Disruptive behavior in the classroom is one of the most difficult situations for teachers and students to deal with. An important component of the student support process is the development of positive behavior plans for students who present behavioral challenges that disrupt the class or isolate the student from peers. At least one team member must have expertise in developing behavioral interventions for students with behavioral or emotional challenges. We are assuming that your team has a person with experience working with students with behavioral challenges who can lead the team through the activities required to develop a positive behavior plan. If your team does not have a member with expertise in this area, add such a team member before attempting to develop a behavior plan for a student. A poorly constructed plan or a plan that is implemented inconsistently or incorrectly can make the problem worse instead of better! The information presented in the curriculum is not sufficient for a team without such expertise to do an adequate job in this area.

All behavior is meaningful and serves to communicate needs. We all use behaviors that meet our needs and stop using behaviors that do not. Most students use hand raising, for example, to communicate a need for attention. When waiting with hand up consistently gets attention, students learn that hand raising meets their need for attention. Some students learn that speaking out in class gains them more attention than hand raising does. When their talking out is attended to their need is met and they are likely to speak out again. The more this happens the less time will be spent waiting with “hand up” and the more time spent speaking out since speaking out works and “raised hand” does not work as well.
Our experience working with teams on addressing behavior issues has taught us that it is helpful to categorize the needs that behavior communicates into the following areas:

Attention: The behavior serves the need to draw attention away from others and to oneself.
Avoidance/Escape: The behavior serves the need to end an event or activity that the student does not like or to avoid an event.
Control: The behavior serves the need to be in control of events. Revenge: The behavior serves the need to punish others for something that was done to the student.
Self-Regulation/Coping: The behavior serves the need to regulate feelings (e.g., boredom, embarrassment, anger, fear, anxiety), or energy levels.
Play: The behavior serves the need to have fun.

Inappropriate behaviors such as speaking out in class can serve to communicate any of the needs listed above. For example, students might speak out in class:
1. For teacher or peer attention;
2. To escape from or avoid an unpleasant situation (student knows he will be asked to leave class for speaking out);
3. For revenge (student trying to disrupt the teacher’s class to get back at the teacher for a real or imagined grievance);
4. As a self-regulation strategy (student speaks out because he cannot wait for more than a few seconds or he becomes very anxious); or
5. For play (it is fun to watch the teacher get upset).

Until we analyze the behavior and the situations in which it occurs, we do not know the need the behavior communicates, but we do know that it is communicating a need and it works for the student. The Supportive Classroom curriculum includes a process, forms and procedures for helping a team develop positive behavioral plans for students who present challenging behaviors.