Behavior and Classroom Management- Setting A Behavior Goal

We’ve chatted before about the three step approach to implementing an individual behavior plan. 

One of the things I had the hardest time wrapping my mind around was the concept of choosing a small goal, a really tiny measurable goal, when a child in my class may be totally out of control.  Let’s call this student Ned (not a real student name). Ned is crawling on the carpet, spinning his body around, calling out, making loud noises, and even jumping onto and off of tables from time to time. In addition, he’s not even getting his work done or participating in any part of the curriculum. It might be tempting to make some goals related to each part of Neds behavior. For example, I may say that Ned’s goals are to *sit nicely at meeting/lesson time *raise his hand before speaking  *keeping a safe body  * completing  his work.

Here’s the issue with designing a behavior plan with all 4 of these parts of Ned’s behavior… Ned One of the things I had the hardest time wrapping my mind around was the concept of choosing a small goal, a really tiny measurable goal, when a child in my class may be totally out of control.  Let’s call this student Ned (not a real student name). Ned is crawling on the carpet, spinning his body around, calling out, making loud noises, and even jumping onto and off of tables from time to time. In addition, he’s not even getting his work done or participating in any part of the curriculum. It might be tempting to make some goals related to each part of Neds behavior. For example, I may say that Ned’s goals are to *sit nicely at meeting/lesson time *raise his hand before speaking  *keeping a safe body  * completing  his work.is having difficulty monitoring his behavior. It is going to be super difficult for him to monitor all of these behaviors at once. More importantly it is going to leave Ned open to find failure throughout the day. He can be meeting one of those goals well, but because he feels like he has forgotten about or failed at the other parts, in my experience, Ned’s behavior continues to be more out of control.

Instead, the best advice I had when designing these plans was- choose the behavior that drives you most nuts (which is usually the most interruptive behavior to the class) . In Ned’s case, I decided that “stay in my spot” was the most important because it would help him to keep himself and others safe.

I also want to add that giving a very vague goal to a student in this situation (like “be responsible”) has also not been effective in my experience, or at least not as effective as choosing one small goal. Kids have a very hard time monitoring or understanding how multifaceted this type of goal is. Instead, choose something that is concrete that the student can wrap his/her head around and actually see and feel.

Talk to Ned about what it means to be in his spot at meeting time, seat work time, center time etc. feels and looks like.  Practice and preset Ned ahead of time to set him up for success as you transition. Give tons of negative feedback and CUE the behavior. You can even cue the whole class “Boys and girls, it’s time to transition. I’ll be looking for everyone to find and stay in their meeting spot now please.” Ned will be preset and know just what to do!

Here’s the tricky part… once you’ve chosen that teeny tiny goal- let the rest of it go. That means that when Ned calls out in the middle of meeting, ignore this as much as possible. Do NOT react by marking his check in chart about this behavior. If Ned has created havoc at meeting, but has stayed in his spot… he earns the check/ star or whatever mark on his chart you’ve agreed to.

If you want to monitor all of these parts of Ned’s day, I recommend keeping those notes to yourself, and instead consider choosing just ONE of those goals to model, practice, and track/ check in with Ned about.  In fact, in my experience it’s been pretty awesome to continue to monitor these aspects of behavior because here’s the amazing thing I’ve discovered…

Once one of these behaviors falls into place, often the rest of them follow! For example, after several days/weeks of practicing being in his spot, Ned is more apt to be available to listen and interact with morning meeting. He will be more likely when he is in his seat to engage in his seat work rather than table jumping.  Every time I have used this approach I have seen kids transform in amazing ways.

If a student has mastered one of the goals and seems to be still struggling with another goal, have a goal setting meeting with your student. Change the goal. Start again right from the beginning.  Taking this slow going approach is not always easy or fast, but it’s always worth it!

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