How do your classrooms impact student behavior and learning? Do they offer a peaceful, organized space where kids can be efficient and effective? Or, are classrooms at your school negatively impacting student behavior and preventing learning?
Some schools use Positive Behavior Incentive Systems to create a positive climate. PBIS is a proactive approach to establishing the behavioral supports and social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success. Building warm, welcoming classrooms is a great positive behavior incentive system that focuses on prevention instead of punishment. It sets the tone for desired behavior that supports learning.
Think about what you want kids to accomplish in your classroom. Then, develop a classroom design that helps students reach this vision. In order for students to be successful, they need their teachers to be organized and prepared. Libraries should be organized if independent reading is a focus. Make up work should be easily accessible if the priority is ensuring that students retest. Have pencils, paper, highlighters, post-it notes, etc. readily available for students. Yes, you should expect students to be prepared, but be ready in case they need help. Ensuring that students have everything that they need to be “ready to work” can make for a great PBIS environment and start to class.
Have a clean, organized, fabulously smelling classroom that makes kids feel great. Chaos and disorganization makes it hard for students to be ready to work and learn. It can be frustrating to the teacher and cause unwanted student behavior to occur. Use plug ins to spread a soothing aroma. Hang lights. Make a reading nook. Have a carpet kids can sit on. Put inspiring quotes on the wall. Get a rolling chair as an alternative seat for students who need to move. All of these classroom improvements are PBIS strategies that create warm, nurturing environments for kids.
Eating may be prohibited in classrooms because it can be distracting in the learning environment. But sometimes students misbehave or struggle to focus because they are hungry. Have school approved snacks in your class to discreetly share with students if they are in need of this energy boost. Fruit is a great solution and is easy to store without refrigeration.
Ensure that every kid can see and hear the teacher from their seat. Proximity is a great behavior management tool, therefore, teachers should be able to get to all students quickly. Having an organized seating arrangement that allows teachers to easily and privately check in with kids is key. Desk setup should also reflect the type of work that will be done. If students will be working in groups, ensure that desks are in groups or can be easily moved without taking too much class time. Also, intentionally seat students with peers that will contribute to productive and positive behavior versus distractions.
Students like to know what’s next. Let them know what to expect by having an agenda posted. This can contribute to efficient, focused and positive behavior. An agenda with time stamps can also help teachers pace classroom instruction. Doing any one activity for too long can cause students to be restless and act out.
PBIS structured classrooms should be filled with choices. Students don’t all learn or operate the same way. Have different ways for students to access the instructional materials, such as modified texts for students with reading challenges. Also, make alternative locations for students who process differently. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to stand during professional development or study while on the floor. Allow students to learn flexibly. Without these accommodations, student behavior can escalate due to frustration and trouble learning.
What you say matters. Use statements to affirm the space and the students. For example, saying “This is a place where we push ourselves and share our personal greatness,” can be inspiration to students while also serving as a reminder of the positive behavior that is expected in the room. Shout out positive values and attributes of students to clarify the habits that increase effectiveness.
Sometimes, students need to take a break to reset and get ready to work. Have a little area where kids can catch their breath for a minute. Providing this alternate location can give a student the time that they need to reflect and get refueled to do classwork.
Give students a place in the classroom. Having a role in the classroom gives a student a connection and identity in the space. It allows them to positively contribute to the environment and creates a unique expectation for them daily.
Give the kids someone to love. There are lots of pets that work for kids that have allergies. Try a turtle, fish, crawfish, or hermit crab! Students can help take care of the pet, which will build responsibility and invest them in the community.
Affirm your students by making a PBIS classroom that celebrates their greatness and the greatness of others lives. Decorate the classroom for cultural holidays of students in the class. Celebrate international holidays by remodeling the classroom and teaching the students about the designs. Classroom artifacts and themes can get students excited and promote positive participation.
Keep a space where students can leave you notes. Sometimes, students misbehave if they feel unsafe or are scared to ask for help. Leaving a note in the teacher’s mailbox can eliminate fear and give the student the opportunity to express their need.
Celebrate student success by posting their work in the class. This gives students the opportunity to be proud and see that the work that they do in the class matters.
Students want to learn and they know how to behave. But, sometimes, they need support reaching daily behavior expectations. As Alexander den Heijer said, "When a flower doesn't bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower." Be intentional about setting success students up for success by thinking about how classroom spaces can promote positive behavior.
Here at Kickboard we have seen many schools turnaround student behavior by using our PBIS mobile app, web platform, and professional development services to support their project based learning initiatives. Kickboard helps teachers to track student behavior, identify cultural trends and implement systems to improve behavioral results.