Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Behavior Buzz with The Bender Bunch!

It's time for Behavior Buzz with The Bender Bunch! Today's featured submission is from Katie. 

Katie has a student that disrupts, interrupts, and distracts during lessons and academic work. "During desired tasks, this student is an angel!" Behaviors occur during instructional time and whole group. He is also mouthy and sometimes seeks a power struggle.

Antecedent: Transitioning back to a structured activity from an unstructured activity. 

Function: Escape/Avoidance

Katie has tried redirecting, giving warnings, taking away minutes from free choice, and reminded the student of what they are working for. None of these have worked.

She has had some success with ignoring, removal, allowing student to make up work during free choice, and providing positive praise.

The student loves to be reinforced with food, and also likes computer, sports, and Michael Jackson's "Just Dance" video game.

My input. We have to teach this student to learn to tolerate unpreferred tasks. I would make all positive reinforcement he likes contingent upon the targeted behavior. So he does not earn a snack, computer, or Michael Jackson game unless he is FIRST, compliant during whole group. For some students, a simple "First-Then" board may work. 

Students simply "do this" (whole group in this case), and "then" they get this (snack, game). 

For other students it may not be that easy. We may have to start with baby steps. Expecting a disruptive, non-compliant student to all of a sudden sit during a 30 minute whole group lesson when he hasn't even been able to do it for 2 minutes is unrealistic. Start with baby steps that will ensure the student has some success! For example:

1) ______ will leave unstructured activity upon first request. Give reinforcer just for leaving unstructured activity. Right now you're just teaching him to leave unstructured activity. 
2) After mastery of #1, ______ will leave unstructured activity upon first request and calmly go to his seat. Give reinforcer. 
3) After mastery of #2, ______ will leave unstructured activity upon first request, calmly go to his seat, and tolerate 3 minutes of whole group instruction/academic work with no disruptions. Or if it's a worksheet, maybe tolerate/complete 3 out of 10 math problems, then reinforcer. 
4) After mastery of #3, increase expectations and minutes or written activities to maybe 4 or 5, and continue to increase upon mastery. Or maybe for this student, we don't even sweat the academics, we just want him to sit and refrain from being disruptive. That's a start! Academics may need to come later!

Set a timer if using computer or game, and keep it short. The longer, the harder to get them back. Plus, you want to keep providing multiple opportunities for them to come back and tolerate whole group/academics so you can reinforce, reinforce, reinforce. I give most of my students 5-7 minutes with their tangible reinforcers. When their time is up, start all over again with 1, 2, 3, or 4 above, whichever step the student is at. So, when they come back they'll have to tolerate 3 more minutes, or complete 3 more math problems. 

In the beginning, you will want the reinforcer to be VERY frequent, and then gradually increase time needed for reinforcer. Remember, baby steps. When I'm first teaching a behavior, my students may get their reinforcer every minute or two, or for every math problem they complete. It just depends on what the student can handle in order to reap their rewards and feel success. You MUST ensure success, especially in the beginning. There must be something in it for them in order for them to "buy in." If students feel no success and see no light at the end of the tunnel, they won't even try. 

We must also teach the student what our expectations look like. "Tolerating" may look different for every teacher, every classroom, and every student. Define the behavior to the student and your aides that will involved in teaching this skill. What does tolerating look like?? For instance, tolerating whole group/academic work is not sitting there playing around and disrupting even though they're sitting there. Tolerating is quiet mouth, calm body, eyes on speaker, and no talking. This is just an example. 

Each time the student disrupts or engages in the undesired behavior, provide feedback, reset the timer, and start all over. If the student is not achieving any success, reduce required minutes or go back to step #1 above. Maybe you moved on too quickly. Remember the student must feel some success! For students that love attention, make a big deal out of it when they earn their reinforcement. Have the class shout hooray, cheer him on, and clap for him. Remind him each time why he has earned the reinforcer..."Awesome, you stayed calm and quiet during instruction, and did not disrupt. That's fabulous! Go to computer buddy." When they come back, provide feedback by saying something like, "You did so awesome last time staying calm and quiet during instruction. I'm so proud of you. I bet you can do it again."

Thank you for your submission Katie! I hope these strategies will help you and benefit anyone else that may have a student with similar behaviors in your classroom. Remember, there is no cookie cutter method to shaping each and every behavior. I live by trial and error. Many times I may try a behavior intervention with a student and it does not work and I have to try something else. It happens, but eventually you will get there!

Lastly, I must leave you with some of my most crucial advice, behavior first, then academics!!! This is very hard for many teachers, to let go of the academics, but you can't teach a child anything if they don't know how to learn! Don't sweat it! Once you've taught them how to learn, the opportunities of teaching academics will be so worth the wait! 

If you're frustrated with a behavior in your classroom and are seeking behavior support, go to my right sidebar, scroll up and click on the image like the one above, and "Behavior Buzz with The Bender Bunch." Each month I'll feature a submission with advice here on my blog!


  1. I just recently checked your blog and saw your new Behavior Buzz submission. Thank you so much for your thoughtful analysis, recommendations, and advice! I wrote a quick post on your monthly series if you'd like to check it out here: http://spedteacheradventures.blogspot.com/2016/10/behavior-buzz-with-bender-bunch.html

    Thank you again! I'm already planning to implement your great suggestions!

  2. I love this idea of a Behavior Buzz. I am trying some new things with a kiddo, but I may be coming here soon :)


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