Tackling Behaviour on All Fronts
One School’s Comprehensive School-wide Strategy
by Jenny Williams, SCSBC Director of Educational Support Services ◊
Hope Lutheran School in Coquitlam, British Columbia had been noticing a gradual increase in serious behaviours that impacted the school community. It became evident that they needed to develop a comprehensive school-wide strategy to tackle issues that impacted the social and behavioural climate of the school. The school leadership decided to create a framework of Bible-based character traits to work from. As a foundation for this new, positive behaviour code for their school, they came up with the acronym REAL, which stands for:
Adoration of our Lord
The principal led the teachers and educational assistants in a process of developing a matrix describing what it means for the staff to be REAL in their own behaviour in all aspects of school life. Some examples from the matrix of positive behaviour for staff are:
- In the staff room the teachers show Respect by cleaning up mess even if it is not their turn to clean up.
- At school functions teachers Encourage parents by sharing something special they notice about their child.
- In the classroom teachers show Adoration of our Lord by acknowledging the goodness of God and recognizing students’ God given gifts.
- In the hallways the teachers show Love by going over to students and asking how they are doing if they appear to be lonely.
Next they began the process of developing a REAL matrix for students. The teachers worked with the students in each class to brainstorm how REAL could be demonstrated in the classroom and in all places of the school. Teachers took student responses and created a matrix defining what positive expected behaviours look like as they pertain to every location and general program area, including field trips. Some examples from the matrix of positive behaviour expectations for students are:
- On field trips students show Respect by honouring the driver and taking care of the vehicle
- On the playground students Encourage each other by inviting others to join in activities and complimenting each other
- At eating times students show Adoration of our Lord by giving thanks to God before eating
- In the classroom students show Love by helping someone in need and using kind words
After developing the positive behaviour matrices the staff created a 3-level behaviour incident report and tracking system that defined problem behaviours that were associated with each level of severity and specific consequences for each level of problem behaviour. The staff use this tool to record behaviour incident information, which is shared with the classroom teacher and administrator to follow up as needed. Open communication, consistent information and accountability make the staff able and better equipped to nip smaller behaviours in the bud. The principal initiated the provision of a 30-minute division meeting once each week, where teachers get together to problem-solve around behaviour issues.
The school was ready to introduce the REAL positive behaviour matrix for students and the incident reporting system to the parents, which had been included in the Parent Handbook. Every family received a home visit from at least one teacher during the summer to develop positive relationships with the families and to discuss REAL positive behaviour matrix and other information in the Parent Handbook.
The first year of implementation, principal gave an introduction to the new positive behaviour matrix for students during chapel. Then each teacher was assigned a station within the school, such as the washroom, hallway, playground, chapel, and the waste disposal and collection areas. The teachers were responsible to plan lessons for teaching positive and prosocial behaviour skills for a range of ages, which included modeling, videos, and guided practice for teaching positive behaviour for their designated area. As students rotated in groups from one station to another, they had an opportunity to both observe and practice the expected positive behaviours. For the classroom, all teachers taught the positive behaviours in the class using the same language described in the behaviour matrix.
The school also developed ways of reinforcing positive behaviours, one of which was to give recognition for positive behaviours through a ticket system. Any of the adults in the school hand out tickets to students or to a whole class for positive behaviours and the staff member describes the matrix behaviour exhibited by the students. Teachers collect the tickets and the class with the most tickets at the end of the month celebrate their success in demonstrating positive character traits by having a block of time in the gym to play a preferred sport. This has the additional impact of working towards group cohesion and teamwork.
In one particular class at this school, prior to introducing the positive behaviour matrix for students, gossip and bullying was dominant in the culture of this group of students. Initially, the teacher spoke with each student individually about gossip and about not getting along. The teacher then spoke with the parents about what happened and the steps the school took. The students were challenged to use their leadership skills more positively. The students began to understand the destructive nature of gossiping and bullying and a devotional message about gossiping from Daily Bible app for teens brought further conviction and a heart change that sparked a wave of positive communication among students in that grade. The application of the REAL positive behaviour program provided the instruction and reinforcement needed to bring about significant change that was described in feedback from staff, parents and the students themselves. This class illustrates merely one positive change in behaviours that increased throughout the school.
- Tracking both positive and negative behaviours and being consistent with respect to application of consequences, supports and interventions, allow the school to:
- Identify areas where students need more positive behaviour skill development
- Systematically reinforce positive behaviours
- Accurately pinpoint the severity and frequency of behaviours through tracking of behaviour incidents and office referrals
- Track effectiveness of interventions and supports
- Improve positive connections with parents
- Foster communication using the matrices to show new staff or teachers and education assistants on call how to support the school’s positive behaviour program
When some of the lead teachers were asked what they thought were factors critical to the success of the program, they identified five things:
- The level of buy-in from the staff, students and parents
- The behaviours in all areas of the school go to a central location with administration
- The level of consistency with the positive behaviour interventions and supports
- The communication of both positive and negative student behaviours with parents
- The consistent communication, support and follow-through from the principal with staff, students, parents and outside services
These are consistent with what a recent research study found to be the most critical success factors for administrators when developing a school-wide positive behaviour support program: staff buy-in, active school administrator support, and the consistency of a common approach among staff including the use of common language and consistent implementation (Pinkelman, McIntosh, Rasplica, Berg and Stickland-Cohen, 2015).1
Hope Lutheran School illustrates the impact of a school-wide positive behaviour and supports program developed by the school community. It has allowed them to tackle behaviour on all fronts to produce a more positive school culture and learning environment and to reflect Christ-like character in the school community.
1 Pinkelman, McIntosh, Rasplica, Berg and Stickland-Cohen, “Perceived Enablers and Barriers Related to Sustainability of School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports,” Behavioral Disorders: Journal of the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders. May 2015, Vol. 40, Number 3, pp. 171-183.
Guidelines to the Progressive Intervention of Behaviour (Jenny Williams, & Laurie Smith, SCSBC, 2014)
7 Steps for Developing a Proactive Schoolwide Discipline Plan: A Guide for Principals and Leadership Teams (Geoff Colvin, Corwin Press, 2007)
Positive Behavior Support in Secondary Schools: A Practical Guide (E. Young, P. Caldarella, M. Richardson, and K. Young, Guilford Press, 2012)
Academic and Behavior Supports for At-Risk Students: Tier 2 Intervention (M. Stormont, W. Reinke, K. Herman & E. Lembke. Guilford Press, 2012)
BC Positive Behaviour Support Website
Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents
Second Step Program (grades K-8)
Richmond School District Social Responsibility lessons
Supervision Reference cards (based on Richmond School District Social Responsibility lessons)
Hope Lutheran School Sample Documents:
Please note that the following documents are accessible only by SCSBC members on the Educational Support Services Collaboration Portal.
Consequences for Level 1, 2, 3 Behaviour
Discipline Incident and Referral Form for Level 1, 2 & 3 Behaviours
Lesson Template for Teaching Expected Behaviour
Parent Letter Template for Level 2-3 Behaviour
Positive Behaviour Matrix for Staff
Positive Behaviour Matrix for Students