For a few years now my district has conducted “whiteboards” when we have a child demonstrating some significant behavioral issues. I honestly have no idea if our “whiteboards” are based on any specific education theories, or if they have just become a part of what we do. What I can say is that they are unbelievably helpful when I am really struggling with a student’s behavior.
A “whiteboard” basically means that we sit down as a team (this could include an entourage of specialists and parents, or simply a teacher or two) and map out what we are seeing on a whiteboard. In reality, the whiteboard is not necessary at all. A simple piece of paper will do.
Here are the steps:
1. We begin by listing the student’s disruptive or difficult behaviors. This is usually very easy to do, as these are the frustrations that led us to do this work in the first place. The key is to not get hung up here. We try to spend two or three minutes listing behaviors, and then move on.
2. Step two is to start to fill in the antecedents (what happened directly before the negative behavior(s) occurred, and the consequences (what happened in response to the behavior(s)). Our goal is to focus on the antecedents, as this really informs the student’s perspective.
When we look at consequences, we have to look deeper than “the student needed to leave the class” or “the student missed an activity.” We have to notice if the student is getting lots of attention for the behavior, or if they are avoiding things. We think about a need that the student may be trying to fill (attention, control, break, sensory input, etc).
3. Once we have spent about ten to fifteen minutes on the A, B, Cs (antecedents, behaviors, and consequences), we try to come up with a summative statement that gets at the heart of what the student is doing. We try to combine the student’s behaviors and motivation in one sentence. For example, “The student is being violent in order to gain control over situations that frighten him,” or “the student is being disruptive during work time to gain attention and avoid difficult work.”
4. Keeping this statement in mind, we begin to list things that the student needs us to teach him. This might include calming strategies, social skills, listening skills, etc. Some behaviors are simply a result of a lack of knowledge or appropriate experience. At this stage we must give the student the benefit of the doubt. It is important to take a step back and assume that the behaviors are not simply to frustrate the teacher – they are the student’s way of communicating a need.
5. Finally, we come up with a list of things we can give the student to fill their need. This might be a sensory break, a preview of a lesson before the group, a visual schedule, a break after a long work time, etc.
By the time we are working on the “teach” and “give” sections, we are in planning mode. We are coming up with strategies and interventions to help both the student, the class, and the teacher. After really considering and mapping out the behaviors, it immediately becomes easier to think of things we can do to help. And the frustration I feel as a teacher in these behavior situations always lessons.
I wanted to share this process because I just did it for the first time on paper, and realized how easy it can be to do. I always felt that it needed to be a big scheduled event, in the conference room, with a whiteboard. Really, it is something one or two teachers could sit down and talk about together. You could do it on your own for any student, although working with a colleague is wonderful in terms of developing ideas and gaining perspective on the situation. I put together the forms I use to facilitate the process, as well as a sample case to show what it might look like. (These are the photos I used throughout this post.) I am offering this FREE exclusively to my blog readers, so thanks for reading! I hope you give it a try. Please let me know if you do!
What do you do at your school when a student’s behavior seems to be out of control? Or when it is negatively impacting the functioning of your class?