Remember the Behavior ABCs

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One of my favorite professors in college, James Jacobs, always said a quote that has stuck with me all these years.  He would say “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”

This has been such a powerful statement for me to remember over the years, especially when I am working with behaviors.  I taught for two years in an Emotional Disabilities Classroom, so I thought of this advice frequently.

We all have great classroom management plans, but what happens when that plan doesn't work for a certain child?  Most of us have a few go to strategies that we attempt before asking for help or referring the child for discipline procedures. I want to share with you some ideas on how to recognize what is going on, so that you don't get stuck in a cycle of doing the same thing with the same results.

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Behavior issues are something that we all encounter in our classroom.  They are something that takes away from learning and can be very challenging to handle. 

We all have great classroom management plans, but what happens when that plan doesn’t work for a certain child?  Most of us have a few go to strategies that we attempt before asking for help or referring the child for discipline procedures.

I want to share with you some ideas on how to recognize what is going on, so that you don’t get stuck in a cycle of doing the same thing with the same results.

As a teacher dealing with behaviors, you need to remember your own ABCs.

A – Antecedent – What happened before the behavior happened?

B – Behavior – What was the behavior that occurred?

C – Consequence – What happened after the behavior or as a result of it?

By remembering the ABCs of incidents and writing these down, you may be able to find patterns of behavior.  Is the behavior always happening after the same antecedent?  If so, how can we avoid that?  What is happening after the behavior?

Once you have written down information for the ABCs, you will want to think about the function of the behavior.  For every behavior, there is a function, or a reason that it is happening. 

Here is a chart that I made to help understand it better.

We all have great classroom management plans, but what happens when that plan doesn't work for a certain child?  Most of us have a few go to strategies that we attempt before asking for help or referring the child for discipline procedures. I want to share with you some ideas on how to recognize what is going on, so that you don't get stuck in a cycle of doing the same thing with the same results.

The 3 main sections are that a child is trying to:
1. Gain something
2. Avoid something
3. Meet a sensory need

It is important to figure out what the function is when you are looking back on the ABCs of a child’s behavior.  It is not always immediately apparent.

One of the hardest functions to handle is when a child is trying to gain attention, because many times they do not care if it is positive or negative attention. 

A child may actually act out because they know that the teacher is going to stop other things and focus only on them to try to correct the behavior. 

Therefore, the child is getting the attention they want.  Our first instinct is to reprimand the behavior and get it to stop, but sometimes we have to remove that attention from the child and ignore them, which can be very hard.

Another difficult one is when a child is acting out to avoid a task and a teacher send them to a time-out or to the office.  The student is therefore getting out of the task on many occasions. 

If this is what they wanted and what they got, they are sure to do the behavior again.

Many of the functions will not come as a surprise to you, but the important part is to take into account what the function is for a behavior (during the A part) and then how you are handling it (in the C part) to make sure that you aren’t providing the exact thing the child is desiring to receive from the behavior.

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Just remember — Don’t do the same things all the time and respect different results! 

I wish you luck in finding the ABCs and determining the functions of behaviors.

Take control of difficult behaviors in your classroom and keep those students in the room, as much as possible, by determining the needs and meeting those.

Heather Salsman is a Special Education Inclusion Teacher from Indiana.  She blogs at Teaching Through Turbulence about behavior management and differentiation.

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