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Managing the Cycle of Acting Out Behavior in the Classroom. By Geoff Colvin. When acting out behavior occurs, we often only look at end incident. Prerequisite Academic Skills Signs of Agitation Escalating Behavior Chain Presence of Successive Interactions.

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when acting out behavior occurs we often only look at end incident
When acting out behavior occurs, we often only look at end incident.
  • Prerequisite Academic Skills
  • Signs of Agitation
  • Escalating Behavior Chain
  • Presence of Successive Interactions
a seven phase model for describing acting out behavior
A Seven-Phase Model for Describing Acting-Out Behavior
  • Calm
  • Triggers
  • Agitation (Anxiety)
  • Acceleration (Defensive)
  • Peak (Acting Out)
  • De-escalation (Acting Out)
  • Recovery (Tension Reduction)
calm phase
Calm Phase
  • Overall behavior is cooperative and acceptable
  • Also called “setting events,” “aversive stimuli,” “antecedents,” …
  • School-based
  • Nonschool-based
  • Often a function of inability to handle Triggers
  • Noticeable change in behavior
  • Student is unfocused and behavior is nondirected
  • Behavior becomes focused and directed (usually toward staff)
  • Overall behavior is staff-engaging leading to further negative interactions
    • Questioning and Arguing
    • Noncompliance and Defiance
    • Off-Task Behavior
    • Provocation of Others
    • Avoidance and Escape
    • Whining and Crying
    • Threats, Intimidation, Verbal Abuse, Destruction of Property…
  • Often represent threat to safety of others or to the involved student
  • Overall behavior is out of control
    • Serious destruction of property
    • Self-abuse
    • Running Away
    • Attacks on staff
de escalation
  • Reintegration process
  • Overall behavior shows confusion and lack of focus
    • Confusion
    • Reconciliations
    • Withdrawal
    • Denial, Blaming Others
    • Responsiveness to concrete directions
    • Avoidance of debriefing
  • Returns to nonagitated and relatively normal state
  • Shows an eagerness for busy work and reluctance to interact
    • Eagerness for independent work or activity
    • Subdued behavior in group work
    • Subdued behavior in class discussion
precorrection strategies for triggers phase
Identify the context (trigger) and predictable behavior problem

Specify expected behaviors

Modify the context

Conduct behavior rehearsals

Provide strong reinforcement for occurrences of expected behaviors

Prompt expected behaviors

Monitor the plan

- Precorrection Strategies for Triggers Phase
teaching social skills for managing triggers phase
Social skills are learned behaviors that can be taught.

Behavior management problems are social skills problems.

Social skills are prerequisites for academic and school success

The approach and components of social skills instruction are fundamentally the same as academic instruction.

Social skill instruction alone may be ineffective with high risk or high needs students.

-Teaching Social Skills for Managing Triggers Phase
calming strategies for managing agitation phase
Calming Strategies for Managing Agitation Phase
  • Teacher Empathy
  • Assist Student to Focus on the Task
  • Provide Space
  • Provide Assurances and Additional Time
  • Permit Preferred Activities (within set parameters)
Teacher Proximity
  • Independent Activities
  • Passive Activities
  • Movement Activities
  • Student Self-Management Where Appropriate
defusing strategies for managing acceleration phase last opportunity to avoid peak behavior
Defusing Strategies forManaging Acceleration Phase(Last Opportunity to Avoid Peak Behavior)
  • Consciously avoid escalating prompts.
    • Agitated behavior from staff such as shouting
    • Cornering the student
    • Engaging in power struggles
    • Moving into the student’s space
Touching or grabbing the student
  • Sudden or very quick movements
  • Using “put-down” statements
  • Becoming defensive and arguing
  • Communicating anger and frustration through body language
Approach the student in a nonthreatening manner
    • Move slowly and deliberately toward the problem situation.
    • Speak privately if possible.
    • Speak calmly.
    • Minimize body language.
    • Keep a reasonable distance.
    • Speak respectfully.
Establish an eye level position.
  • Be brief.
  • Stay focused on the problem at hand.
  • Avoid power struggles.
  • Acknowledge cooperation.
  • Withdraw if the situation escalates.
Use nonconfrontational limit-setting procedures
    • Present the expected behavior and the negative consequence as a decision for the student to make.
    • Allow time for the student to decide (usually less than a minute.)
    • Withdraw from the student, attend to other students or engage in some other task.
    • Follow through
Debriefing Session (problem solving to better equip student to exhibit appropriate behavior)After behavior occurs:
  • Identify the sequence of events
  • Pinpoint decision making moments during the sequence of events
  • Evaluate the decisions
  • Identify acceptable decision options for future situations.
safe management strategies for peak phase
Safe Management Strategies for Peak Phase
  • Clear School or District Policy
  • Identification of Possible Emergency Situations
reintegration strategies for managing de escalation phase
Reintegration Strategies for Managing De-escalation Phase
  • Transition from Peak behaviors to normal activities
    • Isolate the student
    • Engage in independent work with clear criteria
    • Complete exit paperwork
    • Restore the environment
    • Resume the regular schedule
resumption strategies for recovery phase
Resumption Strategies for Recovery Phase
  • Transition Steps
    • Provide strong focus on normal routines
    • Do not negotiate the consequences for the serious behavior.
    • Strongly acknowledge occurrences of problem solving behaviors
    • Communicate support and expectation that student can succeed
    • Review and implement plan from debriefing
Debriefing Plan
    • Not an aversive consequence
    • Should only take 3-5 minutes
    • Occurs after student has been calm for at least 20 minutes
    • Process
      • Review the problem incident to identify triggers
      • Establish alternative responses to triggers
      • Focus on a smooth transition to classroom activity
managing the cycle of acting out behavior
Managing the Cycle of Acting Out Behavior
  • By Geoff Colvin

Behavior Associates

PO Box 5633

Eugene, OR 97405-0633

(Available through