Positive Behavior Support Creates a More Effective Learning Environment
Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a process for creating a safer and more effective environment for learning. This systems approach is designed to promote positive student behavior through direct instruction and recognition. The targeted locations are non-structured areas such as hallways, restrooms, cafeterias, and playgrounds. School-wide procedures and expectations are adopted to ensure consistency and clarity of expectations in non-classroom locations. Posters are created to provide visuals for the students in those areas. Teachers implement specific lesson plans and teach specific behavioral expectations to their students that are reinforced regularly through student recognition that is targeted and specific.
In the Middlesex Borough School District, located in Middlesex County NJ, students in the elementary grades are taking part in this important initiative. Over the past few years, the PBS program has expanded to include four schools and all students in grades K-5. The PBS program is tailored to each school population, but all schools follow the basic structure that is supported in research.
In the primary schools, the program is spearheaded by the principal but includes the support of the guidance counselors who are responsible for the Character Education curriculum. There are three primary schools and one middle school in the district, each with a different way of implementing PBS, but all consistently reinforcing the message, proactively monitoring student behavior, and publicly praising desired behaviors with specific feedback, while privately conferencing with students if needed.
The PBS and Character Education program at Hazelwood Elementary School includes all staff and its success is contingent upon the distribution of “Husky Paw Prints” for specific behaviors in specific places such as morning line-up, lunch, structured play, and hallway conduct. Each faculty and staff member is expected to distribute Paw Prints randomly to students who are “caught doing the right thing” and showing exemplary judgment. Staff follows the 5x5 Rule: Classroom teachers spend five minutes a day, five times a week to discuss the character trait of the month. Teachers are creative in how they tie the message into their daily teaching and routines. Weekly, during morning announcements, a morning quote is read. The quote is read every day of that week to reinforce a specific positive behavior.
Every Wednesday the Paw Prints are collected and counted by students. On Friday afternoon during lunch, an announcement is made to tell the students the number of Paw Prints collected for the week and the number of Paw Prints collected to date. Ten Paw Prints are selected at random to be posted on the Husky Wall of Honor! The class that earns the most Paw Prints during the month receives an extra 15 minutes of Structured Play. The class that earns the most Paw Prints for the year has a pizza party at the end of the school year. School goals are set in September and January. Currently, the goal is to earn 600 Paw Prints by Holiday Break and 1,200 Paw Prints by the last day of school.
At Parker Elementary School, the staff has thus far created school-wide expectations for the playground and cafeteria. Students demonstrating the expectations within the targeted locations receive a “Penguin Bill.” Every Friday, 10 names are drawn from the collected “bills” from each grade level and those students receive a prize from the treasure chest. Expectations have been created for the bathrooms, classrooms, and hallways for the coming school year. Every classroom teacher manages and documents student behavior through Class Dojo, which is a communication tool to inform parents as well. Students will also earn points for meeting the classroom expectations beginning this year.
At Watchung Elementary School, the principal and school counselor review the Six Pillars of Character with the students, staff and parents at the start of the school year. Last year a school-wide theme around the "Colors of Character" was developed using a crayon visual. Each staff member and student made a crayon box at the beginning of the school year. Each month, one of the pillars of character was the focus for class discussions and students had the opportunity to earn a "crayon" with their name on it. The paper crayons were displayed in the main hallway outside of the principal’s office and were added to throughout the year. The students focused on "doing the right thing when no one is watching” such as walking in the hallway, cleaning up in the cafeteria, proper bathroom behaviors, etc. The school counselor provided class lessons throughout the year that supported the PBS goals.
At Von E. Mauger Middle School, the assistant principal initiated a weekly phone call to the parent of a child who modeled the desired behavior that week which reinforced the initiative at home too. Their school theme is, "Are you ready to R.O.A.R.?" since they are the Mauger Mountain lions! The expectations are that students accept Responsibility, take Ownership, are Accountable, and display Respect. They believe these behaviors help create a productive school community, where students can learn and grow.
As a part of this initiative, students are rewarded for displaying positive behavior in the cafeteria and on the playground. They receive tickets when they are caught displaying the behaviors that are mentioned in the R.O.A.R. poster, which is displayed throughout the school. At the end of each week, all of the tickets are collected for each grade level and entered into a raffle. Students have the opportunity to win a variety of prizes.
The Middlesex School District is proud of its district-wide focus on positive behaviors. Teaching explicitly what the behavior expectations are and then continually reinforcing them has been very well received. We don’t take for granted that all students know the behaviors we expect and we have seen firsthand the impact that direct instruction and positive reinforcement has on student behavior and school spirit!