A teacher’s perspective on PBIS

When I started teaching, the drum of PBIS PBIS PBIS was incessant in my district. After countless hours of professional development, workshops and workbooks – I was still left with this strange feeling that I didn’t quite know how to do it.

What was great about PBIS is that it was finally an acknowledgement that true learning cannot happen without effective social, emotional and behavioral support. On top of that, PBIS came from evidence-based trials at the University of Oregon in the 1980s – so the conceptual underpinning actually works in real-world situations. Even if they hadn’t done those trials the field of child development also relays similar ideas. Psychology studies have shown that you need to cultivate self-reliance in students through supportive affirmations to allow their own skill development.

Positive behavior intervention emphasizes teaching children to do things right rather than punishing them for doing wrong things. Self-reliance is taught in an environment of self-discipline and mutual respect within a non-violent and caring environment. There is discipline – but it’s positive and aims to work with students not against them.

As a teacher, you know that PBIS doesn’t always seem to work right away. And, that’s true. Positive reinforcement is like eating healthy every day. It’s expensive, sometimes annoying and it’s hard to directly connect it to why you don’t suffer from diabetes. But it works – and the best way to test it is to do the opposite.

Punishment does work a lot faster to get the desired behavior and so with 26 or more students to worry about, we often default to punishments and negative reinforcements rather than positive. I get it…I still do it. But the science is clear that negative reinforcement serves only to create shame and blame. While it may work in that one moment, students will start to do anything to prevent the shame – including lying and hiding things – leading to unproductive classroom environments. What may be worse for a teacher is when negative consequences don’t work and there is nowhere else to go.

So in comes PBIS – but… what exactly are we supposed to change or do in our classrooms? After scouring the training materials, research and attending way too many webinars for my own good, I’ve put together some of the top implementations of PBIS.

Classroom Environment

  1. Display expectations for the school and your classroom on a poster board and refer to it everyday (even if it feels redundant).
  2. Give precise directions for every task.

The template that seems to work is: What do you want them to do, when you want them to do it and how do you want them to do it.

Use direct as language as possible. Not “quietly take out your homework” because quietly is up for judgement. If you mean no talking, then say “take out your homework in the next 1 minute without talking.”

  1. Positive Narration: reinforce your instructions and student actions right away and constantly. This one takes practice but serves to remind students of what they are supposed to do and positively acknowledges many students.

I see Johnny taking out his Math book and opening to page 23. Joanna is also looking for page 23 quietly and quickly. Thomas is already on page 23 and is sitting quietly waiting for the next instruction.

Now for the tough stuff. What do you do in a Tier 1 behavior situation (e.g., disrupting class)? Here are my steps in order from the research.

  1. Redirect the student to appropriate behavior

Toni, during read-alouds, we pay attention to the reader so everyone can hear.

  1. Offer options to the student

Toni, you can either participate with the class in the read-aloud or you can read quietly at your desk. Which one would you rather do?

  1. Positive incentives

Toni, I see you need to work on paying attention during read-alouds. If you can get show me that are you paying attention everyday, I will give you 1 point.

  1. Document positive incentives in the moment

Toni, I see that you are turned to the right page and paying attention. Here is one point for you for that effort.

  1. Create agreements and ask students to repeat it back to you (the contract)

Toni, if you are not able to listen to the reader tomorrow, then we will have to have you sit in the partner classroom during this session. Tell me what happens tomorrow if you are not able to listen to the reader?

Now #3 and #4 are some of the keys in incentivizing students to practice behaviors they may not have yet mastered. So, it is important to implement positive incentives carefully and in the right way (yes, there IS wrong way!!):

  1. Make it about effort, not accomplishment. The goal is to make student come to class everyday wanting to try. Each day is brand new and offers a new opportunity to build a skill.
  2. Integrate student-led tracking of skills and positive behaviors to create self-reliance and realization. It shouldn’t be just the adults telling kids what they need to do.
  3. Give it in the moment. It can be hard to associate positive incentives if they are not given right during class.
  4. Don’t praise – reinforce effort. This is tricky. It’s not “great job following directions” it’s more deadpan than that, “Toni you get 1 point for following directions” Carol Dweck says to “save praise for times when scholars demonstrate persistence, resilience, or perseverance, not for student behaviors (exception for students with special needs). When praise is used to reinforce students’ behaviors, teachers often unknowingly communicate that they have low expectations for their students’ performance. Praise used appropriately motivates students to work more consistently and continuously. Praise used properly helps to build stronger relationships with youth and promotes a growth mindset about their academic abilities and achievement” (Dweck, 2007).
  5. Points have to lead to rewards. Plan your classroom rewards carefully.

This is where Kred has mastered the space – above and beyond Class Dojo. It’s not just about giving and getting points, it’s also about creating a manageable rewards system that doesn’t overtake your classroom. All of the rewards are digitally managed so it’s easy to change and keep track of. Also, Kred has some tried and successful ideas for every grade level.

Tested Incentives

Scholars in grades K–8

Scholars in grades 6–12

Extra center time

Free homework pass or

late homework pass

Extra PE time

Bathroom passes

Lunch with the teacher/nutritional snack

Locker passes

Choice time/extra time with math games

5 minutes of free time at end of class

Visit to the treasure chest

Nutritional snack

5 extra points on the next quiz

Drop a quiz grade

5 extra points on next quiz

Use your notes on a test or quiz

Short movie related to the subject area

Short movie related to the subject area

Extra day/weekend to complete a project

Extra day/weekend to complete a project

Positive phone call home

Positive phone call or letter to family member of choice

Technology

Technology

 

 

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