What is a Classroom Behavior Management Plan?

  (Updated February 28, 2022)
Lora McKillop
Lora McKillop
Elementary school principal; M.A. in Executive Leadership, Gardner-Webb University, NC
Smiling teacher at the front of a classroom full of students with their hands raised.

What is a Behavior Management Plan?

A behavior management plan is a plan that a teacher puts in place to ensure that they are prepared for students to have an optimal learning environment.

Without proper classroom management, no learning will occur even if you have the best lesson plans on the planet. A behavior management plan includes what you will implement for whole group expectations, rules, and consequences when students choose not to follow them and rewards for when they do.

It should also include small group and station expectations when working independently. You will also want to communicate what you expect from students in other areas of the school, such as the hallway, cafeteria, playground, and particular area when they are with another teacher.

Be careful when discussing your expectations for other teachers’ classrooms; you don’t want to make students feel like they should only follow your expectations when they go to art, music, etc. But it is essential to discuss with them that you want them to be respectful of that teacher, their rules, and that you will hold them accountable for their actions in those classes as well.

When Should You Use a Behavior Management Plan?

Always! This is the most important thing that you will do at the beginning of the year in your classroom. You want to take at least two weeks to review expectations, procedures, rewards, and consequences with your students every day. This seems like a lot of time, but trust me, if you do not take the time to do this, you will regret it later.

The key to a successful behavior management plan is to be consistent. If students see that you do not follow through with what you have set up, then things will unravel quickly, and you will have a chaotic environment that is very hard to gain back control of.

Too many teachers confuse being lackadaisical with their behavior management and being kind and loving toward their students. This is not the same thing! You can be kind and loving toward your students and still hold them accountable for their behavior.

If you also spend time building relationships with your students at the beginning of the year, they will know that you care about them but still expect them to behave. The key here is discussing, modeling, and teaching them the right behavior.

We have to teach them the expectations because students don’t always receive that at home. We can’t punish a student for misbehaving if we haven’t taught them how we want them to behave in the first place. Have honest conversations with your kids and continuously model behavior for how to treat others.

How to Write an Effective Behavior Management Plan for Your Classroom

An effective behavior management plan should start with classroom rules and expectations. You will want your students to have buy-in, so include them in this process. A great way to start this discussion is with a read-aloud to get them thinking, such as Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller.

Rules

It would help if you had in mind some rules you can guide your students toward as you discuss the book and ask questions. Record their thoughts on chart paper and use them to establish classroom rules. This way, students feel that they are part of the process and will be more likely to follow them. For example, for playground behavior, read them Mean Jean the Recess Queen.

You can follow the same process to establish recess rules and expectations. Once you have the classroom rules, include those in your behavior management plan. After this, it is a great idea to have students sign a behavior contract. Hang on to these! When a student begins misbehaving or has a bad day, pull out their contract and use it to have a one-on-one conference to discuss their behavior.

Rewards and Consequences

The next step in your plan should be your rewards and consequences. This can also be a class discussion, once again ensuring students feel that what you decide together is fair. Then make those visible so students know what will happen when they follow the rules and when they don’t. If your school utilizes PBIS, you can implement this and extra rewards to keep students motivated.

When establishing consequences, make sure the punishment is fair and reasonable and fits the “crime.” For example, if a student decides they don’t want to do an assignment during reading stations, then a fair and reasonable consequence is a working lunch.

Positive Relationships

Your plan should also include how you plan to establish positive relationships with students. I know it sounds silly to write this into a behavior management plan, but if you spend time thinking about how you are going to intentionally do this and write down how to make that happen, then it becomes concrete. You must be intentional about following through; I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a teacher’s relationship with a student impact their behavior—for the good and bad.

A teacher’s influence can be the best or worst thing in a child’s school experience. If you have to talk to a parent, counselor, or administrator about a child’s behavior, refrain from doing it in front of the student. You need to talk to a student about their behavior, but you should never do that in a way that will embarrass them in front of another adult.

Expectations

Your plan should also include your expectations for students when working with a small group and when they are working independently or in a collaborative learning setting. Most of your general classroom rules and expectations should apply, but you will also want to ensure you are not interrupted during your small group instruction time.

Establish a few students who can help others if they have questions and talk about when it is okay for a student to interrupt you. You can make this fun! I have seen a teacher use something such as: “If Spiderman knocks on the door, you can interrupt my small group teaching.” Most teachers use something like the 3 B’s: “Do not interrupt unless you are bleeding, barfing, or blue.” You have to make it memorable for kids! You can also wear a crown or funny headband during small group time to remind students of this particular rule.

Your plan should also include teaching kids to solve conflict, mindfulness techniques, and a calm down kit. If you aren’t sure what these are, do some research—they are great tools for students and will assist you in having a positive, healthy classroom environment.

Put your plan in writing and share it with parents at Meet the Teacher. Inform them that you will be letting the students help you make the classroom rules, and you will send those home after you establish them. Let them take home a copy of your behavior management plan so they can read it and ask questions later; this ensures they are aware of how you handle things and what they can expect for their child during the year.

Remember: building relationships, spending plenty of time teaching kids your expectations, and consistency are the three keys to making your year run smoothly!

*Updated February 2022
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