In a supportive, inclusive learning environment, all students are valued members of a welcoming and responsive learning community that the teacher proactively cultivates. The foundations of creating a classroom climate conducive to inclusive practices are building a collaborative classroom community, establishing consistent routines and praise, and teaching students to cultivate a growth mindset.

Appropriate behavioral supports in the classroom promote the learning and academic achievement of all students, including students with disabilities and those with the most intensive needs. The best way to prevent and manage behavior problems in the classroom is with engaging instruction (technology integration, options for choice and inclusion of student's interest) and positive, proactive behavioral strategies, supports and interventions.

Behavioral expectations should be visible so students can self-monitor and track success, positively reinforced in a consistent manner and tailored to specific and targeted student behavioral needs. Classwide systems work best when students have the opportunity to be engaged in the creation of the system and have choice and ownership of the rewards.

Fun behavior management strategy: Teacher vs. Student

Teacher vs. Student is an effective proactive and low-prep behavior management strategy that motivates even the most reluctant of students. The strategy positively reinforces the desired behavior.

It works like this:

  • Use your class rules as a foundation, or specifically target a certain behavior — i.e., being a good friend or starting the warmup without prompting.
  • Write the rule with an image (if possible) near the point tally as a visual cue.
  • When the students are following the rules, they get a point.
  • When the students are not following the rules, the teacher gets a point.

At the end of the designated time period, the winner earns some special privilege. When the teacher wins, then the students do not earn the privilege. Tangible rewards such as PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) tokens or a 30-second dance party may work well. After some time, the sheer joy of winning might be enough for your children.

The first few times you play, make sure your students win. You will get immediate buy-in. If they access the reinforcer and experience success, they will be invested the next time you play.

When the students get a point for following the rules, make sure to comment on what they are doing that earned the point. This will help further reinforce this desired behavior i.e., "I love how Andrew is taking turns so nicely with Grace."

Get into it! If you don't, neither will they.

Adaptations: Have two or more designated times to identify the winner, for example, halfway through the lesson and after the lesson. Offer incentives such as bonus points i.e., earn double points if every group is exhibiting the desired behavior.

Websites and resources to support behavior change

Class Dojo is a free digital tool that has helped many elementary teachers build a positive classroom culture. Using Class Dojo, teachers can encourage and provide immediate positive feedback to students on any skill, like "working hard" and "teamwork."

Teachers can communicate with parents by sharing photos, videos and announcements. Students can add their classwork easily to their own digital portfolios for their parents to see. Be sure to secure parental consent before enrolling students in Class Dojo.

Intervention Central has hundreds of evidenced-based strategies for academic and behavioral interventions. One of my favorite resources is the Intervention Central Self-Check Behavior Checklist Maker. This free application that allows teachers to quickly create checklists that students can use to monitor their behavior in the classroom. Students who track their own behaviors gain greater control over those behaviors. is a comprehensive and easy-to-use tier 1 through tier 3 PBIS tool and resource that includes data tracking forms and links to behavioral strategies. At the click of button based on various behaviors, PBIS world offers links to hundreds of interventions, supports, resources and data collection tools, all of which are organized into the tiers.

It is important that teachers plan for and provide behavioral strategies for all students. The SWIFT Multi-Tiered System of Support Guide on Inclusive Behavior Practices provides research-based, systemwide practices of data-based decision making to meet the academic and behavior needs of all students.

This video provides a quick summary of the components of inclusive behavior instruction. The following video is a more comprehensive version that provides planning resources for Tier II behavior intervention teams.

Remember, a child's behavior communicates a message; our students' behaviors are not intentionally enacted to offend us. Moreover, it is our privilege to support students in achieving appropriate and positive behaviors.