Creating Opportunities to Learn
By Megan Madlena
Step Up 2 Success is an Equitable Response to student Misbehavior with Systematic Early Interventions
This article is an overview of some general educational management concepts. We will discuss classroom structure and why prevention and positive interactions are so important towards building success in a schoolwide systems and programs.
As educators our vision directs how we develop our strategy for preventing misbehavior. When an administration lays out a mission statement they are laying a foundation from which they will build their teams, systems and processes. We refer back to the mission as we design our High Structure, as we build our High Support and as we strive for High Success.
In a scholastic setting the mission sets the vision for what the end result will be. In the organizational mission statement we outline some of the core methodology for how we will pursue our educational goals. In the school’s core business supplies details to how our systems will be structured. The mission is the foundation of the school’s vision, by clarifying the vision the administration sets the tone for how they will recruit, whom they will hire, what they will structure and the systems they will implement.
High Structure & High Support Considerations:
In our current educational reality of misbehaviors we have the following considerations when developing a behavioral intervention system that will enable us to build High Success:
How do we empower teachers?
How do we build capacity?
How do we build stamina?
How do we encourage people to show up for this work?
How do we contribute to a positive mindset?
How do we support teachers?
How do adults learn? How do we engage them?
How do we lead this?
In future articles from the Step Up 2 Success team we will spend more time defining and outlining strategies to address the items listed above. We are here to be a resource for educators. We believe we have a system that is clear and has a proven track record of helping to build high structure, high support and reaching for high success when working with children.
Current systems of support through which we can collaborate to build our high structure include Positive Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS) or Randy’s Sprick’s Safe and Civil Schools. As we develop our behavioral systems we want to teach what we expect – to keep calm and use positive behavior rather than respond to misbehavior with our own escalation. A good mission, vision and values statement is a great place to start when developing a clear structure to support our educational goals. By investing in High Structure we help offset misbehavior through preventative operations.
What do we do when a student doesn’t respond to our efforts? We need a system of support that empowers teachers and builds their capacity for dealing with misbehavior calmly, immediately and consistently. Building a structure that is centered around the organization’s mission sets the tone for developing supports for educators, assistants, parents and students. Collaboration is the key to High Support which strengthens our educational ability to respond as well as prevent behavioral issues.
A key principle in developing high support is remembering that our response determines everything by setting a tone for how our team will deal with misbehavior. Let’s take a look at the levels of behavior response.
Level 1 - Low Intensity Prevention Strategies
Principle: Once a situation is escalated it will be harder to restore. Intervention is about playing ahead of the game.
Practical resources and approaches include:
Educational Breaks (Individual or whole class)
Calm and Neutral Questions
Behavioral Momentum (Sure I will strategy)
Praise student frequently
Increase Opportunities to Respond
Alternate seating, give the student a space (blue line box)
Call on student frequently for help
Break down assignment
Breathing instructions (Take a few deep breaths)
Draw a picture
Give frequent non-verbal interaction
Noise Cancelling head phones
Help student start the assignment
Music Break (Individual or Whole Class)
Speak in a calm neutral tone
Let student stand while working
Give a signal phrase for when student feels upset
Touch base with student on a schedule
Make a visual schedule
Use a timer
Have student run a quick errand
Have earned reward system
Have a special space near teacher
Make student your helper
Sample Level One Intervention Form (Resources Page)
Behavioral Momentum and Choice
Behavioral Momentum is defined as the use of a series of high-probability requests to increase compliance with lower-probability requests (Ray, Skinner & Watson, 1999). In practice for an educational setting, behavioral momentum basically means to build up momentum towards what you really want the child to do. When working with a student start by tossing out easy, or “throw away”, demands that they are likely to accomplish first. Another way to phrase this process is that rather than approaching the child with what YOU want in mind, shift your perspective to what THEY are most likely to want to do. This simple shift can yield positive rewards when we provide choices that build into momentum. This creates the foundation for High Structure and enables us to maintain High Support.
Positive to Corrective Ration (5:1)
What is a positive interaction?
When a teacher interacts with a student who is exhibiting appropriate behavior, count the intervention as positive. (+)
What is a corrective interaction?
When a teacher interacts with a student who is exhibiting inappropriate behavior, count the interaction as corrective. (–)
It may sound simple but the single most important thing that teachers can do to improve the overall behaviors of students in their classrooms is to increase the number of positive interactions they have with each student. When we invest in building a positive ratio in our interactions with students we increase our ability to effectively prevent as well as engage in corrective interactions. Positive interactions is a High Structure tenant, when an educational team combines this will continued High Support they increase their potential for High Success.
Ratio of Interactions Formula
This strategy involves making the effort to interact with EVERY student more frequently (5 times more) when the student is behaving responsibly than when he or she is behaving irresponsibly. We want to build positive experiences, interactions and reserves in our students so that we can prevent behavior. If the positive to negative (or corrective) interactions dips below 5 to 1 there is potential for escalation. High Support seeks to be proactive rather than reactive with regards to behavior by doing something as simple as ensuring we are having positive interactions with students.
The idea is that by spending two minutes a day for 10 consecutive days getting to know a disruptive student, teachers can begin establishing an initial connection. This will lead to better classroom behavior and higher levels of participation. Positives always work best for tough kids, they are managed not cured as we recognize that there are multiple causes for misbehavior. If an investment as little as two minutes a day, or 10 minutes a week, can help us to better understand the students we are serving as well as prevent behaviors, why wouldn’t we write that check? The High Success philosophy is born from the reality that developing High Structure combined with High Support can yield positive results in our educational efforts.
It takes a team to build High Structure combined with High Support to achieve the goal of High Success. As administrators, educators, assistants, parents and students we didn’t come this far to only come this far! We need to be open to accepting feedback so that we can bring the conversation forward on these measures and challenge our assumptions about what will and won’t work. When we Step Up 2 Success we open a world of collaborative opportunities.
Step Up 2 Success (SU2S) contributors include Megan Madlena, Kelsey Isaacson, Jon Isaacson and others. Contact us to contribute relevant content to SU2S at Home.
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