Teacher's Guide to a Successful Classroom
Your Subtitle text
Behavior - Motivation or Bribe?

    Classroom Behaviors       

Classroom behavior remains a major issue for all teachers. Unfortunately a magic wand that is the key to making all students behave does not exist. There are however things an educator can do to help reduce the undesirable behaviors within the classroom. Below you will find five keys (from the Safe and Civil Schools program) to creating a classroom with minimum behavior issues. I've listed links to several of their books at the bottom of the page. These books are priceless tools as they help explain how our actions predict students' behaviors. Check with your regional service center to see if they are offering any trainings on STOIC. Many of their videos can be found on Youtube by searching Randy Sprick, Safe and Civil Schools, STOIC, or Safe and Civil Schools Foundations.

                        Structure Your Classroom                                                                                   

Make sure your classroom is structured for success. Answer the questions on the Structure Checklist to determine if the structure of your classroom is designed for success. The answer to these questions will have a tremendous impact on student behavior.
17.5 KB

When structuring your classroom consider the following: 

Traffic flow
  • Is there easy access to the essential areas such as supplies?
Adequate supervision of all areas
  • Are there any areas that are blocked from the teachers view? 
Designated teacher and student areas
  • Can any visitor determine where the teacher area is located?
Seating arrangements
  • Does the seating arrangement work for your teaching style and the student's needs?

Here are some scenarios to consider.

Scenario 1- Easy Fix
In Ms. Jackson's class the pencil sharpener is by the window on the far side of the room beside Rylie's desk. Rylie is an active student with focusing issues. While Ms. Jackson is teaching Rylie often plays with the handle on the sharpener and glances out of the window. Rylie also loses focus when other students sharpen their pencils. 
* Move Rylie closer to the teacher. Move the pencil sharpener away from other students' desks. Seems obvious I know but these easy fixes are often overlooked.

Scenario 2- Easy Fix
Ms. Baker currently has her desks in tables of four. This is a very common room arrangement and works well for group activities; however, many of Ms. Baker's students seem to be off task during whole group instruction.
* When desks are in tables some students backs are naturally turned towards the teacher. Before direct instruction provide students with a code word that signals they are to turn their chairs so they can see the teacher. This seems like an easy fix; however, students must be directly taught the expectation that they are to turn towards the teacher during direct instruction. As educators we must never assume that students know the behavior we are expecting.

Scenario 3 - Easy Fix
Students run down the halls when entering school, display PDA in stairwells, or push and shove one another.
*Increase supervision in these areas. Any area that is unsupervised during transition times is an area with a huge sign inviting mischief. This is often a larger problem in secondary than elementary. If there is an area with a high number of referrals we should first look at the supervision.  

                            Teach Expectations                                                                                                

Students must be taught how to behave appropriately in every school setting. We can not assume that students know the rules for sharpening their pencil. Consider the following:
In Ms. Watts room students are allowed to get up whenever they want to sharpen their pencils; however, in Mr. Blake's room they hold up their pencil and he exchanges it for a sharp one. Ms. Baker has a different rule. Her students are required to sharpen their pencils before class begins. If they need to sharpen their pencil during class they get a conduct mark for not being prepared. John is a quiet student that tries hard to do what is expected and please his teachers. He has Ms. Watts for reading, Mr. Blake for math, and Ms. Baker for Science. Since there are three different rules for getting his pencil sharpened John struggles with this expectation and often gets marks for not being prepared. Because the three teachers don't discuss/compare their classroom procedure rules they are unaware that their variety of expectations is leading to John's issues. I'm not suggesting that all teachers have the same rules/expectations and procedures; however, I am recommending that since rules vary from location to location we direct teach our specific expectations. We also need to understand that for some students the wide variance of rules from class to class is to much for them to handle. 

Adam is a student with Autism who needs structure in his environment. Small changes often frustrate him leading to various undesirable behaviors. Adam is a rule governed student and is extremely literal. He attempts to follow the class rules exactly as they are written and gets upset with any deviation; however, Adam is having trouble with the different pencil sharpening rules for the three classes. He has difficulty expressing why he is frustrated and often acts out as a result. As educators we need to be aware that our routines can have a huge impact on students like Adam. Something as simple as conferencing with the other teachers involved and developing a routine for a student to follow in all of the classes can solve the problem. 

If students are not meeting our expectations we need to ask ourselves whether they have explicitly been taught. We must reduce as much confusion as possible. Consider the following situation. 

Ms. Crawford is teaching a reading lesson. As she teaches she poses questions to the class and several students squirm in their seats, raise their hands waving, then call out answer. "Synonym!" At the same time two there are two students in the back yelling, "antonym." Susie is sitting at her desk with her hand up. "That's right, Mark, it's a synonym."

Ms. Crawford must have been ok with the students calling out since she didn't correct them and the students were engaged in the lesson. So.... The lesson continues in this manner until she wanted quiet little Susie to answer a question. She looks at Susie and asks her question but before Susie could answer Marco yells out the correct response. Ms. Crawford then replies, "Marco, please raise your hand." 

The class has been given mixed signals on the expectations. When can I call out? When do I need to raise my hand? 

This happens to all of us at one time or another. During reading yesterday I could call out answers but during reading today I got in trouble for calling out.....We are unintentionally confusing the students because various lessons call for various response modes. If we are having a problem with students yelling, then out we need to analyze whether or not our students fully understand our expectations.  When teaching expectations we need to remember the following: 

Noise level - (Have a visual to display for various activities.)
When can they talk? 
What are the voice level requirements for various activities? 

Mobility around classroom
When can students get out of their seats? 
Are they free to move around anytime? 

Common routines 

Pencil sharpener rules 
passing in papers 
turning in homework, getting in line... 

17.5 KB

                      Observe Student Behavior 

This is the easy one. Observe/monitor student behavior. Even as adults, if we are not monitored we will not comply by all of the rules. Think about getting to work on time. We all know people that would be late every day if they weren't monitored. When the boss realizes that a number of people are late he reviews the policies and addresses the issue. Consider what some of your coworkers would wear if the school district didn't have a dress code! How many do we know that would have an alcoholic beverage in a glass on their desk or an ashtray if there weren't any policies against it? What about speeding??? How may people speed when they don't see any police cars around but slow down in areas they know the police monitor frequently?  As humans we don't comply just because the policy is written. We comply because we know it will be enforced. The same is true with our students. If we notice there is a problem with the pencil sharpener we will review the rules and enforce them.

16.5 KB

                         Interact Positively                                                                                   

We must interact positively with the students. We must show them non-contingent  attention such as greeting them and taking an interest in their likes. We should also provide frequent positive feedback on both academic effort and behaviors. And most importantly we must maintain at least a 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. We must make sure that we are interacting more when they are exhibiting the appropriate behavior.  

I can't stress enough how important tone of voice is when interacting with studetns. While observing in various settings I find that many new educators struggle with this. If our voice sounds the same when we are correcting a behavior as it does when we are rewarding a behavior, then one of two things occur. 1. The student doesn't recognize our correction as negative. 2. The student doesn't recognize our compliment as positive. I'm not saying we need to yell at the students, but when giving a correction we should have a calm firm voice and facial features. When complementing a student we should have a very pleasing, pleasant voice and facial features. Learning to read body language is just as important as learning to communicate with others in social situations so this is a great opportunity to teach by example. If we don't mean it, then students won't feel it.
A positive interaction is any interaction when the student is doing something right. A negative interaction is ay interaction made when a student is exhibiting the inappropriate behavior. 

"Please sit down" would be a negative interaction even though it is stated in a positive manner.  

3 to 1 ratio video by Randy Sprick
He has many more videos on youtube....just google his name.

17.0 KB


Communicate with students calmly and immediately in the setting where the infraction occurred.

18.0 KB

The following links will provide more information on the Foundations program with Safe and Civil Schools.

Resources/ Links
Utah State Department of Education - Coaching Classroom Management By Randy Sprick
Randy Sprick developed the Safe and Civil program. This PDF provides you with a great STOIC reflection guide to help determine your needs.
Institute for Literacy and Learning
Shaping Student Behavior
Article written by Randy Sprick
Free Back to School Checklist 

Champs, Coaching Classroom Management, any of the Smart Kids series (see the link below)

                         Motivation vs. Bribes                                                                

I often hear these words...."I don't believe in bribing my students. They should do what I want because I tell them to do it." Well in the real world no one does everything we say just because we said so. Think about your own life. 
  • What motivates you to exercise? - nothing, the doctor, weight loss...?
  • What motivates you to take a relaxing hot shower? -desire to be clean, the smell, to relax...?
  • What motivates you to come to work on time every day? -your love for kids, a pay check, bills in the mailbox...?
Let's take a good look at that last question. When I ask teachers what motivates them to come to work they usually tell me the kids. So my comment is usually, "OK, so if you didn't get a paycheck every month would you still come to work?" Some will say no but others want to prove themselves right and say "Yes! I'm here for the kids. I love them and would still come to to work." So let's consider that a little deeper. If you did not get a paycheck every month would you really get up early every morning Monday through Friday and work from 8-4 faithfully? I can answer that....No....You might volunteer and be on the campus often, but not on a daily basis at a nonnegotiable time with the same commitment that you have when being paid. If that were in the nature of the human race we wouldn't need to hire teachers and we wouldn't have to search for volunteers. So let's look at the difference between bribes and positive motivation.


  • The definition of a bribe is to persuade someone to act in your favor, typically illegally or dishonestly by using gifts of money or other inducements. 
The key here is typically illegally or dishonestly which doesn't fit into our situations. We are simply trying to persuade our students to behave properly just like our paychecks persuade us.


  • The definition of motivation is the reason someone has to act or behave in a particular way.
The key here is "the reason." Our paychecks are the reason we come to work. Our rules and guidelines for employment are the reasons we make it on time. We know if we don't come to work on time there will be consequences. There is nothing illegal about providing students a reason to act or behave in a particular way. 

Video 1 Introduction to STOIC and Philosophy behind why we need to use positive behavior supports. "We can never punish a student into being motivated." - Randy Sprick---- I am not affiliated with this company in any way; however, I must admit that I am completely sold on the philosophy behind the STOIC framework.

Video 2 RTI approach to behavior, Features of the Improvement Cycle

Video 3 STOIC approach, Provides great examples for each letter of STOIC

Video 4 CHAMPS - Conversation, Help, Activity, Movement, Participation, Success - Some students need more explicit instruction on behaviors.

Video on Incentives by Randy Sprick on Youtube

*** More video are available on Youtube. Search terms: Randy Sprick, Safe and Civil Schools, STOIC, CHAMPS, Positive Behavior Supports, Pacific Northwest Publishing

                              Data Collection 
Information and data collection forms coming soon

I can't stress how important data collection is for teachers. If we are asked to validate our decisions or grades by a parent or an administrator, then we need to have data to support our whatever it is we are proposing.

What data collection is NOT:
  • A file with every paper the student completed
  • A grade book with various entries
  • A paper with tallies and random markings
  • Judgmental statements
  • Lists of negative behaviors
What data collection IS:
  • A specific system of collecting data on various skills or behaviors
  • Provides specific information
  • Dated work samples on specific skills with modifications or accommodations that were provided documented
  • Analyzed reports from various district level computer programs or assessments noting if the data in the report is invalid due to a specific situation. 
    • Example - Steven took the computerized assessment Tuesday morning after having an argument on the bus with his best friend. He was angry and just clicked any answer completing the assessment in 5 minutes. His teacher documented the situation on the results and gave him the assessment again on another day.* Data that doesn't represent a students typical functional performance should never be used in analyzing their progress. 
    • Example - Stacey has a speech processing problem and both fine and gross motor issues which limits her use of a computer mouse. Stacey's teacher decided to give her the computerized assessment allowing Stacey to state or point to the answer and the teacher would use the mouse to click for her. While taking the assessment Stacey's teacher noticed that Stacey's response time was not fast enough for her to click the answer before the computer counted it as wrong. Knowing that Stacey understood these concepts and simply couldn't process fast enough for the computer her teacher printed out the results and documented why they were invalid.
  • Benchmarks and progress monitoring assessments with modifications or accommodations documented
  • Reflective representation of student work

How do I collect data on academic skills?

Data collection does not need to be difficult. It just takes a small amount of organization and determining the right data collection system to meet the specific needs.

Ms.Baker is teaching her class how to add two digit by two digit numbers. There is no need to save every guided practice page the class completes since this will clutter Ms. Baker's files and become overwhelming when needing specific information; however, she decides to take a grade on Thursday. After giving the assignment Ms. Baker records the grades, documents on the assignment that Sally used manipulatives, and files the papers in each students' working folder. To make life easier Ms. Baker also had her students write the date on the test before starting. Ms. Baker uses this procedure for all items she is taking a grade on or assessing student progress on a given objective.

Ms. Bagley, Sally's mom, called for a conference with Ms. Baker due to concerns about Sally's progress on her IEP goals. During the meeting Ms. Bagley expressed her concerns and Ms. Baker was able to pull Sally's folder documenting her performance. The papers also documented the use of accommodations documented in the IEP. Ms. Bagley was pleased to see that Ms. Baker has been working hard with her daughter and asked how she can help her more at home. She thanked Ms. Baker and left on a positive note.

If Ms. Baker didn't have any documentation to support Sally's progress or lack of progress, then this meeting could have gone a different direction. Even if Ms. Baker was doing everything right, without documentation we have nothing to support our claims.

* Copies of data collection forms will be posted soon!

Website Builder