Saturday, September 3, 2011

Turning Your Classroom Rules Into Individualized Action Goals

Turning our classroom rules into individualized action goals is a classroom discipline strategy that we can use to manage troubled, anger-prone, and acting-out students. The individualized action goal should be stated in a way that guides the student in taking smaller, manageable steps toward a target behavior, ensuring that the child experiences success in reaching smaller milestones and/or in smaller increments. To individualize a classroom rule, first, select a classroom rule that matches the child’s behavior, and then, translate the rule into an individualized action goal. For example, you can translate a general classroom rule from “Keep your voices low” to the individualized goal, “I keep a low tone of voice.” Make the goal as specific as possible, and write an action plan with steps outlining:

• What the child will do

• How the child will do it (sub-steps and strategies)

• Where the child will do it

• When the plan will start, how often, and for how long

• Consequences for compliance and noncompliance

• How progress toward the goal will be measured

If you want, you can combine the individualized action goal with a behavior contract that both the child and you sign and follow. It is important that you specify in the plan what you will do to help the child reach success (for example, you will use a hand signal to remind the child to lower the volume), and that you discuss strategies that the child can use as reminders (e.g. keeping a note card on his desk with the rule visibly posted). Examples of classroom rules that we can turn into individualized action goals are (from Rief, 1993):

• I pay attention

• I control my temper

• I listen to my teacher

• I keep my hands and my feet to myself

• I raise my hand before talking

• I do my best work

• I sit appropriately on my chair

• I speak politely to others

• I lower my tone of voice

Additional guidelines for setting individualized rules and goals are

1. Give the child a mini-goal for the next (24 hours, two days, or a week). For example, “For the next two days, I will raise my hand before talking. The following consequences for reaching my goal will be in place: (a) penalty: loss of computer time, and (b) reward: three tokens.”

2. If the student does not succeed in reaching the goal, try: (a) modify the goal and try a new path or (b) select a partial goal and work on a smaller, discrete behavior at a time.

3. Set up proximal goals, that is, a target behavior that is challenging but it is not beyond the child’s current capabilities.


Reif, S.F. (1993). How to reach and teach ADD/ADHD children: Practical techniques, strategies, and interventions for helping children with attention problems and hyperactivity. West Nyack, NY: Center for Applied Research.

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Of Interest to Teachers...
Watch Your Language! Ways of Talking and Interacting with Students that Crack the Behavior Code. To preview this book on Amazon, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great piece of information. well !
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