for Teaching Implements
Level 1: Primary Prevention in the Classroom
What Is PBIS?
In the 1990’s the Office of
Special Education Programs, US Department of Education,
founded the National Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions
and Supports (PBIS), centered at the University of Oregon.
The center’s objective is to give schools capacity
for identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective school-wide
The Department of Education focused
upon discipline management because of the disproportionately
large number of suspensions, particularly out-of-school
suspensions, being given to minority students. These
referrals were not only ineffective in reducing behavior
problems, but they were counterproductive because
they increased the number of dropouts.
particularly high schools, lack any discipline management
program except for a “discipline
code” that lists a hierarchy of consequences. In
the classroom, teachers simply do the best they can for
as long as they can, and then, when they are at their “wits
end,” they bounce the kid to the office.
the word, “proactive” because
discipline management at most school sites is reactive.
It stresses the word “positive”
because most discipline management is punitive. And it
stresses the word
“system” because so many school sites lack any real system.
order to reduce suspensions for severe misbehavior, PBIS
focuses on the development of teachers’ classroom management
skills to prevent typical behavior problems from escalating.
The accompanying pyramid illustrates the type of interventions
that should precede an office referral with a well-trained
Content of PBIS
PBIS is not a specific program or
curriculum. Rather, it serves as a catalyst. It engages
school districts and school sites in the team building
and consensus building required to produce a coherent
system of discipline management.
The PBIS pyramid is based on the applied
behavioral research literature dealing with classroom
management, teacher training and the process of change.
School districts and school sites rely on this research
to provide the structure for change.
To get the ball rolling, state departments
of education have taken the lead in promoting PBIS. School
districts and regional education centers have developed
the curricula and supplied the training. These programs
emphasize the fundamentals:
Procedures: clarifying rules and routines at the school site
level and teaching them thoroughly
implementing a range of programs in the literature
for “catching them being good”
developing a hierarchy consequences that is clear to
all and applied consistently.
investing in intensive small group or individualized
interventions for students with more severe behavior
problems that do not respond to group interventions
Keeping Records: making
sure that discipline incidents such as office referrals
are tracked, compiled, and analyzed
Tools aligns with PBIS
The objective of Tools for Teaching is identical to that of PBIS. Both seek to develop and implement effective discipline practices. Both focus on primary prevention in
the classroom. Both employ applied behavioral research
to build an advanced framework for classroom management.
Tools for Teaching,
having begun in 1969, represents nearly four decades
of constant research, development, and field-testing.
It represents a level of sophistication that reflects
these four decades of work.
During that time Tools for Teaching has added a new generation of procedures to those
described in the research literature. These new procedures
are extremely cost-effective. They solve a wide range of problems for the entire
class while they free up the teacher’s time for
instruction rather than consuming it in program management.
Learning to Win the Game
When you spend
enough time observing classrooms, you realize that the same
transactions occur day after day at every grade level. The
management of these transactions will determine a teacher’s
Consider classroom management to be
a game with offense and defense, with fundamental skills,
and with plays that recur predictably. Consider the following
pay attention with minimal “goofing off” while
the teacher is presenting a lesson. During Guided Practice,
however, the wheels fall off. Students in need of help raise
their hands, the teacher begins to work with one of these
students, the noise level rises, and soon the teacher is
There is no excuse for all of this talking. You all have
work to do. I cannot be everywhere at once. If you are
having difficulty, look at my example on the board (blah,
This teacher is losing. But, how do
you win? How, for example, do you give corrective feedback
to students (the same ones everyday, it seems) without
both losing control of the class and systematically reinforcing
play in the game is backtalk – the source of most office
referrals. The teacher says,
I want you to turn around and get some work done.”
I wasn’t doin’ anything. Just get out of
my face (blah, blah, blah).”
What do you do next? If you mess up,
this little altercation will spin out of control and
end up at the office.
play. You have a lesson transition. The students know that,
as soon as the transition is over, you will put them back
to work. They have a vested interest in dawdling. How do
you get them to hustle?
To bring the variables from the research
literature down to earth, you must study the game and
learn to play it as it actually unfolds in the classroom.
Once you begin to play the game, you will then find that
certain critical issues have never been addressed in
the research literature. To play well, you will have
For example, how
exactly do you “mean
business” so that your reliance on formal consequences
for misbehavior is minimized? Or, to give another example,
how exactly do you train a room full of seventeen-year-olds
to act responsibly by this time tomorrow?
Tools for Teaching Is a Management System
Tools for Teaching is
a classroom management system in that a) all of the
necessary pieces are provided, b) the pieces fit together
like a puzzle, and c) the whole is greater than the
sum of the parts. The pieces of the classroom management
puzzle fall into three broad areas:
Instruction – maximizing the rate of learning while making
independent learners out of helpless handraisers
Discipline – meaning business so that you replace goofing
off with time-on-task while training students to be responsible
Motivation – giving students a reason to work hard while
also being conscientious
Discipline management in Tools
for Teaching begins with small disruptions in the classroom –
everyday goofing off. Small
disruptions provide the best starting point because a)
they destroy a huge amount of learning time, and b) when
mismanaged, they escalate into large disruptions. This
level of intervention corresponds to primary
prevention – the
bottom level of the PBIS pyramid.
thumbnail sketch will give you a sense of the “nuts and bolts” of
those discipline practices in Tools for Teaching that comprise primary prevention. As you can see,
prevention in discipline management quickly takes you
to the center of the instructional process.
Working the Crowd:
When students are near you, they tend to be on their
best behavior. Effective teachers make an art form out
of working the crowd – otherwise
known as “management by walking around.”
To make working the crowd as easy as possible, you will
have to rearrange the furniture in your classroom. The
optimal room arrangement allows you to get from any student
to any other student in the fewest steps.
Once you focus on working the crowd, you immediately
confront the natural enemy of working the crowd
–“helpless handraisers.” During Guided Practice, a typical
teacher tutors the same helpless handraisers day after day – a process
that takes several minutes per student. As mentioned above, by tutoring helpless
handraisers, you quickly lose control of the class while inadvertently reinforcing
helplessness. This raises the question, “How do
you help a student who is stuck?”
starters, corrective feedback must be brief – a simple prompt
that answers the question, “What do I do next?”
By simply telling the student what to do without giving
a “post-mortem” of the error, you guarantee
that feedback is always positive which is a powerful
confidence builder. In addition, a brief prompt maximizes
clarity while avoiding cognitive overload. This process
is referred to as Praise, Prompt, and Leave.
Visual Instruction Plans (VIPs):
Next, the prompts must be visual. The steps of the lesson’s
task analysis must be posted where any student can see
them. This reduces performance anxiety which causes help-seeking
while providing a level of clarity that accelerates learning.
More importantly, by prepackaging prompts visually, the
duration of your helping interactions can be reduced
to under 10 seconds. This allows you to resume working
the crowd which immediately suppresses goofing off.
Say, See, Do Teaching:
The most direct way of minimizing the need for corrective
feedback during Guided Practice is to teach the lesson
correctly in the first place. There are two basic ways
to package the activity of learning. The first is:
Input, Input, Input – Output
characterizes most teaching, especially at the secondary
level. Imagine a lecture followed by a brief discussion.
The second pattern is:
Input, Output, Input, Output, Input, Output
is characteristic of coaching and skill building in general.
Students learn by doing with constant monitoring and
Educators have always pointed to the
link between effective instruction and effective discipline
management. But what, exactly, is that link?
What separates successful teachers
from their colleagues is not the curriculum. The difference
is in process – the organization of learning activity. Successful
teachers coach performance,
whether it is the mastery of a skill or the expression
of a concept. Their students are constantly busy. When
students are both busy and successful, discipline problems
Once the teacher has an effective model for instruction,
they are in a position to teach classroom routines to
mastery and to maintain that mastery throughout the semester.
Carrying out transitions and routines quickly and efficiently
constitutes one of the teacher’s major time-savers
and stress reducers. In addition, by making expectations
crystal clear, the teacher simplifies the task of rule
Highly successful teachers can get a student who is goofing
off to “shape up” by simply looking at them.
How do they do that?
When we finally
cracked the code, we realized that meaning business is
largely body language that signals calm, commitment, and the willingness
to follow through. It teaches the students that “no” means “no.”
this understanding is established, teachers can signal
students to “cool it” using progressively smaller
cues until a word, a look, a pause, or ultimately, the
teacher’s mere presence is enough to enforce limits.
Rather than providing formal consequences, the teacher
becomes the consequence. When the teacher walks into
the classroom, the management program has arrived.
business involves body language, teacher training in
this area is quite physical in nature. Say, See, Do Teaching
is as important in staff development as it is in the
formal consequences can be employed at any time to enforce
rules. But, with meaning business, these relatively complicated
and expensive procedures become rare.
Why Should I?:
Before an unmotivated student will work hard, the teacher
must answer one simple question, “Why should I?”
The student will need something to work for – something
they want – something in the not too distant
future. It is called an incentive or preferred
The trick with classroom incentives
is to make them learning activities.The risk
of incentives, however, is that students may do fast
and sloppy work in order to get the preferred activity
as soon as possible. How do you train students to be
both hard working and conscientious?
For students to learn to be both hard working and conscientious,
you must be able to check their work as it is being
done. Connecting accountability to learning
in real time requires two things: a) Say, See, Do Teaching
so that you have time to check students’ work during
each input-output cycle, and b) plenty of time to check
work during Guided Practice rather than servicing helpless
is being checked as it is being done, the teacher is
then in a position to excuse students to do preferred
activities once a specified amount of work has been done correctly. As you can see, the systematic management of motivation
is one of the final pieces of the discipline management
puzzle to fall into place.
Tools Provides the Practical Specifics
As you can see from this brief description
of primary prevention in Tools for Teaching,
we are not dealing in generalities. Rather, we are describing
specific skills, and the book Tools for Teaching plus
workshops and videos provide training in those skills.
In addition, 40 years of working with
school sites to implement Tools for Teaching has
taught us about the complexity of producing lasting change,
particularly in a high school. The Tools for
Teaching Study Group Activity Guide provides a step-by-step tutorial for building professional
learning communities (PLCs) and for coaching the classroom
management skills contained in Tools for Teaching. Once again, the alignment with PBIS is perfect because
we are attempting to do the same job.
Level 2: The Second Level of Discipline Prevention
Focus on Prevention
Both Tools for Teaching and PBIS focus on the prevention of discipline problems. And both programs
focus on practical, research-based procedures that
have been proven in schools and classrooms.
In PBIS the language of prevention
(primary, secondary, and tertiary) is superimposed over
a broad range of behavior management procedures as an
organizing principle. To help align Tools for Teaching with PBIS, it will be helpful to first clarify what
PBIS means by primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention.
Primary prevention focuses on structuring the learning
environment so that problems do not occur in the first
place. This includes the teaching and supervision of
rules and routines at both the school site and classroom
levels as well as the use of incentives to reward student
compliance. In addition, primary prevention assumes “high
quality instruction” on the part of the teacher.
Secondary prevention provides focused interventions to
help students who are not responding to primary prevention.
These programs occur in the classroom and include both individualized behavior
management programs and targeted group interventions.Individualized
behavior management programs are based on a functional
analysis of behavior (i.e. behavior modification). Group
interventions, in contrast, usually teach social skills
and include “social skills clubs” or a targeted
behavior education plan. The decision to use secondary
prevention is typically made by the school’s planning
team and/or behavior support team.
Tertiary Prevention: Tertiary prevention focuses on individuals who exhibit patterns of
behavior that are dangerous, highly disruptive, and/or
impede learning. The objective is to eliminate extreme
behaviors and replaced them with appropriate behaviors
so that the student does not need to be removed from
the classroom. Tertiary prevention is synonymous, in
practice, with an individualized program based on a functional
analysis behavior for a student who has not responded
to secondary prevention.
the language of PBIS concerning prevention, it is necessary
to appreciate the problem being addressed – the disproportionately
high rate of suspensions and expulsions for minority
students, especially in high school. The problem behind
the problem is that most school districts have little
or no training for teachers in classroom management and
no system for responding to problems effectively when
they are small.
are on their own to handle problems as best they can until
take it any more. Then they send the student to the office.
PBIS is attempting to replace this lack of systematic
management with skills and procedures that would prevent
office referrals. Consequently, anything short of an
office referral is considered prevention.
Problems of Cost
As with PBIS, to appreciate the prevention
of discipline problems in Tools for Teaching,
it will be helpful to understand the issues being addressed.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s my colleagues
and I were part of the “behavior modification revolution” in
which we learned that severe problem behaviors could
be reduced or eliminated with well-designed contingency
management programs. One by-product of that experience
for me was an appreciation of how expensive these programs
They require the
pinpointing of critical behaviors, the design of a data system
to record those behaviors, the design of an intervention
program, data taking, delivering contingencies and, frequently,
the redesign of the program to improve results – all
of which required a lot of the teacher’s time and
my time. Next, I looked around the classroom and made
a quick tally of the problems waiting to be addressed.
My simple conclusion was that the traditional behavior
modification technology was too labor intensive to solve
more than a few of the management problems faced by teachers
in typical classrooms to say nothing of special education.
The Evolution of Classroom Management
At about this
time I had the opportunity to observe two
“natural teachers” who, without the use of any formal programs
whatsoever, made students with histories of severe behavior problems function
as an orderly, productive, and respectful class. And they made it look easy!
The breakthrough was in seeing that managing the entire classroom could be
cheaper than managing a single student. This experience led me to focus on
the classroom rather than the individual student as the critical
unit of intervention.
revealed a high level of time wasting and “goofing off” in
almost all classrooms. Only rarely, however, did this
goofing off escalate into an office referral. Yet, during
every class period, goofing off destroyed vast amounts
of learning time while stressing the teacher.
In addition, when
office referrals did occur, they often grew out of small
problems that were mishandled by the teacher. The most common
example was the teacher becoming embroiled in the student’s
backtalk by arguing. Effective classroom management,
therefore, appeared to be a direct route to preventing
office referrals while reducing teacher stress.
evolved over a period of years based on a detailed systems
analysis of the classroom. In last month’s segment, I described
those elements of classroom structure most directly related
to the primary prevention of discipline problems – particularly
aspects of the instructional process. By way of review,
these topics include:
Room arrangement to facilitate working the crowd
Working the crowd (mobility
and proximity) to preempt goofing off
Making independent learners out
of helpless handraisers so you can work the crowd during
Guided Practice rather than tutoring the same students
everyday. Weaning the helpless handraisers requires:
Praise, Prompt, and Leave:
a brief answer to the question, “What do I do next?” rather
than reteaching a portion of the lesson
Visual Instructional Plans (VIPs):
the lesson’s task analysis depicted in a step-wise,
visual form. Prepackaging prompts in this fashion
further reduces the duration of helping interactions
while supporting independent learning.
Say, See, Do Teaching: learning
by doing” one step at a time with monitoring
and feedback during each step of performance. This
further accelerates learning and provides accountability
while reducing helplessness.
Teaching classroom rules and
routines to mastery
Meaning business which
integrates calmness, consistency and effective body language
to set limits on typical disruptions
Providing incentives for completing work correctly which requires the checking and correcting of work
as it is being done. This in turn requires Say, See,
Do Teaching as well as weaning the helpless handraisers
so the teacher can work the crowd and monitor work during
The Secondary Level of Prevention in Tools for Teaching
PBIS defines secondary prevention
largely in terms of individualized behavior management programs to eliminate persistent
problems or group interventions
to teach social skills. Individualized programs typically
involve incentives for appropriate behavior.
Once again, the objectives of Tools
for Teaching are perfectly aligned with PBIS, but its separate
developmental history provides a different perspective.
For decades, the “pot of gold at the end of the
rainbow” for incentive management in terms of
cost containment has been group incentives.
Imagine one group program that could do the work of
dozens of individualized programs.
It sounds good,
but nobody could get it to work. There were steep technical
hurdles. Group incentives are by nature “all for one, and one
for all.” What if the group doesn’t feel
like working together? What if one kid in the classroom
feels like throwing a monkey wrench into the whole system
just to prove that he or she is in control? What if some
kids want the incentive and others don’t?
Teaching Social Skills Through Group Incentives
Tools for Teaching provides
the solution to the technical problems of group management
in a program called Responsibility Training. Responsibility
Training has built-in failsafe mechanisms that avoid
the pitfalls of group incentive systems while enabling
the teacher to train the entire class to cooperate
in carrying out classroom routines quickly and efficiently.
Incentive systems, when properly understood,
represent teaching paradigms. To train students to cooperate,
you will need a group management program which structures
peer interactions so that enlightened self-interest equals
cooperation. Responsibility Training does exactly that.
In so doing, it serves the goal of social skills training
while representing very little cost to the teacher.
As incentive systems go, Responsibility
Training is fairly complex due to the fail-safe mechanisms
to keep it from being defeated. It is described in great
detail in chapters 20-23 of Tools for Teaching for anyone wishing to implement it in the classroom.
At its simplest level, Responsibility
Training teaches students to be responsible with time.
We want them to save time for learning rather than wasting
it with dawdling.
However, the class
cannot learn time management without having time to manage.
To start the program, therefore, we give the class an
“allowance” of time. To serve as a reinforcer, it must be time
for something that the students want. Call it Preferred Activity Time or PAT.
I will describe an example of Responsibility
Training from a self-contained classroom. It works equally
well in departmentalized settings, but it would take
more space to describe.
a fifth grade teacher beginning the day with the following
before we start the day, I want to point out the art
materials on the project table over by the window. The
art project will be your PAT this afternoon.
always, I have set aside twenty minutes for PAT at the
end of the day. You know, however, that once you start
a project like this, you always wish you had more time.
Well, you can have more time. All of the bonus PAT
that you earn during the day will be added to the art
The students can
clearly see that all of their hustle throughout the day will
translate into art – which brings us to the topic of bonuses. The particular PAT bonus that produces hustle is
called a “hurry-up bonus.”
Let’s look at a hurry-up bonus
as it applies to a lesson transition. Lesson transitions
are a major source of lost learning time due to dawdling.
A typical lesson transition takes five minutes. If the
class hustles, it takes about thirty seconds. Let’s
follow the action as our teacher announces a lesson transition.
before you get out of your seats, let me tell you what
I want you to do during this lesson transition. First,
hand in your papers by laying them on the corner of my
desk. If you need to sharpen your pencils, now is
the time to do it. If you need a drink of water, now is the time to get it.
want my clean-up committee to erase my boards and straighten
up the books on the shelf. I want everybody to pick up
any paper you see laying around the room and get your
desks back on their marks.
will give you two minutes to get this done. But you know
from past experience that you can get it done in less
than a minute. So, let’s see how much time you
can save. All of the time you save will be added to your
check the clock. (Pause until the second hand passes
the six or twelve.) Okay, let’s begin.”
The teacher immediately begins to
work the crowd to keep students moving while breaking
up any chit-chat over by the pencil sharpener. As students
take their seats, our teacher heads to the front of the
class only to spy a piece of paper on the floor not far
from a student who is still standing. The teacher says,
There’s a piece of paper over there on the floor.” (pointing)
student says, “It’s not mine.”
The teacher shrugs. But several students,
already seated near the student who is standing, whisper,
man, just pick it up.”
Welcome to one
of the key features of group incentives –
“all for one, and one for all.” When students share a vested interest
in hustle, they use their peer pressure to make sure that everyone hustles.
This removes the burden of management from the teacher. Yet, the form that
peer pressure takes is gentle – usually “urgent whispers.” To
get snide would not be cool. Besides, we have additional fail-safe mechanisms
should anybody get bossy.
As the last student sits down, the
you class for doing such a good job. Let’s check
the time. You saved one minute and twenty-seven seconds.
Let’s add that to your PAT tally.”
The teacher walks to the board and
adds a minute and twenty-seven seconds to the PAT tally.
The students are all smiles.
Of course, if
the students dawdle beyond two minutes, they could lose time.
While being logical, this is also a failsafe mechanism. Without
the possibility of losing time, it would not be “cool” to
tell your buddy to hustle. You would look like a “suck-up.”
But, even though
it is possible to lose time, the system is rigged so that
students come out ahead. You give in minutes, but you take
in seconds, and taking rarely occurs after the first week.
Time-loss remains in the background – a possibility
more than an actuality.
Yet, the possibility of time-loss
introduces the possibility of abuse by negative teachers
who think that discipline equals punishment. For that
reason Responsibility Training, to be successful, must
rest on a solid foundation of training in the skills
of primary prevention.
This simple example
of Responsibility Training is meant to give a flavor of the
program rather than to serve as a guide for implementation.
It does, however, illustrate how an incentive system can
serve to teach social skills – in this case, cooperation
to support the teacher’s management goals. This
constitutes a form of secondary prevention analogous
to targeted social skills training. Yet, Responsibility
Training teaches everyone simultaneously while saving
time and energy rather than consuming it as a teaching
Tools for Teaching should
be considered, however, as a supplement to the procedures
described in the PBIS literature, not a replacement.
In dealing with the wide-range of
“squirrelly” behaviors possible in a classroom, you will need all
of the ideas that you can find.
Nevertheless, the four decades of
work that have gone into Tools for Teaching have
produced some significant breakthroughs. Broad areas
of classroom functioning not previously considered part
of discipline management have been placed in the service
of primary prevention. And, advanced group incentive
systems have been harnessed to serve the goals of secondary
Perhaps the greatest breakthrough,
however, is in reducing the cost of behavior management.
To paraphrase many administrators and school psychologists
who have served at sites implementing Tools for Teaching over the years,
classroom teachers deal effectively with management problems
when they are small, it eliminates most of our IEP meetings
and most of our office referrals.”
Level 3: Tertiary Prevention in the Classroom
The goals of PBIS and Tools for
Teaching are the same – to manage classroom discipline
problems proactively and effectively. Only in this
way can normal student misbehaviors be prevented or
at least limited so they do not escalate into office
In addition, both programs focus on
practical procedures that have been proven in classrooms
and described in the research literature over the past
four decades. Yet, as outlined in the previous two segments,
these two programs have developed somewhat independently
so that they embody different intervention options. This
should be viewed as a major benefit since combining the
two programs expands the intervention repertoire of educators
in the field.
Prevention Is the Key
When dealing with
discipline problems, the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure,” is especially true since interventions
can be costly. Even a simple office referral can consume
the time of several professionals to say nothing of lost
learning opportunities and the risk of reinforcing the
problem by removing the student from class.
Consequently, both PBIS and Tools
for Teaching focus on prevention. PBIS organizes the prevention
of discipline problems into three levels:
structuring the learning environment so that problems
do not occur.
Secondary Prevention: providing individualized programs or group interventions
such as social skills training for students who are not
responding to primary intervention.
Tertiary Prevention: developing highly focused individualized behavior
management programs for students whose behavior continues
to be dangerous or highly disruptive.
strategies of PBIS are taken from the applied behavioral
literature that has accumulated since the late 1960’s.
Programs are typically designed by a school treatment team,
and their implementation is data driven. This general model
of intervention is embodied in the IEP process.
Tools for Teaching,
in contrast, began with three related observations
on my part:
behavior management programs are extremely labor intensive.
Hours of time and effort go into isolating critical behaviors,
designing a data system to record those behaviors, taking data,
designing an intervention program, delivering contingencies
and, frequently, redesigning the program to improve results.
regular classrooms, to say nothing of special classrooms,
have many behavior problems begging for attention. However,
due to the cost of traditional behavioral interventions,
only a very few of the “squeaky
get any grease.
Certain gifted teachers, even at the secondary
level, can successfully manage an entire class of behavior
problem students without any reliance on formal behavioral
These gifted teachers taught me that
it could be cheaper and easier for a teacher to manage
an entire classroom given the proper skills than to design and implement
an individualized behavior modification program for a single
student. At this point the classroom rather than the individual
student became my fundamental unit of inquiry.
During the following four decades
my focus was on the development of the technology of
classroom management. I stepped back from the tradition
of individual case study and looked at the classroom
as a system.
Where do discipline problems come
from? Are they the same problems day after day? How do
teachers respond to them? Are there patterns?
Primary and Secondary Prevention
The previous two segments have described
the skills and procedures that Tools for Teaching adds
to PBIS. Here is a brief recap:
Much of primary prevention deals with the instructional
process. Many discipline problems are a by-product of
ineffective instruction. Consequently, analyzing breakdowns
in the instructional process that repeatedly occur in
the classroom is key to primary prevention. The cure,
of course, is effective instruction. While this may not
look like discipline management, it is. (During workshops
I have been “accused”
of having an instructional program that masquerades
as a discipline program.)
procedures in Tools for Teaching focus
on replacing learned helplessness (i.e. the “helpless
handraisers”) with independent learning. This,
in turn, impacts how the lesson is taught, how it is
represented visually, how corrective feedback is given
and how the teacher uses mobility (working the crowd)
to suppress disruptions while constantly monitoring work.The
second major topic of primary prevention is “meaning
requires learning a new language – the body language
of calmness and commitment that enforces behavioral boundaries
in a non-adversarial fashion prior to the use of formal
consequences. Meaning business is built upon the prior
teaching of classroom rules and routines to mastery.
In Tools for Teaching secondary prevention
is synonymous with Responsibility Training – a
group incentive program that teaches cooperation. This
represents an alternative approach to social skills training.
Briefly, it is possible to use an incentive system as
a teaching paradigm. To train students to cooperate,
for example, you will need a group management program
that structures peer interactions so that enlightened
self-interest equals cooperation.
Responsibility Training is critical to understanding
tertiary prevention in Tools for Teaching. Our
program for helping students with extreme and chronic
behavior problems is an extension of Responsibility Training.
Not only is it cheap and powerful, but it is also win-win.
A Run-In with Larry
Larry is the name we give to the student
who is always getting into trouble. Larry is the student
you heard about for two years before he arrived in your
Imagine that, earlier in the day,
you had a run-in with Larry. Everybody but Larry was
seated when the bell rang. Consequently, according to
the structure of Responsibility Training, you could not
give the class their one-minute PAT (Preferred Activity
Time) bonus for being seated. When you announced this
to the class, Larry yelled,
is stupid! This whole thing sucks! You suck!”
Larry is an angry and alienated child.
He takes it out on you, and he takes it out on his classmates.
He does hurtful things, and he is often a bully. He does
not hesitate to punish the class to make himself feel
powerful. Not surprisingly, he is unpopular.
But, would Larry like to be popular?
Show me a child who would not! But fear and anger get
in the way. He keeps doing things that seem calculated
to make the other students resent him. He is his own
earlier in the day, you dealt with Larry’s outburst
as best you could. Now
it is later in the day, and you have time to make a plan
for dealing with this problem in the long run. You could,
of course, reach for the negative consequences outlined
in the school discipline code. Or, you could try something
positive. You could try Omission Training.
Responsibility Training plus Omission Training
Omission Training is the name given
to an incentive system that is designed to stop a
behavior. The structure of Omission Training is dictated
by the simple fact that you cannot reinforce the non-occurrence
of a behavior. It would sound silly if you tried:
“I like the way you didn’t
just hit him.”
You can, however, reinforce a student
or even the entire class for not doing something for
a given length of time. You could, for example, reinforce a student for going
ten minutes without interrupting.
Omission Training becomes especially
powerful when it is mated with Responsibility Training.
This combination of management programs mobilizes the
peer group to help both you and Larry.
For example, you
could give the group a minute of bonus PAT if Larry could
go ten minutes without making an inappropriate remark. This
gives the peer group a vested interest in supporting Larry’s
efforts and ignoring his provocations.
As you can see,
Omission Training within the group incentive context of Responsibility
Training goes beyond simply changing a behavior. It makes
Larry a hero with you as his cheerleader. And, it gives
you “the power of the peer group” while involving
the class in helping a peer that they normally dislike.
The Heart-to-Heart Talk
You will have
a heart-to-heart talk with Larry as soon as possible. During
this talk you will implement Omission Training. Find a quiet
place where you will not be interrupted for the next twenty
minutes. Heart-to-heart talks usually require plenty
of “wait time.”
Of course, you will impart your own
style to this conversation. The following dialogue is
only intended to map the terrain. The heart-to-heart
talk has four parts.
Enough Is Enough
that scene in front of the classroom this morning is
what we call ‘unacceptable behavior.’ And
I will make you a promise: if one of us has to go,
it will be you.
now, we are looking at the School Discipline Code.
Its purpose is to raise the price of unacceptable
behavior so high that you can no longer afford to
pay the price. It is not supposed to be fun.
where we stand right now and the School Discipline
Code lies another option. It is a lot more enjoyable. Let me explain it to you. Then, if
you want to do it, we will. And, if you don’t,
we won’t. Fair enough?”
Acknowledging Your Own Responsibility
morning when you said that PAT sucks, my first thought
was that I had thoroughly failed in explaining PAT. So,
let me try again.
of all, you do not have to do what the rest of the
group is doing during PAT. It is always possible to
do your own thing as long as it is constructive. It
is even possible that everyone in the class might do
a different activity during PAT. The only thing that
must be the same for everyone is the duration of PAT.
let’s sit down with a pad of paper and make a
list of things that you would like to do during PAT.
The boundaries are as always; It must be something
that you want, and it must be something that I can
phase of program building is known as “brainstorming
a reinforcement menu.” It marks a change of direction
in the conversation from “enough is enough” to
becoming Larry’s partner in seeking enjoyment.
you brainstorm PATs with Larry, remain flexible without
giving up your focus on learning. You will never accept
back” or “free time” as a PAT. But
management, like politics, is the art of the possible.
If the most achievement-oriented activity that Larry
cares about is reading motorcycle magazines, you may
want to put it on the list. After all, those magazines
represent fairly challenging reading.
Estimate a Time Frame for Omission Training
long can Larry behave himself during a typical day? When
in doubt, shorten your estimate to maximize Larry’s
chances of succeeding everyday.
most common time frame in regular classrooms is half
a class period (25 minutes). Even on days when Larry
gets into trouble, he will probably give you at least
half a class period without getting into trouble. Be
conservative. If 25 minutes seems like a lot to ask,
shorten it to something that is “doable.”
Explain the Mechanics to Larry
a reinforcement menu usually puts Larry in a different
frame of mind than he had at the beginning of the heart-to-heart
talk. Now, it is time to explain your plan to Larry.
want you to have PAT. But I also want to be able to relax
and enjoy teaching when I come to work. And that little ‘altercation’ we
had this morning was hardly enjoyable.
is to say, while I want you to have PAT, I want something
in return. I want something that you have given me
every day that you have been in my class since school
began, even on days in which you got into trouble.
I want you to give me half a class period of appropriate
behavior. Just cool it for 25 minutes.
of it as a gesture that says, ‘I will meet you
halfway.’ If you meet me halfway, I will meet
you more than halfway. I will give you your PAT plus a
minute. But it is not just your minute. It belongs to the
your announcement of the program to the class with Larry
beforehand so that there is no embarrassment when the
time comes. Typically with older students, the less said
is one more part to this program, Larry, that I need
to show you. It is a kitchen timer.
anybody ruins this program, it will probably be me,
not you. I will get busy teaching and forget about keeping
track of the minutes. As I see you walking out of the
room, I will think, ‘Oh no! I forgot all about
that I do not have to be a clock-watcher, I will use
this kitchen timer. I will set it to 25 minutes and
forget it. When 25 minutes is up, it will ring, and
we will both know that it is time to post the next
Implementation In Class
The next day you begin the program.
As soon as Larry earns his first bonus minute, announce
it just as you rehearsed.
let me have your attention. Larry and I are working on
something different today, and Larry is doing a great
job. He has just earned a bonus minute of PAT for
the entire class.
I will put a circle around it so that you can keep track
of how many minutes he earns for the group. You might
say that this minute is a gift from Larry.”
Walk to the board and post the minute
on the PAT tally. Draw a circle around the bonus minute
and all other minutes that Larry subsequently earns for
the class. Then say,
all have an extra minute of PAT thanks to Larry, and
before the period is over, you could get more. Let’s
hear it for Larry. (Lead the group in giving Larry applause.)
Larry, let’s see if we can get another minute
before the period is over.”
As the class period comes to an end,
say to the group,
let me have your attention before we dismiss. Larry
has just earned a second minute for the group. Let me post that bonus minute
on the board.
“Class, you are all two minutes richer thanks to
Larry. Let’s hear it for Larry.” (Once
again, lead the group in applause.)
What If Larry “Blows It?”
One final detail needs to be explained
this program you can only earn time for the group. You
can no longer lose time.
if you should get into trouble in class, you will deal
with me personally. After you rejoin the group, I will
reset the kitchen timer so you can immediately begin
earning bonus PAT. If the period should end before you
have earned the next minute, I will carry all of your
time forward to the next day so that you never lose time.”
As you can see, Larry could not lose
time for the group if he wanted to. Since Larry showed
a weakness for playing the bully, we have simply removed
A Bridge to Healing
Larry is an angry,
unhappy child. Over the years these negative emotions can
produce serious deficits in social skills. Omission Training
serves as a “pump primer” for helping Larry learn
to get along with people by setting him up for success from
the very beginning.
focuses the peer group’s attention on Larry’s new behavior
and helps them see Larry through new eyes. Without the
theatrical aspect of Omission Training plus the bonus
PAT that the class shares, the peer group might be slow
to notice any improvement on Larry’s part. In fact,
they might inadvertently put his new behavior on extinction! Rather than let that happen, we will make a hero
out of Larry in order to get results.
If I needed a behavioral program to
make an unpopular child popular, I would immediately
pick Omission Training. I have seen it bring an outcast
child into the middle of the class sociogram in two weeks!
Omission Training Is Cheap
In addition to
Omission Training being powerful, it is cheap. For the price
of a heart-to-heart talk and a few marks on the PAT tally,
you have rearranged the group dynamics of the entire class
to support Larry’s
It is actually
cheaper to institute Responsibility Training just so you
can institute Omission Training than it is to institute a
traditional individualized B-Mod program. And it is far more
powerful since it delivers “the
power of the peer group.” Omission Training in
conjunction with Responsibility Training is as close
to magic as anything you will find in behavior management.
In special high school classrooms where most of the students
had felony records, Omission Training all but eliminated