Is there a child at your site who struggles to conform within the general classroom structure?
The child who “doesn’t qualify” for DOE mandated therapy but is not thriving or growing appropriately either?
Or perhaps a child who does receive services or will receive services, but requires more support within the classroom setting?
Please share this with your director and teachers…and parents…. It’s a resource worth exploring.
Designing Personal Improvement Plans
I prefer the term ‘Personal Improvement Plan’ to the more traditional ‘Individual Behavior Plan’, despite its unfortunate acronym, PIP. That’s because my purpose is more focused on helping the child become a better person than on modifying his behavior. The PIP is designed to help the child reflect on her actions and connect them to logical consequences (and motivating rewards if needed). It is typically a contract or evaluation that is created in conjunction with the child and parent. Here are guidelines to help you design a plan that meets individual student needs, followed by examples of plans that I have successfully used with children:
Choose ONE specific area you want the student to improve upon. Some kids have so many disruptive behaviors that there’s no way you can address everything at one time. Choose one behavior that most interferes with learning, e.g., calling out, playing around in the desk instead of listening to the teacher, talking back, or arguing and fighting with peers. As you see improvements, you can add other criteria. The idea is to break down the task of being a responsible student into small, manageable steps so the child can experience success and build self-confidence.
Explain the need for a plan to the child. Form an idea about what you want to do, and then speak to the child about it. You could say, “I know how hard it is for you to control yourself when you get angry. I want to help you. I’m thinking of a plan that would have us talk about your choices at the end of every day. I have a paper that looks like this, and what will happen is, I’ll give it to you each day during dismissal. We’ll discuss your decisions and then I’ll send the paper home for you to look at with mom. Do you think it would be helpful for you to talk about your behavior with me? Do you think that showing mom will help you? I’d like to bring her in so we can decide on this together. We’ll meet with her tomorrow morning, and then start the plan right away. Does that sound like it will work? I’m proud of you for wanting to do the right thing, and I feel good about our plan. If we need to change anything later on, we’ll talk about it, but let’s give this a shot. I believe in you.”
Involve the child and parent in setting up the plan. When you meet with the parent, leave things open-ended for his/her feedback, and emphasize that the plan’s purpose is to provide the support the child needs to be successful. Present the information in a nonchalant way that clearly communicates you don’t think the child is ‘bad’ and needs ‘punishment’. Show enthusiasm and optimism about the entire process, and let both the parent and child know you are confident that you will all be able to work together and find a way to help the child be the best s/he can be.
Make sure the rewards and consequences are effective for the particular student. Not all PIPs have built-in rewards or consequences, because sometimes the child just needs verbal accountability and attention. If you feel that the plan will work better with incentives, by all means discuss those with the child and parent. To achieve the optimal results, you should not determine the reinforcements on your own. Some kids will work hard for privileges in the classroom (extra computer time) or to avoid consequences (having to sit alone). If you have a very supportive parent whom you know will follow through consistently at home, you can add rewards/consequences for there as well (extra video game time, or loss of it). If the parent wants to reinforce the plan at home but you have reason to believe that this will not be enough for the child, or the parent won’t follow through effectively, provide classroom reinforcements as well.
This chapter continues in The Cornerstone book and eBook!
*5 student responses to correction, and how the teacher should enforce consequences for each response type
*Being consistent while differentiating for students’ needs: handling jealously by getting kids to recognize and accept that your job is to be equitable, NOT fair
*The secrets of low-key rule enforcement and the importance of revealing your reasoning
*2 critical strategies for dealing with violent, defiant, and emotionally unstable children
*How to avoid power struggles with a calm, unemotional demeanor and through replacing repeated demands with expectation reminders
*What to do in a stand-off with a defiant child: step by step directives on what to say and do in the most extreme and/or violent encounters
*4 examples of personal improvement (individual behavior modification) plans that work with real kids (read their before and after stories!)
Free Printables Referenced in the Book and Webinar
These are printable Personal Improvement Plans (PIPs)/Individual Behavior Plans that succeeded with actual children I’ve taught. The documents are in Word so you can modify them for your students. Full explanations of how each behavior agreement was implemented can be found in The Cornerstone book and eBook and also in the Webinar.
“Andre”: The devious smart-aleck who could care less about school
“Claire”: The emotionally disturbed child who wants to succeed
“Elijah”: The kid with a good heart who just doesn’t get it
Kylie (bonus): Th