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10 ways to use PBIS strategies in schools and classrooms

Morgan HugoboomOctober 27, 2022

10 ways to use PBIS strategies in schools and classrooms

PBIS is a vital part of numerous schools and classrooms around the country. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) offers a multi-tiered framework that promotes improved behaviors in students. In turn, this fosters positive behavior, improves academic performance, and reduces the need for exclusionary discipline  like detentions and suspensions. 

Whether your school is new to PBIS or has been implementing it for years, it’s a powerful tool for any learning environment. Below are examples of how you can use PBIS strategies in your classroom.

10 PBIS ideas for the classroom (with examples)

1. Set expectations with a PBIS behavior chart

Students are better able to meet expectations when they know what those expectations are in the first place. Creating a PBIS behavior chart for the classroom provides students with a guide for:

  • Behavioral goals
  • Possible interventions
  • Examples for the classroom 

If your school already implements a PBIS strategy, the classroom PBIS behavior matrix should complement the expectations of your schoolwide model. Invite your students to collaborate on determining goals and expectations. This promotes a sense of collaboration and also fosters continued buy-in and engagement among your students.

Make sure you display the PBIS classroom expectations somewhere in your classroom. This reminds students of appropriate behaviors and helps them maintain those expectations.

2. Create classroom routines

Establishing routines throughout the day creates consistency and streamlines transitions between activities. This reduces the number of interruptions in a given day and decreases opportunities for negative behaviors. It also reinforces expectations by promoting routines that correspond with specific behaviors every time.

After creating your PBIS behavior chart for the classroom, outline any core routines that will best facilitate those behavior goals. Just like the chart, this outline of routines should be posted in the classroom for students to review throughout the year.

It’s essential to teach these routines initially and then revisit them periodically throughout the year. Don’t assume that students inherently know to follow the routines. Instead, provide students with the tools and practice necessary so they can eventually perform routines independently.  

3. Schedule time blocks

Time blocking is a similar PBIS strategy to the routines listed above. Time blocking avoids unstructured downtime when distractions and disruptive behavior are most likely to occur in a classroom. By breaking the day into manageable chunks of activity, you ensure that all parts of the day (including breaks) occur intentionally. 

You can even design your day around the unique needs of your students.

A PBIS example would be:

If your class’s attention peaks in the morning and students are restless after lunch, you can plan more challenging activities for the morning when they’re the most focused. Then, allocate the afternoon for group discussions or play-based learning. 

4. Design your classroom with PBIS in mind

Being intentional about the design of your classroom is also a powerful PBIS strategy. It streamlines transitions where distractions or disruptions are likely to occur. It also facilitates positive behaviors by matching the layout of the space to the goals of the people in it.

You can design a PBIS-oriented classroom by ensuring that your room setup streamlines any transitions that happen throughout the day. Keep an open area where students regularly squeeze together to grab art supplies. Avoid placing desks near high-traffic areas.

You can also change your seating arrangements to match the delivery or goals of the day’s lessons. 

A PBIS example would be:

If students will participate in small group instruction, place the desks in similar groupings with 2-4 students together. If the lesson involves a classwide discussion, arrange the seats in a circle or semicircle. However you arrange the seats, make sure that it matches the activity’s intentions. 

5. Create a calming corner

A calming corner is a quiet area of your classroom where students can go to reset from negative behaviors or emotions. It’s important to remember that a calming corner is not a punishment and is not a “time-out”. This is a positive place in the classroom that supports students when they need quiet and calm. 

After designing a calming corner in your PBIS classroom, be sure to teach students how to effectively use the space. Give them the tools to succeed in a calming corner by teaching them how to manage their stress or modify inappropriate behaviors in the space. Be prepared to revisit these lessons throughout the year and offer continuing support as students utilize the calming corner.

6. Display the PBIS behavior chart

As mentioned above, students are more likely to meet expectations when they understand what those parameters are in the first place. Displaying expectations also promotes independence and self-management in students. You can showcase important expectations, schedules, and routines around your classroom.

A PBIS example would be:

An elementary classroom can display a picture chart that outlines each step in an arrival routine (greeting, hanging up coats, putting away backpacks, taking a seat, and others). 

7. Actively monitor your students

When students are engaged in activities, use that time to actively monitor them. Walk around the classroom and observe the following:

  • Is everyone engaged?
  • Are they understanding the material?
  • Are all students participating?
  • Does anyone need support? Who is struggling?

Take the time to also speak with your students as a part of actively monitoring them. Encourage feedback, discussion, and a classroom environment of collaboration and support. 

8. Reinforce and promote positive behaviors

In creating the PBIS behavior chart, you’ve already outlined expectations using positive language. Now, it’s time to continue that language when reinforcing and promoting the appropriate behaviors.

Give students specific, positive, and relevant feedback. Recognize when students correctly exhibit the appropriate behaviors either as a class or individually. When possible, link the positive feedback to the classroom PBIS chart and goals.

PBIS examples of this would be:

  • “Thank you for focusing on the lesson today and waiting to talk to your friend at recess.”
  • “I see students gathering up their supplies and putting them away in the correct spot today. This is a big help for moving on to the next activity!”

9. Redirect the PBIS way

Redirection is another opportunity to use positive language in the classroom. When redirecting in a PBIS classroom, it’s important to be specific, respectful, and supportive in your feedback. Quickly point out where the error is, remind the student of the appropriate behavior, and give them a chance to try again with the desired behavior.

This kind of redirection can be done individually or with the entire class and can come in the form of verbal reminders, routine phrases, or nonverbal cues.

10. Begin activities with proactive reminders

PBIS is focused heavily on prevention rather than punishment. After creating your behavior chart and posting it in the classroom, you can give students quick reminders of the expectations before they start an activity. Keep your intervention brief and relevant, noting specific expectations, rubrics, or behaviors related to the upcoming activity. 

This brief nudge gives students an immediate opportunity to practice the desired behaviors. They are less likely to need interventions if they focus on the correct outcomes in the first place. 

Final thoughts

There are numerous ways to use PBIS in schools and classrooms depending on the unique needs of each population. The strategies above can be customized to develop a classroom that fosters positive behaviors, constructive engagement, and academic success in all of its students.

Photo credit: Google Education

Your toolkit for a successful year

FREE PBIS TEMPLATES to lighten your workload and effectively manage your classroom

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PBIS

Your toolkit for a successful year

FREE PBIS TEMPLATES to lighten your workload and effectively manage your classroom

Download now