Influencing Positive Behavior
Teachers should encourage and reinforce positive behavior in the classroom so they're less likely to have to discipline negative behavior. The successful teacher will follow these three steps:
- Communicate Directions Clearly
- Use Behavior Narration
- Use Positive Reinforcement
Once classroom rules have been established, Canter believes that communication is the key to behavior management. First, the teacher must communicate directions explicitly. Similar to classroom rules, directions must make it clear to students exactly how they are expected to behave. For example, a vague direction would be: “I need everyone’s attention.” In contrast, an explicit direction would be: “I need everyone’s attention. That means your eyes are on me, there is nothing in your hand but your pencil, and no one is talking” (Assertive Discipline 58).
Canter’s next step is to use what he calls “behavior narration” (Assertive Discipline 64). Behavior narration is the practice of verbally describing the complying behaviors observed in students. The teacher tries to reduce disruptive behaviors by highlighting cooperative behaviors. Behavior narration does not compliment a student on doing what is expected, but merely notes that he or she is doing it. For example, if the teacher says, “Take out your book and immediately get to work,” the accompanying behavior narration would be, “Kyla has taken out her book and has already gotten to work” (Assertive Discipline 64). By utilizing behavior narration, the teacher can repeat directions in a positive, non-nagging manner and help motivate students to get on task.
A final aspect is positive reinforcement of a student’s desired behavior. This may take the form of personal attention, special awards, or even taking the time to make a quick phone call or send an email to let the parent know how well the student is doing (Assertive Discipline 27). Alternatively, a student might be allowed a "special privilege" such as being the first in line (for an elementary student) or being the first out of class (for older students) (Assertive Discipline 28).
Positive reinforcement can also work on the class-wide level. Students can earn points for the class by exhibiting positive behavior, such as working without talking or immediately following directions. The teacher will let the class know that these students are earning points for the class, which may spur other students to be recognized, too, and may lead to some students encouraging others to stop misbehaving so the whole class can earn more points. The class points can lead to a class reward such as an extra recess or a special treat (Assertive Discipline 29 - 31).