Classroom Behaviour & Purpose

All behaviours – be they positive or negative –are an attempt to meet a need. People behave in a certain way in order to “get” something or someone, or create a situation. People also behave in a certain way in order to escape something or someone, or a situation. Behaviours may often be about individual attempts to control situations and/or gain power.

A person my behave in a certain way for any of the (but not limited to) following reasons:

  1. For attention;
  2. To acquire something concrete/tangible;
  3. To avoid a situation/person/pain;
  4. For sensory stimulation.

As a teacher, this is an important concept for me to understand. In every classroom there are students who for whatever reason misbehave. “Behaviour problems” disrupt the flow of any classroom; they disrupt learning. It follows then that in order for me to spend more time teaching and less time on classroom management, I have to understand the very nature of my students. If a child is constantly “misbehaving” I must try to help him/her to have as positive and progressive a learning experience as possible. This is a necessary goal for the individual child, for his/her peers, as well as for my emotional well-being and sense of self. In order to do this I must first try to understand to goal of the undesirable behaviour(s). Once I understand this, it is easier for me to approach the student, and for us to come up with a plan, and realize the desired, positive outcomes.

In order to address & manage certain negative behaviours in the classroom I have recently held to the following acronym: “FAIR”. “FAIR” is best explained by Nancy Rappaport and Jessica Minahan:

“To help teachers remember the steps involved in deciphering behavior and developing an effective plan, we’ve created the acronym FAIR: F is for understanding the function of the behavior, A is for accommodations, I is for interaction strategies, and R is for responses.

By adopting the FAIR plan, teachers can discover that inappropriate behavior is malleable and temporary—and that they can help their students thrive.“ (source:

For example, years ago when a child was swearing in class I did the following:

  • We established “when & where” this was happening most: I kept observational records. There was a pattern. The swearing began before and during almost every writing class, which he told me he “hated”. (He would also a times “stab” his papers with a pencil &/or rip them up.)
  • His goal was to “escape”: Swearing disrupted the writing process. He got very little accomplished, and he “had to do” very little. We were spending the majority of our time on management and not on writing.
  • The Plan:
  • We calmly explained and reviewed the fact that swearing is inappropriate.
  • I started to work with the student outside of school hours on “fun” writing projects. We started small, l and they were always based on areas of personal interest.
  • Lots of genuine praise.
  • He kept a chart and monitored his own behaviour. We set goals. As the swearing became less frequent he received “rewards”.
  • We displayed his work and praised him whenever he wrote. (We didn’t however, “over do it”.)
  • We spoke with his parents and ask if they could “model” writing around the house. We also asked that he write at home e.g. shopping lists, postcards, etc. whenever possible, & that his parents were not to correct his work for any errors.
  • We put into place certain classroom accommodations: a quiet place to work, various writing tools, opportunities for movement and short breaks, tasks were broken down into smaller more manageable units, no correcting for spelling, the use of a lap top (see below), additional time, etc.
  • Finally, we showed his parents a typing programme for the purpose of practice, and encouraged him to use a computer at school (vs. pencil and paper).

Sources & Sites:

“Addressing Our Needs: Maslow Comes to Life for Educators and Students”. Dr. Lori Desautels.

“What Is a Functional Behavioral Assessment?”. Terri Mauro.

“ABA For Families”. Erin Oak Kids Centre for Treatment & Development (Autism Services 2012).

“The Function of Behaviour”. About Education

Cracking the Behavior Code

Nancy Rappaport and Jessica Minahan (October 2012 | Volume 70 | Number 2

Students Who Challenge Us Pages 18-25. ASCD

“Functional Behavior Assessment”. Centre for Effective Collaboration and Practice

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