clarify any time. If extremely specific to your environment, I will be available after the session to answer individual questions.

  • Activity: Lecture & activity (reflection, & planning)

  • Movement: Attend to your needs.

  • Participation: Completion of activities/discussions. Keep an open mind

Who is here?

  • Teachers, admin., paraprofessionals, coaches, other?

  • Elementary, middle, high, other?

  • Years experience (0-2, 3-5, 6-10, 10-20, 20+)

Classroom management is a lifelong learning process.

Activity 1: Brainstorm Behaviors

  • List common misbehaviors you see in your classroom. Include problems with an individual student and problems with several or many students.



Work avoidance


Where is this information coming from?

  • 50+ years of behavioral research on what works with behavior

  • Common sense approaches

  • My own experience as a teacher and Dean

Research shows there are five main variables to implement to change behavior

STOIC: “Someone respected and admired for patience and endurance in the face of adversity.”

  • Structure for success

  • Teach expectations

  • Observe: circulate and scan

  • Interact positively with students

  • Correct misbehavior fluently

A Historical Perspective

Behavior management has typically consisted of trying to “make” students behave.

  • Overdependence on reactive and punitive solutions (the “C” in STOIC)

  • Reactive/punitive procedures are not bad or wrong, but ineffective in the long term

Graduation Rates: Then to Now


In 1900:

In 1946:

In 2008:

  • 46%

  • 75%

Core Understanding (3)

Many schools depend too much on punitive consequences

Punitive consequences have inherent drawbacks.

1. Creates a negative relationship/climate

An Increase in Emotional Intensity

Drawbacks of Consequences

2. “Consequences” may become neutral or reinforcing

  • Provide attention

  • Allow the student to avoid something aversive

Note: Whether something is punitive or reinforcing can only be

known by the student’s response.

  • Behavior decreases = punitive consequence

  • Behavior remains or increases = rewarding consequence

Drawbacks of Administer-Assigned Consequences

Dependence on Role-Bound Authority

Drawbacks (cont.)

  • Oppositional Goals: teacher and administrator

  • Limited Resources

  • For at-risk students consequences may be minor

  • May be reinforcing

    • Work avoidance

    • Time with peer group

Core Understanding (3)

  • While a necessary part of any classroom management plan, punitive consequences are the weakest variable we can manipulate to change behavior.

  • We must continually work to expand our toolbox.

Academic Remediation

What do good teachers use when a student demonstrates academic failure?

1. Develop a range of consequences for common rule infractions.

Key elements of effective consequences:

  • Consistent

  • Calm

  • Quick

  • When possible, implemented immediately in the setting in which the infraction occurs

Why Consistent?

If consequences are not consistent, students may respond with:

• A sense of satisfaction for “gaming the system”

• A feeling of unfairness: “Why me and not him?”

• Not knowing the line between acceptable and

unacceptable behavior

How to Be Consistent

  • Establish consequences that fit the nature of the problem but that are as mild as possible

  • Use minor consequences you feel comfortable giving EVERY time the student exhibits the misbehavior

  • Err on the side of too mild

When Consequences Are Too Large…

  • We hesitate to use them

  • We implement them based on OUR mood

Why Calm?

  • For some students, getting an emotional reaction gives a sense of power

  • Students who come from families with frequent power struggles do not know how to break the cycle

  • Sends a message to others that you are not phased by misbehavior

How to Be (Appear!) Calm

  • Preplan consequences and responses

  • Think through situations and script out/role play responses

  • Practice using a neutral tone and voice level

  • Consider facial expressions

**Rule of One: One time a year, you can react emotionally.

Why Quick?

  • Reduce attention given to the misbehaving student

  • Reduce the likelihood of a power struggle

  • Emphasize instruction

How to Be Quick?

  • Clarify rules and possible consequences in advance

  • Let students know they can request a time to meet

  • Avoid explaining or justifying

Possible classroom consequences:

  • Gentle verbal reprimand

  • Keep a record of the behavior

  • Have the student complete a behavior improvement form

  • Parental contact

  • Restitution

  • Time owed

  • Timeout—three possible levels

    • Removal from group instruction

    • Isolation area in class

    • Outside of class

Classroom consequences (cont.)

  • Reduction of points earned (behavioral grading component)

  • After-school or lunch detention

  • Student required to design plan for own behavior

  • Restriction from class privileges

  • Sent to another class

  • Sent to office and/or referral

Rules of the Road . . .

Having a range of classroom consequences is like having a range of consequences for breaking driving laws.

  • Warning

  • Parking ticket

  • Speeding ticket: range of


  • Loss of license

  • Arrest

Implementation Ideas

  • List the misbehaviors of concern you identified

  • Identify several consequences from mild to severe that you could implement to address these misbehaviors.

2. Develop a plan for responding to misbehavior that is not directly covered by the classroom rules.

Try preliminary strategies before turning to consequences

On the following video, consider what the teacher might have attempted BEFORE he gives the student the direction, and strategies he might attempt AFTER the student responds.

B. Preliminary Strategies

  • Proximity management

  • Offers to help or statement of concern

  • Verbal reprimands

  • Discussions (conduct at a neutral time)

  • Anger or disappointment (use with caution)

  • Humor (use with caution)

  • Count and chart

Implementation Ideas

  • Identify several preliminary strategies you could implement to address these misbehaviors.

3. Develop a plan for providing frequent positive feedback for following rules and for meeting expectations.

The most powerful tool to change behavior: interact positively

“The Magic Ratio”

  • John Gottman and colleagues (1998) explored the positive to negative ratios in marriage. Using a 5:1 ratio, which Gottman dubbed “the magic ratio”, he and his colleagues predicted whether 700 newlywed couples would stay together or divorce by scoring their positive and negative interactions in one 15-minute conversation between each husband and wife.

Ten years later, the follow-up revealed that they had predicted divorce with 94% accuracy.

Specific and descriptive feedback

  • Avoid the “good job” syndrome

  • Avoid attributive praise

Contingent feedback

  • Follows any new skill or behavior

  • Follows any difficult skill or behavior

  • Follows anything complex

    • What is new, difficult, or complex may vary by student

Non-Embarrassing feedback

  • Age appropriate

  • Take note of student response to feedback;not every student will appreciate the same approach

Understand the difference between positive and negative interactions:

  • Positive = any attention that is paid to a student when he is doing what is expected

  • Negative = any attention that is paid to a student when he is NOT doing what is expected

  • Does not account for tone, facial expression, or positive wording

  • Consider what the the student is doing just prior to your interaction.

  • Other things to remember with positive interactions:

    • Provide feedback more frequently than you think is necessary.

    • Recognize that some students are starved for attention.

    • Be aware of “Ratios of Interaction.” Strive for AT LEAST a 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.

    Non-Contingent Attention

    • Non-contingent attention is attention that is paid to a student for no other reason than to show interest and caring.

    • Greetings

    • Asking about hobbies, interests, etc.

    Implementation Ideas

    • Make note of one or two praise comments for the positive opposite of your misbehaviors of concern.

    • Every time you correct a student, give the positive opposite to at least three other students.

    • Quickly praise the misbehaving student AS SOON as he or she demonstrates the positive opposite.

    Concluding Remarks

    Impact of budget cuts in public education . . .

    We’ll have to grease ‘em up to get ‘em in!

    Today I’ll take attendance, and if there’s any time left, we’ll do some math.

    Remember the 5 Variables

    • Structure for success

    • Teach expectations

    • Observe: circulate and scan

    • Interact positively with students

    • Correct misbehavior fluently

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