5 Pro-Active Strategies for Positive Behavior Management

The key to managing student behavior has nothing to do with tangible rewards. You don’t have to give food, toys, stickers, and pencils as rewards for children, or spend any money at all, in order to gain their cooperation! In fact, teacher control can and should be replaced whenever possible by student self-control. How is this possible? The key is classroom management that prevents problems before they start. This page (which is excerpted from The Cornerstone book) will show you how!

5 Pro-active, positive behavior management strategies for every classroom


1) Have a routine in place for EVERYTHING and practice procedures, not punishment.

Know all of your rules and procedures to the tiniest detail, and if a child stretches those rules even a tiny bit, call them on it. You can get a little more laid back as the year goes on, but make no exceptions for any class rules at the beginning of the school year. Not only do students have to learn your expectations, they have to UNLEARN those of their previous teachers, since everyone has different standards and routines.

It will take weeks to get your students to where you want them to be, and you will have to continually reinforce their behavior all the way through June. Sure, you would think that by the second or third (or twelfth!) grade kids would automatically put the correct heading on their papers or behave a certain way in the hall, but the fact is, they don’t do it without positive reinforcement. Please don’t get frustrated in September because your kids still ask where to turn their papers in—keep practicing! It’s NORMAL. Don’t ease up and allow kids to get sloppy. Having your procedures firmly in place will make teaching easier and more effective throughout the entire year.

2) Have a very SIMPLE, positive, whole-class reinforcement system and use individual modification plans for kids with behavioral issues.

I believe that the most effective whole-class plans are based on positive reinforcement for appropriate student behavior. This is in direct contrast to punitive child discipline systems that use the ‘descending levels’ model and provide increasing consequences or punishment for misbehavior.

Typically, a whole-class plan that provides incentives for good behavior is enough to motivate the majority of children in your class and creates a much more supportive learning environment. The needs of more challenging students can be met through individual behavior modification plans which provide additional structure.

3) Have a low-maintenance method for regular communication with parents about behavior.

If the majority of your class is successful in meeting class norms, you may not need an ongoing communication system with parents. When there is an incident that you feel a parent should know about, a great solution is to send home the child’s own reflection on what happened. Filling out problem solving sheets will document behavior problems (which is important for conferences, office referrals, child study/RTI meetings, and so on), and more importantly, helps students reflect on their choices and responsibilities. Children can fill the out the sheets themselves or can dictate to you if they are unable to write independently.

There are lots of strategies for communicating with parents about behavior. One way I’ve kept parents informed is through daily reports, in which I signed off on children’s agendas or notebooks each day. Another method is weekly evaluations, in which I tracked students’ behavioral choices throughout the week, marking off misbehavior and missing work as problems occurred, and then summarizing them on the weekly evaluation. Some years, I did those solely to document student behavior and work habits for my own purposes and to update parents. One year with a more difficult class, I also used it as a whole-class behavior management system, letting the kids know how many checks they had and giving positive reinforcements (Fun Friday/center time) or consequences based on their behavioral choices.

4) Make general rules and consequences that are related and logical, and enforce them in ways that are appropriate for individual children.

Playing around during group work?  Finish the assignment alone. Ripping up class materials?  Not allowed to use them next time. Losing crayons? Can’t color during the project.

Every incident should be handled on a case-by-case basis, because each child and situation are different. However, there should be a common thread running throughout and all kids should see a clear connection between what they do and the resulting consequences. Taking away recess or centers isn’t necessarily effective when the child wasn’t having problems at recess or centers. I recommend tying the consequence directly to the child’s action whenever possible.

5) Show kids the power of their influence on how the classroom is run and make a clear connection between the way THEY behave and the way YOU behave.


Students’ cooperation or lack thereof has a remarkable effect on both the direction and outcome of a lesson. The problem is that children don’t realize the power of their influence unless you point it out to them.

Students must be led to understand that when they follow the classroom expectations, you smile a lot, you give them privileges and additional freedom, and you trust them with fun activities. Similarly, they must learn that when they don’t contribute to an orderly classroom, you have no choice but to pull in the reins. This must be taught EXPLICITLY at first—students do not automatically make the connection between what they do and what you do! And once you’ve taught them that their behavior affects how the classroom is run, you must reinforce this understanding throughout the day by responding CONSISTENTLY to behavioural infractions.

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