As teachers our middle name is multi-tasker. They should put that in our credential list on our email signature. Becky Thompson MA Multi-Tasking. Actually maybe we have PhDs in multi-tasking. We are never, ever doing one thing. While you are teaching that bomb spelling lesson you are also observing your paraprofessional running a fluency station, monitoring the break area, giving points to the kids at the independent work centers, making your grocery list in your head, and counting down the minutes until you can go to the bathroom. Phew. We do it so often it is now second nature. We don’t even realize we are doing it.

Sometimes our house of cards gets knocked over. We’ve taken on too much. Many of us probably do this without realizing it because we are such professional multi-taskers. But suddenly something goes wrong and we realize it’s gotten out of hand. This happens a lot with behavior plans and managing multiple behaviors. Why does this happen in this area? Because managing behaviors is hard! It’s hard enough to manage one complex behavioral situation or student with challenging behaviors but in our field we likely have multiple students with these types of behaviors to work with. It’s hard to keep track.


This is one of my favorite quotes – “You can do anything but not everything.” It’s important to remember when it comes to tackling behaviorally challenges. You have got to prioritize. Approach the most dangerous, disruptive, and stigmatizing behaviors first. That means having to let some things go. Let him pick his nose, swear, and tear up his homework. If you are decrease aggression or self-injury, those other behaviors are something you can deal with later. Prioritize within students in your class as well. Sometimes once you are able to decrease negative behavior with one student, it can lessen the noise and commotion of the whole room and possibly in turn decrease behaviors in other students. So make a list of how you are approaching behaviors – and stick to it!

Make Sure Your Staff is On the Same Page

It takes a village! You can’t do this alone! Make sure your paraprofessionals, clinicians, and administrators are all on the same page. There is nothing worse than having security or admin step in because a situation gets escalated and they completely contradict everything you have been doing. (“Hey student who just destroyed a whole classroom, come sit in my office and eat candy and watch cartoons…..” insert angry emoji face here.) So make sure your interventions are clearly communicated. I am frequent offender of assuming people can read my brain and know what to do. And they don’t. Ever. Set aside time to talk about it. Send a weekly email update. Make a behavior board to update of any changes.

Use Token Economies and Visuals Whenever Possible

Token economies are your best friend when it comes to managing the behavior of multiple students at once because this system is built perfectly for that. Since students are getting tokens (points, slips of paper, stars, etc.) the reinforcers can change for each student. Johnny uses his points to buy iPad and Jenny uses her points to buy gummy bears. You don’t have to keep track of changing reinforcers minute to minute within the class because you are just delivering points. Also, you can differentiated what you give points for and how often you give points depending on the needs of the student. If Alice is having a hard day and you are working on building up some appropriate replacement behaviors, you are going to be loading on those points. But maybe Adam doesn’t have too many disruptive behaviors, you can give him points for academic skills and points towards increasing his ability to work independently. Check out my token economy setup kit for step by step instructions and visuals!

Visuals will also help clarify expectations to your student (and to you!). Behavior Contingency Maps are my go-to for illustrate how good choices equate to desirable consequences. They also help remind me in-situ of what each student is working towards and what the result is for inappropriate behaviors.

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