The Art of Planned Ignoring

Categories: Behavior | Data

Planned ignoring is defined as deliberately withholding your attention from a specific target behavior. You may be thinking, Aha! I do this with my own children/significant other/grandpa, and indeed you may. We do this in an educational setting to ensure that we are giving praise to the behaviors we want to see from our students. By using positive behavioral interventions (PBIS), we pour all of our love and attention into the good. By hyping up the good and ignoring the bad, we are able to shape our students’ behaviors in a way that is uplifting. 



In order to determine whether or not planned ignoring is the interventon for you, we need to find the function of the behavior. A.K.A why is our small friend inching down the hallway like a worm or spitting in their hand repeatedly. First thing’s first, data collection is a must. Using an ABC (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence) data sheet will show what is happening before, during and after the behavior. With solid ABC data, we may discover that the function behind the behavior is indeed to gain the attention or reaction from others. If attention is what your student wants, then planned ignoring may be the tool for you.

Red Card


I’m sure many of you can relate to this scenario. You’re in the hallway with a student who is engaging in the behavior you are intentionally ignoring. The sweet 4th grade teacher from across the building walks by, and what do they do? Engage in the behavior, *palm to face*. No shade to those of you that have done it, how were you to know that I am ignoring my student on purpose. Ignoring a child is a weird concept and the opposite of what most teachers do on the day to day, so I get it.

To eliminate this occurrence, my principal and I came up with the “red card”. This way, if you are working through a behavior and wanting to ensure that bystanders know that you are practicing some good ole planned ignoring, you can flash your red card. Your colleagues will know that all is well and to act as though nothing out of the ordinary is occurring!

Replacement Behavior


If only ignoring those target behaviors was all it took. But alas, with each behavior that we ignore, we must provide a replacement behavior. This is the behavior that we want our students to engage in. If your student is screaming 2 inches away from your face because they want your attention, then we will ignore the screaming and teach the appropriate way to get our attention. Perhaps we put some visuals next to their desk so that they have the tools to communicate their basic needs. If the student is screaming, we ignore and gesture towards the visuals. As soon as the visual is appropriately used, we give attention and praise the heck out of the appropriate communication. Positive behavior interventions are a huge part of how I run my classroom (and I am sure the same goes to each of you). As I often say, we are our student’s hype (wo)men. It’s our job to encourage and reinforce all of the amazing things that they do each day. 

Reagan Strange, MSEd
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