The 5 Ultimate Behaviour Questions

The 5 Ultimate Behaviour Questions


 Your guide to solving behaviour problems in the classroom 

A Year 5 boy is in trouble again.

He continually refuses to do his work, he wanders around the room annoying other students by touching their work and talking about random topics, he talks to the teacher in a disrespectful tone and uses some low level swearing in class. 

When the teacher approaches him, he moves away and threatens to leave the room.  

Sounds like a bit of a nightmare for any teacher… 

And I am sorry, but there is no quick fix, no silver bullet! 

You will have to adopt a curious attitude and investigate what’s behind the behaviour. 

Ask the 5 Ultimate Behaviour Questions to find the solution. 

ONE: What is the student’s behaviour? 

Describe the behaviour in specific, observable, measurable language so that anyone who saw the behaviour would recognise it.

For example, rather than saying ‘Joey is disruptive’, you say, ‘Joey touches other students work, walks around the room and calls out’.

This is an important distinction because when you have a clear, precise description of the behaviour you can begin to work on figuring out the purpose of the behaviour and deciding on a replacement behaviour. 

TWO: What is the student trying to gain or avoid with their behaviour?  

What is the function of the behaviour?

All problem behaviour is designed to either gain something or avoid something.

The student may be trying to access or avoid attention from peers or adults, sensory stimulation or tangible objects.  

When a student is trying to access adult attention through their negative behaviour, they need to be taught how to access positive attention, have their negative behaviour ignored as much as possible and be given recognition for appropriate behaviour.   

Students who are trying to access peer attention inappropriately, need to be taught how to make friends, how to deal with conflict and relationship issues and be supported by the teacher to improve their status with peers.  

Sensory issues include visual stimulation as well as sounds, touch, smell and taste. They could also relate to temperature or proximity of others.

THREE: What do you want them to do instead? 

Consider the replacement behaviours that would assist the student to be a more productive member of your class.

Of course, you need to be realistic here.

No student will go from doing no work to completing all work in a week.

Discuss with the student what would be achievable and sustainable for them remembering that we want them to succeed.

A replacement behaviour for calling out may be to raise their hand but prior to that it may be waiting to be called upon.

Think about small steps towards achievement. 

FOUR: How can you support them to behave more productively? 

If you consider inappropriate behaviour as a lack of skill, then you know that one way you can support the student is to explicitly teach, practise and reinforce the appropriate behaviour.

You can also assist a student by having a secret cue between yourself and them, that lets them know when they are off track or lets you know that they need help.

Assist them to maintain dignity at all times by allowing them to access your help without losing face in front of their peers. 

reward program attached to the desired behaviour may be appropriate and ensure greater possibility of success. 

FIVE: How will you know if you are successful? 

Any good behaviour plan requires consistent evaluation to ensure progress. (see our workshop Responding To Challenging Behaviour)

You can assess your progress by reflecting on how far the student has come, by meeting with the student to discuss improvement.

Where necessary change the plan to suit changing needs, and celebrate yours and the student’s success.  

One important lesson I have learnt from my work with students and schools is that you must celebrate tiny wins.

Don’t wait until the student is doing everything right before you rejoice, because you may be waiting a long time!

And if the only change is that YOU don’t over-react to their behaviour, then celebrate that!  

Marie Amaro