Talking Out

Pupils responding to teacher's question in classroom.Due to illness, I have not posted anything these past two weeks.  All  is on the mend now.  However, in these last two weeks, I have received a few messages from subscribers regarding my post, “Perceptions”, telling me that they have come to realize that the conscientious replacement of a bad behavior to a good behavior is what they have been missing in being successful with the new behavior.  One subscriber has decided to do some little thing to promote a healthy self-image instead of grabbing a candy bar, ice cream treat, or some other food when the craving hits.  One day she wanted an ice cream treat, but she opted for a single rose instead.  What a wonderful positive replacement behavior instead of a negative one!

Speaking about replacement behaviors, let’s go back to Henry from a couple of weeks ago.  He loved to talk out of turn.  He did it up to 37 times per 30-minutes.  Not only did it drive everyone crazy, but it made teaching very difficult.   At times, I had to simply stop teaching and sit down for him to get the message-and even then it was very hard for him to understand his behavior.

After collecting three weeks of data, Henry was put on a “Talk-out Card.”  It is very important to teach accountability for our own actions, so having him be responsible to take down the data for his talk-outs, and lack thereof, was a critical component of correcting the negative behavior.  I explicitly taught Henry what constituted a talk-out (which is anytime a student makes noise with his/her mouth without getting the teacher’s attention and permission first (sneezing, coughing, etc. excluded)).  He hated having to mark down each time he spoke out of turn, but he liked marking down each time he did the replacement behavior correctly.  Next, we connected the replacement behavior of raising his hand and getting the teacher’s attention with a reward of his choosing (which for him was to spend time on the computer at the end of the day).  Depending on his level in the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System©, he could earn up to fourteen minutes.  He was very excited about this and we were able to actually get some teaching done.

At first, he did well, and we saw the talk-outs drop to around twenty talk-outs per 30-minutes within the first week.  However, after our initial success, the escalation of talk-out behavior began to occur.  It is very typical to have this happen.  Henry was testing me to see if I would stick to the program.  It is common for adults to give up and say something is not working.  This explains why kids will test adults-often they eventually win.  Henry complained about the program, had several tantrums, ripped up his data sheet, and refused to do the program.  Each time he engaged in these behaviors, I would take the data sheet and explain that I would keep the data for him until he was able.  By doing this, he learned that no matter who kept the data, he was still accountable for his behavior.  At the end of each day, we would discuss how much time he would get on the computer.  In order to ‘save-face’ when he had earned little computer time, he would say he didn’t want to go to the computer.  As he saw other students get rewarded while he had to remain in his seat, he started to connect the negative behavior of talk-outs to no fun time.  He also started to connect his positive replacement behavior of raising his hand to more fun time spent with his peers.  After about two weeks, he started to comply with the program and the number of his talk-outs began to steadily drop.  They eventually dropped to an average of two or less talk-outs in a 55 minute class period while he was doing up to ten positive engagements of hand raising.

I was able to teach, Henry’s peers stopped getting annoyed at him, and he was able to get attention using a positive method.  A side benefit to this program was that Henry was able to gain more friends.

He now attends almost all general education classes.  He made two goals last year (we spend a lot of time teaching how to make a goal using SMART): one was to get good enough grades this year to apply to be in student council next year.  His second goal was to get out of my program all together, and that is exactly what his goal should be.  It is very exciting.  His general education teachers adore him and they can’t believe that talking out was ever an issue.

I realize this is a much more technical post than I usual write, but its concepts can be applied to a variety of behaviors for both parents and teachers to take a look at changing in children.  Next time, I will be explaining how I wrote Henry’s program into a Behavior Plan, so I’ll see you then.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

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