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6 PBIS best practices

Mary DeanMay 1, 2020

Students seated on the floor listening to their teacher

Implementing PBIS in your school could lead to an increase in positive behavior and productivity among your students — and who doesn’t want to see that? The premise of Positive Behavioral Supports and Interventions (PBIS) is simple: Rather than punishing students for bad practices, school staff reward students for behaving well. For many teachers and administrators, this fresh take on classroom discipline can be a new experience. Here are six best practices you can follow to ensure the success of PBIS at your school.

6 best practices in PBIS

1. Maintain tidy classrooms

Creating an environment where positive behavior is encouraged involves more than just making rules and sticking to them — the physical environment of your classroom plays a role in this, too. By maintaining a tidy and organized classroom, you can help: 

  • Students remain on task
  • Minimize distractions
  • Create a smooth workflow

If your class area is cluttered or disorganized, you may need to take a look at how that could be affecting your students throughout the day. Now, before you roll your eyes because you’re so busy, let me say that I get it: Organization has never been my strong suit, either.

However, I know firsthand that one of the easiest ways to make a difference in students’ behavior is to clean up the classroom first. It’s definitely worth the extra effort on your part. If you have any unused furniture or books, consider donating them to a classroom in need. You will want to eliminate all the excess clutter from your classroom to create an academic environment that’s orderly and allows students to focus.

2. Establish clear classroom expectations 

As instructors, we want students to follow the rules and behave well. But we sometimes forget that children don’t always know how to act the way they should in class. This means that a degree of responsibility falls on us — the teachers — to help students succeed in these areas. It’s not enough to simply explain the rules and reward those who understand them — it’s important to take time to teach those who don’t.

For administrators, it can be helpful to create teaching guides for each instructor in your school. This ensures that all students receive the same information and get the same attention to detail in all classes. As a result, your entire student body should be on the same page regarding expectations and rules that are in place in school.

It is also important to continually improve upon your strategies and teaching manuals for the class with regard to PBIS. Administrators, ask instructors to write down common questions they receive from students. Then, you can compile them and look for trends that can be used to improve teaching materials and the effectiveness of your PBIS program.

3. Implement daily classroom routines

Many of us already know that children thrive on routine and structure. For this reason, routine and structure within the school environment is instrumental to the success of PBIS. There are a couple of ways you can go about ensuring a good schedule is set in place for each student in your school.

The first approach is to implement daily schoolwide routines. This would involve a team of administrators and teachers meeting to discuss what a routine might look like. Through this collaboration and collection of feedback from teachers, your school can establish a routine that all students will need to follow. This is an excellent approach for schools that house multiple grade levels because it is an easy way to ensure everyone has the stability needed to succeed.

Another approach is to allow each teacher to determine their own routine for the day. This is the most commonly used option because many classes have their own unique needs and students. Understandably, this may make it more difficult to create standardized classroom routines since the responsibility would fall on each individual teacher, meaning some students might end up benefiting more than others.

It’s also possible to use a combination of these two strategies. For example, schoolwide routines could define how much time is spent on instruction, homework, recess, and free time. Then, teachers can decide how they want to structure those time slots. This is a great way to level the playing field while still giving teachers the freedom to control what goes on in their own classrooms.

4. Know how to address misbehavior in the classroom

The main focus of PBIS is to reward positive behaviors, but that isn’t the only piece of the puzzle — it’s equally important for teachers and administrators to have a plan regarding how to deal with misbehavior in the classroom.

At the beginning of each school year, organize a meeting with all teachers and support staff to discuss PBIS goals, behaviors, and rules. Additionally, you can discuss any negative behavior that your staff have observed among students and brainstorm ways to address these within the scope of PBIS. Here are some ideas:

  • Intentional ignoring: some students act out in the classroom because they crave attention. When instructors acknowledge those students, they are only increasing the likelihood that the student will continue to misbehave. With this PBIS strategy, however, instructors outright ignore students who are misbehaving, which eliminates their motivation at its source.
  • Using the “teacher look”: casting a direct, stern look at a student is sometimes enough to deter misbehavior among students.
  • Conferences: these can be held either with the student alone or with the student and their parents. This session should be used to understand why the student is misbehaving in class and to come up with a plan to help the student succeed in class or minimize distractions.

Misbehavior is, to a degree, inevitable in the classroom — knowing how to react to it is a big part of a successful PBIS program.

5. Always be consistent

Whether you’re rewarding good behaviors or reacting to negative ones, it’s crucial that you remain consistent in your approach. When students know what to expect based on how they’re behaving, they’re far more likely to succeed under PBIS than if you’re inconsistent in following through on punishments and rewards. This goes hand-in-hand with having structure and routine in place, which helps students follow the expectations set for them.

Consistency is important not only within a single classroom but across the entire school. This means all teachers will need to be on the same page regarding PBIS rewards and punishments. Be sure to hold schoolwide PBIS meetings on a quarterly basis. At these meetings, you can talk about:

  • Goals
  • Student behavior
  • Tips and tricks for dealing with misbehavior

Be sure to also review the accepted practices for encouraging good behavior and reacting to misbehavior. This can help keep policies fresh in everyone’s mind.

6. Have fun

Even though PBIS requires structure to be successful, it doesn’t need to be a rigid framework. In fact, you can make behaving well in school fun and rewarding by playing games in class or taking students on field trips. You can play classroom games in teams or as a class, depending on how well everyone has been behaving.

One way to engage your class is by playing a modified version of the “good behavior” game. The rules are simple, and you can play the game as a class or split students up into tables. Either way, everyone participates. For the “tables” version, the winning table picks the prize. As for the whole class version, when good behavior is observed, the class wins a point. If someone misbehaves, their group (or the whole class) loses a point. You can keep this going for as long as you wish. 

Interested in making your classrooms fun yet educational places where students love to behave and learn? Classcraft is an online platform that’s specially designed to encourage positive behavior in school. When a student behaves well, teachers can reward their Classcraft account with points that they can use to level up their virtual avatar, learn new abilities, and buy items from the game’s store. You’ll be amazed by how eager students are to behave well in class!

For more ideas to creatively motivate students, check out our list of 24 ideas to make PBIS a school-wide celebration.

PBIS best practices and your school

We hope this has helped you identify some new things you can try in your school to make PBIS even more effective! If a strategy doesn’t work for you, don’t get discouraged. Each school has its own needs — keep pushing forward and trying new things, and you’ll eventually find the perfect combination of strategies that work for you and your students. To help get you started, check out our list of 8 ways to use PBIS strategies in the classroom.

Photo: Google for Education

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