PBIS Strategies for Teachers

Instructor: Glenna Billingsley

Glenna Billingsley has a doctorate in Education and teaches in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University

Interventions and strategies that are commonly used for school-wide applications of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) can also be applied in the classroom. The following lesson describes the critical features of a classroom application of PBIS.

PBIS Strategies for Teachers

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a multi-tiered, systems approach alternative to traditional disciplinary approaches in school that are reactive, punitive, and restrictive. Exclusionary practices such as detention, suspension, and expulsion often set students on a negative trajectory that may result in students dropping out of school or becoming involved in the legal system.

PBIS is an evidence-based set of beliefs and practices that emphasize prevention by teaching students the school's expectations and adapting aspects of the environment to make it more responsive to students' needs. Instead of trying to 'fix' a student, systems and procedures are established to address problematic situations. For example, if several office referrals are resulting from misbehavior occurring during lunch, a school's PBIS team may investigate the context of these referrals. They may find that additional adult presence is required, entry and exit patterns need to be adjusted, and physical boundaries need to be erected that promote a single-file line to receive lunch trays.

In the PBIS model, rather than exclude students who exhibit the most challenging behaviors, students receive increasingly intensive and individualized support as their needs demand. All instructional decisions are based on data rather than emotions of those who have become frustrated with student behavior. The interventions that characterize the school-wide model provide a framework for classroom applications of PBIS. The following strategies provide structure and predictability to a classroom, necessary components to prevent most misbehavior.

Develop Classroom Rules

All classrooms need a set of three to five broad, positively stated expectations that establish the behavioral curriculum for the classroom. These rules must address responsible, safe, and productive behavior. Ideally, they should reflect the school-wide expectations, but in the absence of school-wide implementation, classroom-level PBIS is still desired. From these expectations, the classroom rules inform students exactly what we want them to do. Here are some common classroom expectations followed by the rules:

  • Respect others, yourself, and the classroom.
  • Call people only by their names.
  • Offer only help and support when someone makes a mistake.
  • Sit in your assigned seat.
  • Clean up trash from around your desk.
  • Use materials only in the way they are intended.
  • Practice responsible behavior.
  • Save horseplay for outside the classroom.
  • During class, only one person at a time is allowed out of the room.
  • Listen and follow the teacher's instructions with no more than one prompt.
  • Arrive in class on time.
  • Be productive in class.
  • Check the announcement board and pick up materials.
  • Raise your hand to ask for help.
  • Complete all assignments on time.

Classroom rules must be clearly operationalized, or defined, when they are taught to students. The rules tell them what to do rather than what not to do. They must reflect observable behavior. For this reason, a rule like 'Try your best' would not be an example of a good rule because it is impossible for a person to determine if another person is trying their best. Rules must be directly taught to students, including having a method of orienting new students to the rules. Rules should be prominently posted in the room and reviewed from time to time. Correcting misbehavior should always reference the rules. For example: 'Judy, please practice respectful behavior when talking to peers.'

Establish Classroom Procedures

Teachers must teach students the routines or procedures for accomplishing all classroom tasks. Just like rules, these procedures must be taught to and practiced by students. Here are only a few common classroom tasks for which a specific procedure is necessary to build predictability in the classroom:

  • Entering and exiting the classroom
  • Beginning of class routines
  • Turning in homework
  • Retrieving necessary materials and supplies
  • Working in small groups
  • Asking for assistance
  • Requesting permission to leave classroom
  • Returning from an absence and collecting missed work

There are various ways these tasks can be accomplished; none is better than another. It is, however, imperative that students know how these tasks are to be managed in a particular classroom. It is often helpful to have students contribute to the creation of routines and procedures.

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