10 Behavior Support Ideas for General Education Teachers

1. Follow a consistent schedule and make the schedule visual.

  • A visual schedule does not need to be made of pictures. If your students are readers, use words to write your schedule. If something unexpected comes up, make sure your students who struggle with change have as much notice as possible. When something unexpected comes up, lean down and whisper to your student, “in five minutes we are going to go outside for science today. Is that cool?”. This allows the student time to process the situation.

2. Create an individual schedule for students who require more support.

  • Why are consistent schedules so important? Students who have issues with anxiety feel comforted by knowing what is coming next. Additionally; students with ADHD, those with poor executive functioning skills and students coming from chaotic homes need consistency and organization in order to function.

3. Be intentional about forming relationships.

  • Building relationships is the key to behavior management. In classrooms for students who have autism, teachers spend the first few days “pairing” with students. The teacher learns about the student’s favorite topics, their favorite reinforcements and pair themselves with those preferred topics and objects. Students who have little intrinsic motivation or those who are slow to trust need this same type of intentional relationship building. When a teacher invests in topics the student loves, the student will be more likely to invest in something the teacher asks of them.

4. Develop a system of reinforcement.

  • Until students develop intrinsic motivation to please an adult, extrinsic motivation must be used. Typically, whole class reinforcement is not powerful enough for certain students. Providing consistent, positive feedback is necessary for many students to know that they are doing what teachers want them to do. This can look different for every student, but these factors should be clear:
    • What do you want the student to do?
    • What do students get in return?
    • How long will students have to wait to get the reinforcement?
You can print pictures to fill in the blanks using velcro. Each time the student earns a picture give behavior specific praise, “nice job raising your hand.”
You can also laminate the behavior chart and use a dry erase marker to give check marks as the student earns his way to reinforcement.

5. Use visuals instead of words.

  • When a student is escalated, it is much easier for them to process visuals than words. Additionally, the words we use can escalate the situation further. Using simple visuals alleviates the need to talk while letting the student know what you expect of them.

6. Teach students how to ask for a break and how to take a break.

  • Many times we take for granted that students know how to ask for a break. Those who can self regulate might ask to get a drink or use the bathroom when feeling overwhelmed. Another student might tear up the math paper you put in front of him or crawl under the desk.
  • When you notice that math creates anxiety build in a break for that student before giving the assignment.
  • Create a break card and place it on your student’s desk. This card is blank on one side and has “break” on the other side. Teach the student that he can flip the card to break and leave the room without even speaking to you.
  • Predetermine where the student will go, how long he can be gone and what he will do while he is on the break.
  • Also predetermine a re-entry plan. If the student comes back in the classroom when the class is in the middle of an assignment, how will he get back on track?

7. Teach your entire class body regulation.

  • Whole class body regulation is easily implemented and benefits everyone.
  • If the class has a lot of energy, turn on a GoNoodle song and dance it out. Follow the upbeat song by a slow-paced song with calming movements that will help students get in a zone to learn.
  • Teach the Zones of Regulation by Leah Kuypers. This curriculum teachers students to recognize which “zone” their body is in.
    • Blue: Tired, bored, sad
    • Green: Right on track and ready to learn
    • Yellow: Escalating, anxiety increasing, uncomfortable
    • Red: Out of control
      • Students learn how to move from one zone to another in order to be in the best place to learn.
  • When the class is too energetic and unable to focus, practice a mindfulness. Some mindfulness apps for kids include:
    • Smiling Mind
    • Dreamy Kids
    • Well Beyond Meditation
    • Stop, Breathe and Think Kids
    • Insight Timer

8. Be intentional about teaching desired behaviors.

  • Students with poor executive functioning skills cannot visualize what is asked of them when a teacher says, “line up at the door with your hands at your side”.
  • Instead, take a picture of a students lined up at the door with hands at their sides. Project this picture on the screen and talk about details. Point out the direction of each student’s body, the distance between each student and what their hands and feet look like. Then practice lining up like the picture.
  • This can be applied to any activity in your classroom.

9. Use the premack principle of first ___________ then ___________.

  • Students with low motivation may need extra reinforcement in the moment to complete certain tasks. If a student is struggling to get through an entire sheet of math problems, ask the student to complete 5 problems, then give a choice of reinforcement. “First, 5 problems, then 5 minutes of iPad.”
  • The same principle can be applied to behavior. “First, sit through calendar with safe hands, then 5 minutes to color.”

10. Look for patterns in the student’s day.

  • When a student struggles with behavior, it is important to determine what occurs just before and just after a meltdown.
  • That which occurs just before an adverse behavior is the antecedent, this could cause a behavior.
  • That which occurs right after a behavior will either make the behavior subside or will maintain the behavior.
    • The link below gives you access to a behavior tracking sheet.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.