Have students who aren't intrinsically motivated? Try this strategy of Implementing Individualized Behavior Plans with specific behaviors outlined.

Have Students 1.png

In my last 3 posts, I discussed the importance of creating a positive classroom culture that includes community building, social emotional learning, and so forth. Ideally, this type of classroom environment will minimize and hopefully prevent negative behavior from occurring. We want our students to make good choices, be respectful, follow directions, and behave appropriately simply because it’s the right thing to do!

However, there are sometimes those few students who aren’t intrinsically motivated and need something more to help them. These few students would most likely benefit from additional support such as an individualized behavior plan that outlines specific behaviors they need work on.

First and foremost, it is important to remember and remind ourselves that all students can and will succeed! We must hold our students to high academic and behavioral expectations. It is our job to believe in every student (and show that we believe in them!) so that they can live up to our high expectations. As educators, it is crucial to have this mindset when planning behavior interventions for our students. It is unacceptable to say, or even think, “they can’t.”  If we think they can’t, then they won’t!

(For the remainder of this post, I will use the name “Kenny” to represent a 1st grade student who needs a behavior plan. I chose “Kenny” because it’s my dad’s name!)

After doing a quick “mindset check,” I then think to myself: What does Kenny do well? Reminding myself of Kenny’s strengths helps me to remember that everyone, even our most challenging students, have many wonderful qualities. Furthermore, I can use this positive behavior as I design his behavior plan. Let’s imagine that Kenny is helpful, participates, and always tries his best.

Next, I have to think about what Kenny needs work on. Let’s say Kenny has trouble “following the rules.” If I want to help Kenny, I need to be more specific and reflect on what exactly he does that is against the rules. Obviously it is not working when I simply tell Kenny, “you aren’t following the rules!” Kenny’s specific actions that are against the rules are: keeping his hands to himself, controlling his temper, completing his work, and being respectful. Once I have a clear understanding of what he needs to work on, then I’ll be able to better communicate it to him.

After this, it’s time to have a conversation with Kenny. At this point, let’s assume Kenny and I have already had many conversations about not following the rules and the interventions I have tried aren’t sticking. The conversation might go something like this: “Kenny, I’m here to help you do your best in school. We have been having a lot of discussions lately about following the rules. I’d like to try using a special tool with you that I think will help you to follow the rules, which is something we both want.” After this, I’ll ask Kenny to think about what, specifically, he needs to work on.  I’ll ask him to reflect on which rules in particular he isn’t following. I’ll enter the conversation with the mentioned behaviors in mind (not completing his work, controlling his temper, and so forth) but I’ll also push Kenny to think of these things on his own. More times than not, our students are extremely reflective and know exactly what they need to work on!

Last, I’ll design an individualized behavior tool. Here is a sample tool I have found to be extremely successful. This tool was created by a fabulous special education teacher and former colleague. I have modified it to meet the needs of many former students.

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 5.29.43 PM.png

There are a few things I’d like to point out about this tool: First and foremost, it has 4 behaviors (3 he needs to work on and 1 he consistently does well). As I mentioned before, Kenny always tries his best. He will essentially earn this “point” each time, which will help him to feel confident, motivated, and successful. Second, this tool requires a “check-in” every period. While this may seem excessive, it is what Kenny needs. He needs to realize that he may have trouble completing his work during period 1, but he can fix it during period 2 and still have a good day. Checking in once per day (let’s say, at the end of the day) is not helpful to a child who needs to work on their behavior! Lastly, this tool is “zoo-themed.” Kenny loves animals, so it is important to tailor it towards his interests.  

Eventually, Kenny and I will have less check-ins, decrease the prize, and increase how to earn it. Ideally with time, it can be weaned and the motivation will become more intrinsic rather than extrinsic. An individualized behavior tool not only jumpstarts a change in behavior, but it also helps the child see that they really can change!