Writing a behavior intervention plan can be a daunting task. With complicated grids and checklists, it can be hard to keep track of things as a teacher. Is this type of behavior management plan most likely to work with our students? Here’s one tip you should know before going to that next meeting about a student’s challenging behaviors!
Kolby raises his hand to fill in a word on our morning message. He excitedly identifies the word “beautiful” and chooses the red smelly marker to circle it. He returns to his spot on the carpet.
I never would have expected that such complex behaviors could improve with such a simple solution in just a few weeks.
Just two months ago, on this very same circle time carpet, I had watched his body windmill in circles on the carpet as his classmates looked on. Some tried to ignore, some rolled their eyes, and others joined in on the “fun”.
The very next morning, I met with a team at school to try to develop a behavior intervention plan for Kolby. I had been tracking the behaviors that were causing him the most trouble, and presented them to an oval table full of my colleagues and our morning coffees.
I shared about how he hadn’t finished a single piece of school work in three days. About how he barricaded himself under the table when it was time to line up for music… and about the time he did a giant penguin slide on his belly across the classroom table.
“Let’s get him on a behavior plan. Maybe a checklist,” one teacher suggested.
We find these behavior intervention targets:
- Don’t call out/ Interrupt
- Finish your work
- Be In control of your body
- Active listening
Do any of these look familiar to you?
I smile, but it’s a slow smile. I am glad to have the support of my team, but for some reason the thought of another complicated grid chart seems daunting… exhausting even. These complicated plans haven’t worked well in the past. I mean grids like this have done a great job of helping me to collect data about behavior, but when it came to helping students change behavior… not so much.
I think back to the penguin stunt. “Kolby! That is dangerous!” I had said. “What does dangerous mean?” he asked in reply.
Sometimes our students catch us in moments like this. I forget that my students are little, just five or six years old. They haven’t experienced a whole lot of things. Some of them have never been to a farm, lost a tooth, or ridden the escalator at the mall- you know, the kinds of things adults sometimes refer to, forgetting that we aren’t born with these experiences.
As I looked at the list of behavior targets the same feeling came over me. Does a five year old even really know what it means to control his body? Or to do Active Listening?
As our meeting wrapped up, I collected my notebook, now wet with the condensation from my mocha iced latte.
Instead of going straight back to my classroom…
Instead of bolting for my classroom door, I stopped somewhere even better. I slid into room 7. My mentor teacher was humming along to a tune as she wrote her morning message on the easel. She is the kind of person who you swear is just naturally born to be a first grade teacher.
I showed her my list. We giggled over the penguin sliding story. And at last she offered the advice that unlocked something very important for me.
“When we teach a lesson, we focus on one objective. We hold our students most accountable to that one thing. When we want them to write a story, we don’t tell them to craft a novel. We work on it, one tiny objective at a time. Behavior intervention plans should be the same.”
Of course. It seemed so obvious.
The problem was
My previous approach had left the following questions lingering:
A- What in the word did those goals even mean? He could not understand the words on the behavior plan.
B- How on earth do you do that? He had no idea what having a safe body or calm body even looked or felt like.
C- How in the universe could he be expected to do it all? If this student was having difficulty regulating his behavior, a piece of paper wouldn’t be able to cure all that.
I had been expecting him to “write a behavioral novel” when he was having trouble grasping a pencil
I sat with my mentor teacher that day and we worked out the one, most disruptive behavior. The windmilling and diving. Not to mention I didn’t want him, or anyone else to end up with a broken arm or black eye from the stunts that could be on the horizon.
What is the smallest goal?
“I stay in my spot.” It seemed so simple, but it was a very clear goal. Surely I could direct the student to his spot. I could model being in my spot. This is a goal he could even take with him to the cafeteria or art class.
But what if….
he stays in his spot, but hes screaming, or making a motor sound with his mouth?
… Just address the one tiny goal. That is all. Let the rest go (for now).
It turns out, Kolby didn’t need a fancy grid. He needed a very basic chart, and one tiny goal.
“I stay in my spot.”
In just a week, I began to see a huge improvement in his body control. As he began to practice and get feedback about this one tiny behavior, he had a focus. This focus eventually trickled down to help him improve on many of the other behaviors we were hoping to target. Since he wasn’t windmilling in circles, he was actually looking at the morning message. When he wasn’t crawling under the table, he could actually see the math station activity.
Small goals are:
*Stay In My Spot
*Use a calm voice/ kind voice
*Follow directions quickly
*Get started right way
*Keep hands and body to myself
To help you build a behavior intervention plan that works…
This process can be daunting, confusing, and even feel like a leap of faith. That’s why I’ve put together this post about The Easy 3 Step Process for Behavior Intervention Plans that Work.
Student after student
Since that day in room 7, I’ve had plenty of students who have required some extra support to manage challenging behaviors. So far, this small goal approach has helped my students manage challenging behaviors… yes even the penguin belly sliding.
If you’re ready to get started… I’ve created this free “Getting Started with Behavior Plans Guide with:
- Small goals easy reference guide
- Getting ready for the 3 step plan