Creating Behavior Plans

Inappropriate or disruptive classroom behavior is a common strife for teachers. Knowing how to create and properly utilize behavior plans can improve the classroom atmosphere and teacher satisfaction. Behavior plans are a useful classroom management tool for students engaging in inappropriate classroom behavior. They serve to teach and reinforce positive behaviors and are a way of documenting the success of the intervention.

Common behavioral strategies for classroom teachers
  • Planned ignoring – ignoring the problem behavior to reduce negative attention seeking behaviors
  • Signal interference – having a planned signal with the student as a reminder to redirect inappropriate behavior
  • Proximity control – placing students closer to the teacher, or when the teacher comes closer to a student who is at risk of engaging in an unwanted behavior
  • Token Reinforcement Systems – Student receives a “token” when a clearly defined target behavior is performed. Tokens can be exchanged for a wide variety of reinforcers. This works well for more disruptive students. It is easily administered with checkmarks or stickers. Tokens must be given immediately after target behavior is performed and it helps enhance self control
  • Social Reinforcement- Effective use of teacher attention and praise to promote appropriate behavior – “Catch ’em being good”
  • Primary Reinforcement- Reinforcers satisfy a biological need, such as using food
  • Contingency Management – A student receives a positive outcome or reward if certain conditions are met
  • Modeling- student observes other students receiving rewards for appropriate behavior

How to Create Effective Plans
  • Describe the targeted misbehaviors and be specific
  • Obtain a baseline measure of misbehavior (frequency or duration of misbehavior, production levels)
  • Determine what causes the behavior
  • Determine what is reinforcing to a student
  • Consider additional supports that might be needed
  • Define roles of anyone involved in the intervention
  • Document everything
  • Use positive practices in creating behavior plans. Positive and caring staff, students, and parents who work together are most effective. Use positive recognition and incentives. Clear consistent class rules and consequences are important and can improve situations and prevent many problems.


Successful behavior plans require the student become motivated. A teacher must first determine what motivates the student by interviewing the student or talking to parents and other teachers. Parents may also need to be involved on the delivery of rewards. Consider creating a menu of potential reinforcers that you are willing to give, and allowing the student to choose from the menu.

Every teacher wants their students to be intrinsically motivated (reinforcement directly from performing a task). The reality is, that some students are not intrinsically motivated for a variety of reasons. Extrinsic motivators (reinforcement from outside the performance of a task) are often used to motivate a student to engage in a more appropriate behavior. Some people feel that students should not be rewarded for something “they should be doing already.” However, extrinsic motivators should be temporary. The goal is to motivate the student extrinsically until they begin to feel success and intrinsic motivation when the behavior is changed. Extrinsic motivators should be phased out slowly to best allow intrinsic reinforcement to provide the motivation.

Here is a good example of extrinsic/intrinsic motivation used correctly: A behavior plan is created for a student who does not do homework. He is initially rewarded with extra free time each night that homework is completed. After a few weeks of success, he receives a weekly reward for weeks that all homework is completed. He completed the homework for the reward initially, but grades came up. Parents were excited and quit nagging, teachers gave praise, and he began to feel proud of himself. He became intrinsically motivated and no longer needed an extrinsic motivator to be successful.

Evaluating Behavior Plans

After creating a behavior plan, it is important to evaluate the success. If you have good baseline data, it will be easy to measure the behavior again and compare. If the plan is working, gradually encourage more student independence. If it is not working, determine what is at fault, and revise and monitor closely. Behavior plans that are not consistently implemented often fail.

If difficulties continue, seek help from others. Consider a referral to a child study committee or instructional support team. Look for history of previous interventions and contact the previous teacher to see if this is an ongoing behavior and what has been tried. In extreme situations, consider revising or modifying the academic program or a class change.

All text on this page written by Erin N. King, Ed.S, NCSP, adapted from a presentation on Creating Behavior Plans, presented by Erin King, Ed.S, NCSP, April Howard, Ed.S, NCSP, and Tara Jones, Ed.S., NCSP.

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