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Big Ideas for Behavior

Each school develops three to five broad school-wide behavioral expectations that are positively stated and memorable. School-wide behavior expectations provide a common vision and language within a school. These expectations point to what to teach when it comes to social behavior. The expectations should be made visible throughout the school so that a visitor can identify the expectations within minutes of entering the school. School-wide behavioral expectations are applied in all school settings, including the classroom.

Develop Expectations

Agree upon three to five broad school-wide behavioral expectations that:

  • Are brief.
  • Use positive language (e.g., state what the students should do rather than what they should not do).
  • Focus on high standards for all students.
  • Are memorable (consider a mnemonic or using a school theme or mascot).
  • Are reflective and respectful of the cultural values of the surrounding community.

School-wide behavioral expectations should be developed with input and feedback from the staff, students, and families.

Example expectations:

  • Be Safe.
  • Be Responsible.
  • Be Respectful.

Define Expectations in a Behavioral Matrix

The school-wide behavioral expectations are then defined within each school setting in a behavioral matrix. Students need clearly defined expectations for each school setting. Applying the school-wide expectations to each setting creates a behavior matrix that allows both students and staff to know what behaviors students should display in each setting.

Within the classroom setting, teachers apply the behavioral expectations to the specific procedures and routines within their individual classrooms (e.g., transitions, arrival, whole group work, small group work).

The behavior matrix serves as the foundation for both teaching behavioral expectations and for providing feedback to students. When developing a behavioral matrix, schools determine what each of the school-wide expectations looks like within each specific setting. The behaviors are described in a concise and positive manner that tells the students what to do and does not focus on what not to do. The behavioral matrix should be developed with input from the staff, students, and families as well as informed by existing behavior data and/or observations of current behavior in each setting.

Make the Expectations Visible

The expectations should be visible throughout the school so that a visitor can identify the expectations within minutes of entering the school. This is accomplished through activities such as:

  • Creating posters of the expectations defined for each setting.
  • Including the expectations in the staff handbook.
  • Including the expectations in the school handbook and other materials sent home with students.
  • Including the expectations on the school website.
  • Using the expectations as screen savers for computers.

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