By: Megan Poell
The main component of implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) within a school involves creating common expectations. At Westside Community Schools, PBIS teams have defined expectations as the 3 Bs: Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible. PBIS teams and school staff have created a behavior matrix to outline what it means and what it looks like to be safe, respectful, and responsible in various school-wide environments (e.g. hallway, lunchroom, playground). After a school community has established and defined expectations, it is essential that they are directly taught to all students. A common practice, aligned with best practices in implementing PBIS, is teaching a weekly school-wide expectation or social skill of the week. PBIS Teams across the district create a weekly calendar to lay out the teaching timeline. Below are some tips for why and how to teach this skill of the week.
Preparing Students to Be Citizens
Everyday students arrive at our schools with a variety of experiences and exposure to behavioral norms. Some students have not learned the basic social skills needed to be successful in a mainstream school environment. All students benefit from being taught social skills. Students should not have to guess or figure out unwritten rules. Students need to have the opportunity to learn appropriate responses to emotional situations such as disagreeing with a friend, being told no by a teacher, or playing on a team. They need to know alternatives to name calling, hitting, kicking, or throwing a fit. Students need to know how to comply with a direction and take feedback from adults.
Make It Meaningful For Your Students
Students at all ages need to be directly taught and re-taught expectations (Let’s face it, many adults could too). Teachers must recognize the strengths and needs for their students and adapt the lesson plans accordingly. Younger students will have a harder time discussing why these skills benefit them, but always love to learn through play and song. Older students may have heard the verbiage or steps 100 times, but need a deeper rationale or focus to develop skills. It may also require a deeper look into motivation. Most students, young and old, enjoy getting a chance to role play or act it out in a skit. Overall, know your audience and adjust accordingly.
Vary How You Teach the Expectation/Social Skill
There are a variety of options for teaching skills and expectations. Examples include role-playing, videos, games, lecture, skits, and songs. All lessons should include examples and non-examples of the expected behavior and a rationale for why the skill is important. Social Skills are best taught by teaching the steps, modeling the steps, having the students role play, and providing feedback. Additional tips include teaching expectations in the environment where the behavior is expected and include time for students to practice. Be cautious with non-examples. Only teachers should model non-examples because we do not want students practicing how not to behave. Another idea is to focus on one component of an expectation that you notice students need. For example, instead of teaching all of the expectations under the lunchroom umbrella, a lesson may focus on reviewing and practicing how to be responsible when cleaning up your area at the end of lunch.
Weekly Lesson Should Be Dependent on Data
Teams should review the calendar and adjust based on their school’s data. If a majority of office referrals are occurring in the hallway, as a school, this should become an area of focus. Teachers should review their classroom data and behaviors and make classroom specific decisions about what needs to be taught and reviewed. Also, ask staff members that work with students or supervise students in the various areas of the school. What do recess teachers say is an area of focus for your students on the playground? How about cafeteria staff?
To a large extent, teaching social skills and expectations follow the same strategies for teaching reading, math, anatomy, music, etc. Teachers should determine the best time to teach each expectation, always model the expected behaviors, use consistent language, re-teach the skill when it is not occurring, and provide positive feedback when expectations are exhibited.