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A 3-Minute, 5-Question Strategy to Transform Misbehavior

Hands-down the BEST PD I have ever taken was a 30-hour course on Positive Behavior Facilitation.

PBF is a course based on a book written by Dr. Edna Olive called, aptly, Positive Behavior Facilitation (you can grab your copy here).

Positive Behavior Facilitation was the first concrete set of strategies I’d ever seen in addressing behavior from a holistic approach.

It went beyond behavior management (aka, changing student behavior within your classroom) to enact behavior change (helping students carry the change in their behavior even outside your classroom).

How do you do it?

Well. That’s a big question.

It took an entire 30-hour course and reading a book for me to get to a decent level of understanding, so I’d definitely recommend the book and taking a PBF course if it sounds up your alley.

But I CAN give you concrete, starter strategy now.

That strategy has to do with what to say to a student after they’ve misbehaved. You can download a paper-copy Reset Reflection here to help springboard these conversations, too.

A Strategy that Fosters Behavior CHANGE

Before PBF, my conferences with a student that just misbehaved was usually something to the effect of, “Don’t do that, or I’ll enact XYZ punishment.”

As you can imagine, this accomplished virtually nothing.

It did nothing to address the root of the behavior, and usually ended up damaging my relationship with the student to boot. Not only that, but the behavior would usually soon repeat.

No solutions. Only further damage.

After PBF, my conferences with students focused instead on helping the student connect their thoughts and emotions to their behavior, and then growing their tools for getting what they need and want in the future.

Behavior management that grows social-emotional skills? What is this magic sauce??

The PBF-style conferences are simple, but incredibly effective.

They helped me grow trust with students I butted heads with the most, and to help the student find lasting behavior solutions.

5 Questions to Foster Behavior CHANGE:

  1. What happened?
    1. Listen to account from student, then paraphrase what they said to help de-escalate – “So you were angry that Maria bumped into you on the way in.”
  2. What did you want to happen, or wished had happened?
    1. Listen then paraphrase the student: “You wanted to walk into the classroom without someone bumping into you.” Validation. Ah. Can’t you feel the student’s relief already?
  3. What did you do to try to make that happen?
    1. This helps the student connect their emotions and wants to their behaviors
  4. Did it work? Did you get what you wanted?
    1. Obviously usually the answer is no, since rarely students wanted to be out in the hallway in trouble with the teacher.
  5. Help student brainstorm other solutions:
    1. “If something like this happens in the future, where you feel [what student said] because [what student said] happened, what other actions might you be able to take to help you achieve [what student said]?

Notice, again, how this conversation goes way beyond just telling the student “Shoving Maria was inappropriate. You’re in big trouble, kid.”

3-minute, 5-question strategy to transform misbehavior in your classroom. #classroommanagement #pbf #newteachers #studentbehavior #middleschoolteacher #highschoolteacher

The questions help students analyze how their actions affected themselves and their own needs–which is much more likely to lead to lasting change, because it actually deals with the root of the behavior.

Because let’s be real. Behaviors are not random. They are connected to our emotional experiences and the stories we tell ourselves.

Should you still provide the consequence outlined in your discipline plan for this?


In fact, it could probably be an illustrative point in your discussion about how the student’s behavior did not get them what they wanted.

It’s important for students to face clear, fair, pre-defined consequences for their actions in order to learn, but it’s just as important for us, as teachers, to help grow students’ tools in navigating their emotions and behavior.

We need help as adults working through our own thought-emotion-behavior processes (PBF talks about this, too) (also reason #810345 why teacher self-care is so important), so why wouldn’t our students need help with theirs?

If you’re worried about having enough time during class to have these individual conversations–especially in a class where there are multiple students who regularly need to have them–try using this Reset Reflection Sheet along with it.

I’ve used it to have students silently reflect before having a conversation with me. It’s perfect when you need students to take a second to regroup, as well as a way to have a deeper conversation once you do have a chance to speak with them.

Have you ever had a behavior-change conference with your students? I’d love to hear your approach and tips below!


PS: Want to hear more about this behavior change strategy, and more like it? I go much more in depth in both my ReBoot Camp: Midyear Workshop for New Teachers and my Ultimate New Teacher Summer Workshop.

If you liked this, you’d may also be interested in:

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