Learn More

40 Hour Workweek

Uncategorized   |   Oct 5, 2011

5 Pro-Active Strategies for Positive Behavior Management

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

5 Pro-Active Strategies for Positive Behavior Management

By Angela Watson

The key to managing student behavior has nothing to do with tangible rewards. You don’t have to give food, toys, stickers, and pencils as rewards for children, or spend any money at all, in order to gain their cooperation! In fact, teacher control can and should be replaced whenever possible by student self-control. How is this possible? The key is classroom management that prevents problems before they start. This page (which is excerpted from The Cornerstone book) will show you how!

5 Pro-active, positive behavior management strategies for every classroom


1) Have a routine in place for EVERYTHING and practice procedures, not punishment.

Know all of your rules and procedures to the tiniest detail, and if a child stretches those rules even a tiny bit, call them on it. You can get a little more laid back as the year goes on, but make no exceptions for any class rules at the beginning of the school year. Not only do students have to learn your expectations, they have to UNLEARN those of their previous teachers, since everyone has different standards and routines.

It will take weeks to get your students to where you want them to be, and you will have to continually reinforce their behavior all the way through June. Sure, you would think that by the second or third (or twelfth!) grade kids would automatically put the correct heading on their papers or behave a certain way in the hall, but the fact is, they don’t do it without positive reinforcement. Please don’t get frustrated in September because your kids still ask where to turn their papers in—keep practicing! It’s NORMAL. Don’t ease up and allow kids to get sloppy. Having your procedures firmly in place will make teaching easier and more effective throughout the entire year.

2) Have a very SIMPLE, positive, whole-class reinforcement system and use individual modification plans for kids with behavioral issues.

I believe that the most effective whole-class plans are based on positive reinforcement for appropriate student behavior. This is in direct contrast to punitive child discipline systems that use the ‘descending levels’ model and provide increasing consequences or punishment for misbehavior.

Typically, a whole-class plan that provides incentives for good behavior is enough to motivate the majority of children in your class and creates a much more supportive learning environment. The needs of more challenging students can be met through individual behavior modification plans which provide additional structure.

3) Have a low-maintenance method for regular communication with parents about behavior.

If the majority of your class is successful in meeting class norms, you may not need an ongoing communication system with parents. When there is an incident that you feel a parent should know about, a great solution is to send home the child’s own reflection on what happened. Filling out problem solving sheets will document behavior problems (which is important for conferences, office referrals, child study/RTI meetings, and so on), and more importantly, helps students reflect on their choices and responsibilities. Children can fill the out the sheets themselves or can dictate to you if they are unable to write independently.

There are lots of strategies for communicating with parents about behavior. One way I’ve kept parents informed is through daily reports, in which I signed off on children’s agendas or notebooks each day. Another method is weekly evaluations, in which I tracked students’ behavioral choices throughout the week, marking off misbehavior and missing work as problems occurred, and then summarizing them on the weekly evaluation. Some years, I did those solely to document student behavior and work habits for my own purposes and to update parents. One year with a more difficult class, I also used it as a whole-class behavior management system, letting the kids know how many checks they had and giving positive reinforcements (Fun Friday/center time) or consequences based on their behavioral choices.

4) Make general rules and consequences that are related and logical, and enforce them in ways that are appropriate for individual children.

Playing around during group work?  Finish the assignment alone. Ripping up class materials?  Not allowed to use them next time. Losing crayons? Can’t color during the project.

Every incident should be handled on a case-by-case basis, because each child and situation are different. However, there should be a common thread running throughout and all kids should see a clear connection between what they do and the resulting consequences. Taking away recess or centers isn’t necessarily effective when the child wasn’t having problems at recess or centers. I recommend tying the consequence directly to the child’s action whenever possible.

5) Show kids the power of their influence on how the classroom is run and make a clear connection between the way THEY behave and the way YOU behave.


Students’ cooperation or lack thereof has a remarkable effect on both the direction and outcome of a lesson. The problem is that children don’t realize the power of their influence unless you point it out to them.

Students must be led to understand that when they follow the classroom expectations, you smile a lot, you give them privileges and additional freedom, and you trust them with fun activities. Similarly, they must learn that when they don’t contribute to an orderly classroom, you have no choice but to pull in the reins. This must be taught EXPLICITLY at first—students do not automatically make the connection between what they do and what you do! And once you’ve taught them that their behavior affects how the classroom is run, you must reinforce this understanding throughout the day by responding CONSISTENTLY to behavioral infractions.


This page gives a general overview of the 5 strategies–learn MORE about each one in Chapter 14 of The Cornerstone book and eBook!

You’ll also learn what to do when you’re not seeing results in your classroom behavior management–determine which of 2 problems you’ve got and learn to remedy the situation immediately!


Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela is a National Board Certified educator with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach. She started this website in 2003, and now serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Truth for Teachers...
Browse Articles by Angela


  1. Hi I teach 2nd grade- have for many years and LOVE the kids, love reading, love learning, love seeing THEM enjoy reading and learning…..BUT I have a problem I sure would like some help with. I have ADD (the inattentive type of ADHD). I have SO MUCH trouble getting and staying organized! I have difficulty managing “paperwork”-things like forms, attendance, lunch money, trip money, etc. Now it seems that our state TN is moving more toward highly structured classroom time and MORE paperwork. This is just so different to how the ADD mind works! I’ve tried to look at other teacher’s systems, folks try to make “gentle” suggestions, I look on the internet, but I just can’t seem to “cure ” myself. I do take meds but some we’ve tried cause mouth sores, some I think is working until I try multitasking…I see a professional but we’ve gone from med to med without the improvement I need….. Anyone else with this problem? Where can I find help ?

    1. Hi, Mrs. R! Thanks for being so honest and transparent about the issues you’re facing. I feel very confident that you are not the only one!

      Have you read The Cornerstone? In the book, I’ve tried to explain step-by-step how to create a place for every paper in the classroom. I think it’s a pretty manageable process, especially since I emphasize that you can tackle one area a week so you don’t get overwhelmed. Check out this page as well: https://truthforteachers.com/free-resources/organization/paper-trap.

    2. Color code everything. Develop a system that works for you! Organize folders and binds etc during the summer not during the school year because you will feel overwhelmed. Bins that are colored coded will visually help your mind with where something is or should be found. More colored folders to the colored bins. Use a calendar and not your phone. Your phone can be very distracting to your mind.

      Set up an area in the room for each subject so that you need to physically move in that direction. Make it a common practice to look at your schedule 3-4 x’s per day. List what you need to accomplish in those segments. If something doesn’t get done and move it to the next segment. Don’t go into the hallway during lunch or after school because it can be distracting to you.

      Create folders with numbers with in that month. If a form is due on a certain day then put the form in three days prior so it gets done ahead of time. On the outside write what’s in the folder and then cross it off. That’s fun! You will feel very accomplished and organized.

  2. I LOVE your website and book, but would you please change the background color to your website? I’m having a hard time reading what you’ve written and finding the links.
    Thank you,
    Sharon Wilbur

    1. Hi, Sharon! The background color of the website is white. The border is dark blue. If you are seeing the entire page as dark blue, that means there’s a problem with either your internet connection or computer, as the page is not fully loading. Can you tell me what internet browser you are using (I’m assuming Internet Explorer, which is prone to these types of issues)? Make sure your browser is up to date, and better yet, switch to Firefox or Chrome! When browsing the web, the pages will load faster and you’ll be far less likely to encounter these kinds of issues. Let me know if you need more help. Thanks!

  3. Your idea of being proactive is so important. There are so many solutions to deal with the repercussions of behaviors…why not intervene before that point? That’s total control and highly sought after behavior management. Foreseeing problems + applying solutions = success for all
    Students. You no longer have to “clean up” the scene of a behavior incident because using proactive strategies you avoided the mess altogether. Instructional flow is a dream…proactive strategies is the means! Thanks Angela! -Gretchen

  4. Hi Angela-

    I teach in a behavior modification and learning disabled classroom. My classroom consist of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students. The problem I face is that these kids have behavior that is awful. The students like to fight, name call, curse, and the list can go on. It really is a bad situation. I have to teach iun groups because of the levels these students are on. I do not think they have the attention spand to sit more then 10 minutes or else they say they are bored, act out. or run out of the room. I teach in an urban school which I LOVE and I really like the kids; they just need guidence and reinforcement which I give everyday. I have centers up but feel more stuff can be in those centers and I am working on that. I also have behavior chart on the board for a visual for all the students and a behavior chart for individuals. Is there anything else I can do? Is there anything I can do to keep the students in the room? Some of the kids get rewards for behaving and are told to stay in other classrooms which I do not like. These students are pretty bad with the behavior yet some love to learn and do work… What can I do differently that will keep them occupied and like to learn. They need to have fun as well. I am trying to get a lot of unwanted stuff out of the room so there isn’t so much in the room that causes distractions… Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank You, Jim

    1. Hi, Jim. You hit the nail on the head by mentioning their attention span–if 10 minutes is their limit, then try to change up activities every 10 minutes or so (teacher-directed instruction, partner work, independent work, etc.) Centers are a great idea because you can differentiate the work and provide lots of choice–keep developing those. As the school year progresses and you develop a rapport with the kids (and they mature a bit), I think things will fall into place. Hang in there and keep stressing your routines and expectations. They’ll get it. 🙂

  5. Hello,

    I am actually a parent and in desperate help. Will try to cut it short. I have a 7 year old 2nd grader in a small catholic school. 1 teacher per grade. Since he started here, I was and am very friendly with all the teachers. I had my doubts about his 2nd grade teacher, she was and is not very personable. Well now that my son has her his behavior has only gotten worse. He had some focusing issues beginning in Kinder but his teacher was very good in working with him and myself. 1st grade, similar, but in the middle of the year, my husband and I separated. I am sure that’s part of the problem but things I feel are good, we are on good terms and he sees the kids. I have a 1 year old daughter too. Anyhow, problem with current teacher is lack of communication/effort on her part to make the problem any better. I continually have asked her what she is doing to help him not forget homework, what she does when he is talking, etc…I don’t get a positive answer…All I get is what he did wrong and that he received a pink slip. I recently cut to the chase and asked her directly what she is doing, as well as what we were doing at home…Her answer, “keep doing what your doing at home, but essentially Jaden needs to be more responsible” I could not believe her answer? On top of that in that email I find out that they have put my son on a 3rd-8th grade level discipline plan? Knowing how involved I am with my son and how he is doing, shouldn’t I and my husband been forewarned about this change? Where in that answer is she telling me what she is doing to help him? I am not taking away from my son’s behavior, but he is smart, and does all his homework…yet he needs help re-focusing and reminders…I have finally requested urgent meeting with both principals and the teacher…This was last week and have not heard back…earlier today I get a call saying my son hit someone over them saying something about his lunch…my son does not hit, it’s just not like him…not that I don’t believe the principal but this is obviously escalating…personally all the discipline and pink slips seems to be making him worse, feel the administration and teacher are being more “reactive” than “proactive” with my son. Here is a smart boy that just a little extra help and they are only making it worse…On my end, I take away tv, make him write sentences, took away table indefinitely, sadly took away Birthday plans which is in 3 weeks. PLEASE HELP!!! Meeting with admin next week sometime.

    1. I too would like to hear her reply to this. My son is 8 and in 3rd. We have the same issues but he is in public school.

    2. I am very interested in how this question was answered or what advice was given because I am in the same boat.

      1. I’m not sure what question is being asked–how to help the child, how to get the teacher to communicate, whether this is the right placement for the child, etc. This is a really complex situation and it’s difficult to offer general advice without knowing the child, teacher, curriculum, classroom culture, etc.

        Additionally, keep in mind this is not a site for parents–my experience is in advising teachers how to respond in these situations, and a parent’s role/responsibility is very different. I would recommend seeking advice from someone who has more information to help you.

        The bottom line, though, is that if you are uncomfortable with how your child is being treated in the classroom and your child is not thriving in that environment, you need to continue advocating for him or her. You know your child best and should trust your instincts when you feel like a situation is not right. Keep asking questions and experimenting with different approaches until you find what’s best for your child.

    3. Don’t use punishment or take away at this age…reward for all the good behaviors! Reward in segments for homework started on time, completed without complaining, Homework put in the proper spot without being told. If you have to remind at any point then no reward…no warnings and no reminder, just no reward.

      Long ago I used Chuckie Cheese coins, but now you can load up points onto a card. It works great if there’s anther sibling because once the card is empty…then that person sits and waits. Next time, the behaviors will improve to obtain the reward. This is just one example. Figure out what she/he wants most.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!