Managing Individual Behavior

Documenting and Tracking Behavior Problems

To this point of the classroom management module, the focus has been on establishing a positive, safe, and supportive classroom environment where learning and social development are the focus; where students understand the expectations and procedures of the classroom; where students understand the positive reinforcement plan; and where students recognize that there are consequences for inappropriate behavior. For some students who may not respond positively to the classroom plan and behavior support plans, teachers must become more systematic in interventions and more specific in documentation to secure additional support from the school or the district.

Teachers might ask themselves the following questions in documenting individualized classroom plans for students:

  • What behaviors have been addressed and what were the results?
  • What behaviors continue as a concern?
  • What behaviors are to be targeted?
  • Are the goals of the plan realistic?
  • Is behavior seen by multiple sources?
  • Is behavior related to a physical or medical problem?
  • Does the student want to change behavior?
  • Has an emergency or critical situation occurred?
  • Does the teacher have control of the goals, antecedent behavior and consequences? (Martella et al., 2003).

Data collection begins the first day of school as the teacher creates individual folders for all students. Folders serve as a central location for information about each student. These folders become valuable resources helping to paint a picture about the students, their abilities and behavior. Items for the folders may vary from student to student, but teachers usually store the following information:

  • The signed copy of the parent letter explaining the classroom management plan that includes the expectations, positive reinforcements to be employed, and consequences.
  • The "interest finder" completed by students on the first day.
  • Parent volunteer information.
  • Brief notes on parent/teacher conversations.
  • Notes on phone calls to and from parent/guardian.
  • Notes from the teacher to the parents/guardians.
  • Notes from parent/guardian to the teacher.
  • Work samples representing students' work in different subject areas.
  • Notes from other teachers.
  • Scheduled classroom plan reports.
  • Notes on conferences with individual students.
  • Individual behavior plans and special adaptations of the classroom plan.
  • Other information that is appropriate.

Unless the teacher tracks behavior and interventions, there is no way to determine techniques that have been effective and others that have not been successful. The teacher may want to create a tracking system to document behavior which has the following characteristics: Keep the tracking system simple and easy to maintain and organize the system by class or by individual student depending on the preference of the teacher. This tracking system may be maintained on a data base or in handwritten form. An example could include:

Behavior Documentation
Student (may identify by name, student number, or initials) Date Behavior Expectation Violated Consequence
MR 3/26/2008 Disrespect to teacher Expectation 1 Conference after class
#18 4/26/2008 Hitting another student Expectation 1 Detention after school 4.30.2008
Parent notified through phone call – message on answering machine – no call-back by parent

As individual student behaviors start to identify the need for more intervention, some teachers start a chart by student in addition to class listings. That chart might be constructed as:

Individual Student Chart
Date Behavior Expectation Violated Action or Consequence
8/19/2009 Inappropriate Language Expectation 1 Conference with student – Discussed Expectation 1
8/26/2009 Using inappropriate behavior Expectation 1 Conference and parent phone call-message

As problems are documented, the teacher is establishing a history of antecedent behavior, parent/guardian contact, and interventions that may further document problems if the unacceptable behavior continues. Another form of documentation that may be helpful to the teacher and the student, especially if the behavior is repetitive, is to create a "tally sheet". It is easier to discuss a problem with parents and behavior specialists when teachers can document numbers and time frames instead of generalized states of behavior. For example, when a teacher says that a student used inappropriate language eleven times during a specific school day, it may be more definitive than saying that students use inappropriate language "a lot". Including the time of day when most inappropriate behaviors occur can provide insight into medication schedules, class subject, and other factors that affect behavior. Choose two or three categories that would make the most difference to the student or to the class and document in simple tally marks:

Frequency Chart
Behavior Focus Date A.M. P.M. Comments
Off task 09/22/2008 III IIII Student slept, looked outside, talked to others
Disrespectful to teacher 09/22/2008 III Called teacher a name, said "Shut up", refused to follow directions

Documenting behavior may seem to be too burdensome or time-consuming, but it is a necessary tool in addressing behavior concerns and securing necessary assistance if behavior concerns continue to affect the student or the classroom. Usually, extensive documentation involves only one or two students in a classroom. Analyzing this data provides valuable information for school committees, administrators, behavior specialists, and others who may be involved in providing intervention, support, and assistance in addressing on-going problems.

One caution for teachers involves being too observant of students identified as a "behavior problem" while allowing "good" students to avoid detection for the same infraction. All students deserve a chance to be successful each day.

Documentation strategies discussed in this plan are simple ways for the classroom teacher to document behavior prior to involving specialists in official behavior plans and structured interventions discussed in Part II of the classroom behavior plan. Documentation provides a view of student behavior, a timeline of interventions, successful interventions, and failed attempts. It provides information about parent contact and involvement and provides support for continued efforts in improving behavior.


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