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10 PBIS Strategies in the Classroom

PBIS strategies are proactive approaches that explicitly teach positive behavioral strategies to ensure a lasting change.
Katie Neumeier
April 15, 2022

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

“I don’t know what to do, Sam just won’t stop hitting or pushing his friends at recess”. 

“Tamara and Leslie keep blurting out in class, I can barely get through my math lesson!”. 

“The students in my third period are out of control. How do I get my students to stop having side conversations and focus on what I am teaching?” 

Maybe you have first-hand experience with similar behavioral issues at your school or have observed them in classrooms. You are not alone! 

Educators everyday experience a wide range of social, emotional, and academic behaviors that they must meet head-on to ensure student success. 

If classroom behavior management strategies are lacking, academics will also fall short. So what can we do to ensure our students have the behavioral support they need?  

This is where PBIS comes in. 

What is PBIS?

PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Sounds complex, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. It is a three-tiered framework that offers differentiated behavior support so that students are met where they are. 

With PBIS Tiers, every student receives Tier 1 support, which is also called universal support. If students need more specialized or targeted interventions they then would move into Tier 2 and possibly Tier 3, dependent on their needs.         

pbis tiers

Proactive vs. Reactive Behavior Management

PBIS in the classroom works because it is a proactive approach to behavior management. Students are only able to meet our behavior expectations if they know what they are and then consistently held to that standard. 

Where many schools fall short is leveraging punishment or consequences in an attempt to get students to behave in the way they would like them to. This is not the best practice. 

You are right in thinking that holding students accountable for behavior is crucial. But consequences alone do not actually teach kids the skill sets they need to positively improve their behavior. 

At its core, PBIS is a proactive approach that calls for the explicit teaching of positive behavioral support to ensure a lasting change. 

PBIS Strategies 

So what does this actually look like in the classroom? Here are 10 PBIS strategies you can use.

1. Post the Expectations

Just as teachers use anchor charts to refer back to previously learned concepts, the school-wide expectations should also be posted in the classroom as an easy point of reference for behavior. 

Having different expectations for every classroom is not the best practice. Instead, developing school-wide expectations that are used and referenced daily within every classroom creates a unified vision for appropriate behaviors. 

This also helps students as they transition to other spaces in the school throughout the day. Consistency is key! 

2. Use Predictable Classroom Routines 

Students work best in classroom environments that have predictable and consistent classroom routines. These routines should be explicitly taught, practiced, and reinforced throughout the school year. 

Studies have proven that students perform better and are prone to more positive behaviors within structured environments. 

3. Teach Non-Verbal Hand Signals

These are used to help students and educators communicate while also minimizing distraction during instructional moments. 

The signals could be for needs such as using the restroom or to support classroom engagement and participation. 

This strategy only works if taught explicitly, modeled by the teacher, and practiced daily. Similar to classroom expectations, it would be helpful to have a visual of these signals posted for students to refer back to.  Here’s an example from The Happy Teacher:                                                                                                               

Non-Verbal Hamd Signals

4. Set Short Term Goals 

Just as teachers set academic goals with their students to address gaps and respond to data, the same should happen with behavior. 

How? As students and teachers have conversations about behavior (which happens on a daily basis) teachers are able to turn any observed negative behavioral pattern into a goal. 

These goals should be tied to the PBIS reward system so students are positively recognized when they work towards meeting each goal. 

Observed Behavior: Students are consistently having side conversations during the lesson.

Goal: We can show our understanding of “time and place” by talking and playing with our friends at the right time.  

5. Create Structure (Chunk & Pace) 

As mentioned earlier, most students are prone to acting out or showing negative behaviors during unstructured moments in their day. 

A way to combat this is by having both the school day and academic lessons broken down into meaningful and well-executed chunks that are planned and paced out. The less downtime students have, the more likely positive behaviors will be maintained throughout the entirety of the school day. 

This does not mean students should not have time to decompress and take breaks. It simply means these times should be planned out in advance and a part of the student’s daily routine. 

6. Use Respectful Redirection 

Redirection is a very effective PBIS strategy to regain a student’s attention, but only if it is implemented correctly. The more respectful and general the redirection is, the more likely students will respond positively.

Example 1.

Instead of…“It doesn’t look like some of the class is paying attention”. 

Try…“I notice some students are distracted. Let’s take a minute to regain focus.”

Example 2.

Instead of…“I still don’t have all eyes, Pam and Carlos are you ready?”

Try…“I’ll be ready to teach as soon as I have all eyes on me. 3, 2, 1.”

Example 3.

Instead of…“Claire, I already gave directions multiple times. Why are you not following along?

Try…“Can someone raise their hand and share the direction again? Some of us aren’t ready yet.”

7. Actively Monitor

A simple way to be proactive in the classroom with behavior is to know what is going on and be aware of the learning and conversations taking place. Consistently move around the room, check for understanding, scan to ensure all students are following directions, and interact with individuals or groups. 

This strategy helps to ensure that every member of the learning environment is safe, engaged, and learning. 

8. Narrate with Reinforcing Language 

More commonly known as ‘positive narration’, this type of teacher talk is popular among educators who use responsive classroom techniques. 

It is used to show that they notice their student’s positive behaviors while also encouraging the rest of the class to follow suit. 

When using reinforcing language, make sure…

Here are examples of positive narration:

9. Design a Calming Corner

This classroom necessity is both a system and a PBIS strategy. To put it simply, the calming corner is a physical space set up in a quiet area of the classroom to help students de-escalate when upset and work through their emotions before rejoining the class. 

Calming Corners are not a punishment or a form of timeout. Instead, they offer a safe space for students to go to self-regulate and restore their self-control and focus. 

Similar to other systems within the classroom, calming strategies and the purpose behind the Calming Corner should be explicitly taught, modeled, and practiced. Here’s an example from @nic.ole.day on Instagram.

Calming Corner Example

10. Initiate Restorative Conversations using When/Then Statements

When students are not meeting behavioral expectations and logical consequences have been given, teachers should then initiate a restorative conversation. These enable teachers to maintain positive behavior supports and relationships with their students, even when there are behavioral missteps. The best practice is to model and use ‘when-then statements’ which communicate to students the expectation and the positive consequence that will come from making a better choice.

Final Thoughts

Classroom PBIS strategies are proactive, responsive, and support students as they grow socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. The implementation of these best practices will transform your classrooms and ensure both educators and students are successful and supported. Then if your looking for peers to bounce ideas off outside of your school can check out our resources on taking PBIS district-wide. Or if your new to behavior support we have you covered with a handy guide on how to start your PBIS program.

Learn more about the author, 
Katie Neumeier

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We believe positive student behavior comes from the right school culture. Do you?

Join a community of 1,000+ schools who use LiveSchool to improve their culture with school-wide points tracking.
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We believe PBIS improves school culture. Do you?

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