Behavior Modification Techniques in the Classroom

Behavior modification techniques include a series of teacher-implemented activities and actions aimed at improving classroom behavior. Encouraged behaviors might include staying seated, requesting permission to talk, remaining on task, proper care of classroom books and tools, and treating other students with respect. Discouraged behaviors might include loud or disruptive behavior, wandering around the classroom and not completing assignments. Melissa Standridge from the University of Georgia reminds teachers that behavioral modification works because students work for positive response and for approval from individuals they admire.

Teachers use multiple formats to modify classroom behavior. (Image: Digital Vision./DigitalVision/Getty Images)

Preventative Strategies

Consider seating an easily distracted child closer to the teacher to help her stay on track. Give a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder opportunities before class starts to move books or re-arrange desks in order to help expend excess energy. Standridge calls this, “Development of a positive, nurturing environment (by removing negative stimuli from the learning environment).”

Teaching Strategies

Provide students with guidance and information to teach them the correct behavior required. Use stories and role-playing to teach actions such as asking permission to leave a seat, forming a line, walking to the lunchroom, sitting quietly and keeping hands to one's self. Both regular students and those with disabilities might need more than oral directions in order to understand how you expect them to behave in your classroom. An article in LD Online, a website dedicated to learning disabilities, titled Behavior Modification in the Classroom, includes values clarification activities, active listening, and communication training for students and teachers, as part of the formula for teaching behavior modification techniques.

Positive Reinforcement Strategies

When you catch students following directions and doing things correctly, compliment them. Examples of positive reinforcement, as suggested in "Behavior Modification in the Classroom" by N. Mather and Sam Goldstein, include a hug or extra playtime for kindergartners, help with handing out papers or early departure for lunch for middle school students or extra computer time or self-creation of a class quiz for senior high students. Mather and Goldstein say more than one form of positive reinforcement might be required for a single child. For example, a child might need one compliment to remain seated in his chair and another to encourage working while seated.

Negative Reinforcement Strategies

When a student acts the same after deploying preventative, teaching and positive reinforcement strategies, negative reinforcement strategies might be required. Examples of negative reinforcement strategies include a time out, seating away from the rest of the class, removal of playtime privileges, referral to the principal, a note home to parents or an oral reprimand.

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