A Behavior Modification Plan for Elementary Students

Behavior Modification Plan for Elementary Students
By Barbara Hennessy

In Canada, every student has the right to a successful education. As Educators we work towards implementing creative, effective teaching strategies and a good discipline plan to create the right climate for children to learn.
The WHISTLE approach is a discipline plan I developed over the years, which has been successful for me at the elementary level. WHISTLE came about several years ago in my attempts to get my students attention. I began by using the sound of a train whistle, simultaneously calling, “All aboard!” Students were then expected to stop what they were doing and focus their attention on me. I received a positive response from my students once they were made aware of the expectation. Later, I developed a plan of action for the acronym WHISTLE (Win, Humor, Implement, Students, Teachers, Life-long learners, Educate). Described below is my approach to behaviour modification in the classroom.


Win: At the start of every year, establish a setting for the classroom so that any student-teacher confrontations will always be won by you, the teacher. Avoid power struggles: let your students know you are the “boss” at the start of the year. This way, students will not question your authority or challenge the rules of your class.

Humour: Often times it is important to have a good sense of humor in the classroom. Try using accents for example; I have often used my Irish, Italian accent when attempting to get my students attention. If a child is misbehaving, use one of your accents instead of raising your voice or getting angry. The student will stop misbehaving and begin working within your guidelines. In addition to your “accents,” use other forms of humor such as jokes, cartoons, and funny situations to open your lessons. Students will feel more comfortable around you, and in your classroom.

Implement: Clear and concise rules and consequences should be implemented at the start of the year. These rules and consequences can change throughout the year to suit the needs of the school and or classroom. The rules should be short and clear. Example rules:
• Arrive on time with all materials
• Follow directions immediately
• Work during all work times
• Keep hands, feet and objects to yourself

• Gentle verbal reminders/count, 3,2,1 knowing that nothing comes after one will indicate you mean business
• Keep a record of good and bad behaviour
• Student/Parent/School Contact
• Restitution
• Time owed/time out or detention
• Student must reflect on his/her behaviour

For more severe behaviour:
• Suspension in/out of school
• Work detail/at school
• Shortened day
• Parental supervision at school

Students: Students should know your expectations of the class. Introduce your expected rules and consequences and remind students of them consistently for up to three weeks at the start of the year. Listen to your students and develop a trusting relationship. Encourage your students to attend open house with their parents. This gives you the opportunity to meet and assess some of the “high risk” students’ family situations. It also gives you the opportunity to go over your rules with parents. Going the distance with your students often delivers the respect, for example, teachers who volunteer for the extra curricular activities.

Teachers: Teachers need to feel that they are not alone when it comes to discipline in the classroom. Some teachers believe that if they have problems in their class it might mean they are an inadequate teacher. Teachers need to have a plan in place when a student is not complying with the class rules and consequences. A teacher needs to develop, along with the administration, a referral form for misbehaving students who must be sent to the office. The referral form makes the principal aware of the situation. Teachers need support from the administration. They must feel they can approach the staff for help in dealing with certain students who are may pose problems in the classroom. Teachers must be reminded that a student who is diagnosed with a behavior exceptionality is a concern for the entire school. A plan of action should be discussed at the beginning of the year for students who might harm others. Resource teachers, principals and parents are responsible for implementing these plans.

Life-long learners: A team effort is required to ensure a curriculum is delivered that suits the needs of every student. Through interactive activities, motivation and self-esteem-building, students will come to enjoy the learning processes. Educators need to make life-long learning skills a priority and students must be given the opportunity to develop discipline, self-respect, motivation, initiative, confidence, and self-esteem. If students, regardless of age, are given these tools and the opportunity to develop them throughout their school year, they can do almost anything they set their minds too.

Educate: Administration and teachers must make the attempt to educate themselves continuously about discipline and classroom management. Administrators should allow teachers to attend classroom management workshops. Teachers should be encouraged to seek new ideas or strategies to handle discipline in their classroom. Offering a parent workshop at a school to make them aware of the behaviours that often occur in the class and how we must stop them from escalating together will garner parental support. Constantly give teachers literature on the latest updates in helping kids cope in the classroom. Encourage your teachers to take risks and try new plans of actions in their classrooms. After all, sometimes the best way for teachers to learn is through trial and error.

The following classroom management plan is based on the WHISTLE approach.

Class Rules:
• Be responsible * Arrive on time with all materials
• Always try * Raise your hand to speak
• Cooperate * Follow directions
• Treat everyone with respect * Stay on task during work times

All Aboard guidelines for a great ride:

Teaching Expectations: ( for students)
• Teaching students how to handle transitions between activities and lessons
• Teaching students how rules relate to each type of classroom activity
• Conducting lessons on work period strategies
• Teaching and reviewing grading procedures using your rubrics

• Frequently move around the room keeping track of their behavior, using a checklist. (Giving marks for good behavior and demerits for inappropriate behaviors).
• Weekly printouts given to each student on current grades and missing assignments, conference with students if necessary
* Implement a weekly record chart, to keep track of behaviors that appear to be severe enough to warrant administration support.

Rewards in class:
• Verbal Feedback/Praise
• Cooperative group work( reward with bonus bucks/popcorn to groups earning the most points for working cooperatively.
• Movie pass/ day at the movies (During class time?) yes!
• Extra-curricular activity time

Individual rewards:
• Verbal Praise/handshake/pat on the back
• Written feedback/notes/certificates/thank you notes
• Free passes/computer/library/homework/recess pass to play chess
• Parent feedback/phone call/note
• Teacher or Prinicpal assistant for the day

• Verbal reprimand
• Proximity management (teacher stays close the students to eliminate any disruption
• Keep a record of the behavior
• Time owed after class/or in class
• Parental contacts
• Restitution (apology for doing harm to someone, making it up to them by doing something good)
• Principal Notification
• Disciplinary Referral ( refer the child to the administration for further consequences and or school board support.

A discipline plan of this nature only works when both students and teachers are “on board.” The setting should be structured with clear, firm limits. Ensuring that consistency of these expectations remains ongoing keeping in mind a sense of humor.

3 Replies to “A Behavior Modification Plan for Elementary Students”

  1. How can i encourage a student to stay in his seat in class. My student has severe ADHD and never sits in his seat.

  2. I like some of your strategies, but as a teacher, and a Canadian, teaching equity and respecting diversity doesn’t seem to be a consideration for you as you think “using accents” is humorous. If a student comes across a person who speaks differently from them, you have taught them that that person should be laughed at, and likely not taken seriously. Thanks a bunch, you just set us back a couple of decades!

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