Behavior Management is a phrase we know and
loathe love, but with so many different programs, resources and options out there, how do we hone in on what really works in our classroom? It’s tough to do, and it could mean changing it up year after year! But having a system in place for managing behavior expectations is the most important foundation to a smooth school year. If students know what is expected of them and are motivated to make smart choices in the classroom, you get the green light to actually teach… because how can you actually teach when kiddos are recreating a jungle scene from Mean Girls in your room?! (I hope you just pictured this happening in your head.. I know I did!)
In this blog post I’ll be explaining how I use a positive behavior rating scale, known as the Behavior Expectations Scale in my third grade classroom to set clear expectations, promote positive choices, and communicate with parents daily.
Set Clear Expectations
To be clear, The Behavior Expectations Scale is not a set of classroom rules (you need classroom rules, this scale helps reinforce them). It is not a clip chart, and it is not a list of rewards or consequences. It is meant to help students manage their own behavior by understanding what is expected of them. The Behavior Expectations Scale ranges from Level 1 to Level 4, with titles ranging from Falling Below Expectations (1) to Exceeding Expectations (4). Within each number are three bullet points explaining behaviors that make up that level. The bullet points cover following classroom rules, showing effort, and work completion.
Students aim for a Level 3 Meeting Expectations everyday–I tell them that is the starting line every morning, and they decide where to take the day from there. If every student in your room followed all of your classroom rules, gave 100% effort and finished all their assignments everyday you’d probably be teaching on some unknown planet, but it’s setting these high expectations for your students that will ultimately motivate them to strive for their best. The Behavior Expectations Scale lives on our front board, where it’s in sight all day everyday. I spend a minimum of the first 3 weeks of school reviewing the scale exhaustively, modeling examples and non-examples of expected behavior and having the students predict where I might fall on the Behavior Expectations Scale. By the time we put the scale to work, students know it like the back of their hands.
Promote Positive Choices
Using a positive behavior rating scale encourages positive behavior. When we know what is expected of us, we’re more likely to perform in a way that meets those expectations. With enough practice and reinforcement, we internalize those expectations and use them as a guide for our choices. I think about driving a car. It is expected that we will drive the speed limit, slow down for yellow lights and stop at red ones. We’re supposed to let pedestrians cross the street and, if we want to do a little extra, we’ll let that car into our lane even though we don’t have to. If I were to rate myself on the nonexistent “Driving Expectations Scale” I would land at a 3 (Meeting Expectations) most days and, in all honesty, when I’m running late for work or want to catch the green light, I’m probably more of a 2 (Approaching Expectations). But the mere fact that I know what is expected of me and I want to be a good driver, means that nonexistent driving scale is working. Let’s take this scenario back into the classroom. If your students know what is expected of them and want to live up to those expectations, they’re more inclined to make positive choices throughout the day.
As I mentioned before, the Behavior Expectations Scale isn’t a list of rules, rewards, or consequences. Those things are important to have in a classroom, but they’re not a behavior scale. The behavior scale reminds students that they have the power to choose how their day goes, they are in the driver’s seat, just like we have the power to choose what type of driver we are. We know students have bad days, bad mornings, bad weeks, so it’s important that the behavior scale is flexible. My students start at a Level 3, a clean slate each day. But that doesn’t mean that throughout the day their behavior doesn’t fluctuate. Or, if they make a mistake or a poor choice that may be considered a Level 1 that they’re stuck there all day! No! Students are never “stuck” on the scale. They can (and should be encouraged to try to) always work their way back up. Side Note: Never have I attached student names to the board and moved them up/down the scale. This is not a clip chart. It is a guide.
So, how do students know where they fall on the scale? Depends on the situation. Sometimes I’ll give nonverbal cues to students who may be off task or making a poor choice by pointing to the scale or silently holding up a number that lets them know they should reconsider what they’re doing. Sometimes I’ll pull a student aside and have a conversation with them asking for them to reflect on the situation at hand and make reference to the Behavior Expectations Scale. But most importantly, they internalize it. If you’re all about your behavior scale, they will take it seriously.
We have a routine in my classroom that has not wavered since my first year of teaching. At the end of each day, students take a moment to reflect on their choices and behavior, then they rate themselves using our Behavior Expectations Scale. They write their number (1-4) in their planners (an agenda book provided to each student by the school), and I write my assessment of their performance right next to it. Parents are asked to sign the planner nightly, which means they see the numbers from our behavior scale everyday. So, if a student thinks he/she was a 3-Meeting Expectations but he/she has several incomplete assignments that day, I might write a 2-Approaching Expectations next to his/her number. Sometimes, a brief explanation will accompany this discrepancy in numbers. Most of the time, our assessment of the day will be spot on. Rarely, a 1-Falling Below Expectations will be written in the planner and that will warrant a phone call home. On the opposite end, students receive a 4- Exceeding Expectations when they’ve had a rockstar status day. It’s another relatively rare occurrence, but one that is surely celebrated!
Keeping parents in the loop with daily classroom behavior helps them notice patterns, have conversations they may not have had, and monitor what goes on when they’re away from their child during the day. I have included parent letters with a description of each level of the Behavior Expectations Scale in my behavior management resource. This letter gets taped into their planner at the beginning of the school year for reference. I also discuss the Behavior Expectations Scale during Open House using my First Day and Open House Slideshow (a lifesaver for me year after year).
Oftentimes parents will take it upon themselves to incentivize their child to get a certain number or combination of numbers during the week. That’s great! There have been many times that I’ve heard, “My mom says if I get 3’s and 4’s all week we can go to Dairy Queen after school on Friday!” Having parents invested in student behavior is a huge bonus. The work starts in setting clear expectations, sticking to them, and providing the Behavior Expectations Scale as a guide for both motivation and reflection.
The 5 P’s are another tool I use to reinforce expectations in the classroom. They are 5 words: Prompt, Polite, Productive, Patient, Prepared that set the tone for the culture of my classroom. We prioritize the 5 P’s in all that we do. They could be considered classroom rules, I call them the “5P’s that we live by” and students know them by heart. Younger students may need more concrete rules, but for me the 5 P’s are all-encompassing and if we adhere to them, keeping our Behavior Expectations Scale in mind, we will have a great school year with minimal behavior distractions.
I have several helpful resources for Behavior Management in my TpT store!
Behavior Scale and the 5 P’s is the resource that is featured in this blog post. It is the Behavior Scale that I currently display in my classroom. It includes the 5 P’s as well as a half-sheet to insert into planners/agendas or use to explain the Behavior Scale to parents. Within the resource are several encouraging signs to display with your Behavior Scale to promote positive choices.
Weekly Behavior Focus Meetings call attention to a specific action you want your students to complete/reflect upon during the week. Posing a driving question on Monday such as: How will you show kindness this week? or Which expected behavior will you focus on this week? sets students off on a mission to be purposeful in their actions throughout the week. This is a great way to build community, reinforce expectations and incorporate social emotional learning on a weekly basis.
Behavior Scale Check-In Charts includes mini 3″ x 3″ versions of the behavior scale to place on students’ desks for more individualized behavior intervention. This can be used for all students or a specific group of students. There are many options to choose from and is meant to provide more support for students who may need it. The resource pictured here is a bundle of the check-in charts and the Weekly Behavior Focus Meetings.
FREEBIE: Editable Effort and Behavior Coupons Download this freebie as a way to motivate students to give their best effort! I reward them with an ice cream party where the amount of stickers on their chart equate to the number of toppings they can choose, but you can turn this into any type of reward system you want!
First Day & Open House Editable Slideshow set clear expectations from day one and have everything you need in one place for the first day/week of school and Open House! I use this slideshow every year for both my students and my parents. The newest version includes a Teacher Workbook meant to help you think of everything you need to plan for the year ahead!
I hope you’ve found some valuable information about behavior management in this post! Thanks for hanging out with me here! Follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas and inspiration and check out my Pinterest for all things elementary education!