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Friday, April 6, 2012

Improving Children's Compliance-Part 3: Using Prompts

Teachers can use prompts to remind students of the classroom rules. Silent (gestures) or verbal (words and phrases) prompting reminds a child or the class either to begin a behavior that the teacher wants or to stop a behavior that the teacher does not want. The goal in prompting children is to increase the probability that the behavior that we want is the one that is going to happen. Prompts are always delivered in a friendly way, and we should restrain from showing any sign of anger, frustration, or impatience. In one sentence, with a prompt, we remind children of the rule or behavior that they have forgotten. When used this way, the prompt functions as a reactive measure, that is, we give the reminder in response to the child’s behavior, or after the unwanted behavior. Some examples of reactive prompts are:
·        Gregory, what is the rule about _____?
·        Remember Lisa, we agreed that there will be no chewing gum in the classroom.
·        Brenda, what is the rule when we go to the listening center?
·        Drake, what are you doing? (Implying that Drake is doing something wrong.)
·        Nancy, can you tell the class what we discussed yesterday about wearing caps in school?
Although they were given in reaction to an unwanted behavior or reactively, most of the examples above can also be delivered in anticipation of the behavior or proactively. In a proactive prompt, we remind the child or the class before the unwanted behavior happens. Some examples:
·        Alexis, what do we do at 9 AM?
·        Lunch in five minutes.
·        Gregory, what is the rule about _____?
·        Frankie, what is the rule when we are in the library?
·        Casey, remind the class where do we hang our coats and book bags.
·        Ruben, what do we do after silent reading?
See the similarities? Turning a reactive intervention into proactive discipline is as simple as anticipating when a problem behavior happens, and a few seconds before, prompting and reviewing the expectation of acceptable classroom behavior with the class. While the teacher is the one prompting, the teacher, an individual child, or even the whole class can review the rule or standard. Most importantly, by consistently giving prompts and reminders, teachers can set up a behavior management system that effectively targets and reduces the occurrence of those behaviors that students are having most difficulty complying with.
Sometimes a one-word prompting will do the work, for example, saying “Book” (Open your book), “Toy” (Put away the toy), or “Cut” (Stop talking). On different occasions, a silent or nonverbal signal will send the message. Signals like frowning, coughing, or switching the lights are common in the classroom, but for less common signals, it is best if we explain in advance what the signal means, and then, we use the signal consistently. For example:
·        Tapping the head: Think before you talk
·        Finger on lips: Be quiet
·        Finger scissors: Cut, stop what you are doing, or stop talking
·        Hand palm down and lowered by degrees: Lower your voices
·        Tapping a student’s desk: Back to work
When teachers use more prompts and fewer reprimands, we avoid identifying the same children as repeated offenders or “troublemakers.” In the following example, the teacher is training the class to comply with the rule, “When I talk, you listen” by stating the rule repeatedly. When one student interrupts, the teacher prompts, “When I talk…” and the class completes, “…We listen!” This way, the teacher does not single out any specific child, and all students (including the “troublemakers”) internalize the rule by hearing it frequently and by saying the rule aloud (Rief, 1993).
Reference:
Rief, 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 in Education.
Related Articles:
Improving Children’s Compliance-Part 1: Kinds of Commands
To read this article, click here.
Improving Children’s Compliance-Part 2: Mastering the Alpha Command
To read this article, click here.

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All Behavior is Communication: How to Give Feedback, Criticism, and Corrections that Improve Behavior

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