Sep 14 2023

7 Steps to Set-up an Effective Behavior Management Plan

Positive Action Staff
You’ve been teaching for a while now—and it has been going pretty awesomely. But recently, you might have taken a challenging class that you’re struggling to get under control.

Not the entire class, per se—but some students in your class have behavior issues.

Paper airplanes fly across the room—students racing between desks. You can’t get a word in. If you’re a high school teacher, some of your students are:

  • Coming late to class
  • Using mobile phones in class
  • Not doing class work
  • Avoiding homework

But you?

You hang in there. You keep teaching. You’ve even managed to create a little bit of a favorable classroom environment.

The only problem, though:

You’re not pleased.

Sometimes the classroom rules get the students with behavior issues to respect you. Sometimes they don’t. Occasionally, you strike a nerve, and they listen to you.

But never 100% the way you want it.

Are you doing your classroom behavior management wrong?

Is there some management plan you’re missing?

Most importantly, what procedures, rules, and consequences can you make to hold students accountable for their behaviors without scolding or lecturing — while encouraging positive behavior?

Step 1: Differentiate Discipline From Behavior Management Plans

Discipline isn’t synonymous with a classroom behavior management plan. Instead, it’s a feature of a behavior management plan.

Discipline describes the consequences you give the students for mishandling rules and procedures. In contrast, behavior management plans tell a set of procedures that aim to prevent behavior problems rather than responding to them.

In the upcoming part, we'll discover the major differences between discipline and a behavior management system.


  • It’s reactive
  • Is problem-driven
  • Has negative consequences as punishment
  • Promote compliance
  • Stops deviant behavior
  • Although necessary, discipline causes adversarial relationships

Behavior Management Plan

  • It’s proactive
  • Is productive-driven
  • Has behavior accommodation for students with behavior problems
  • Promotes responsibility
  • Produce predictable behavior
  • Improve teacher-student relationship because it’s far more effective in improving student behavior

Unlike the behavior management plan, you’re not going to use discipline every day.

Step 2: Collect Perceptions of Behavioral Issues

Make observations, reflect, and collect in-depth observations of behavior. It’s human nature to consider why human behavior happens in a given context, but your initial conclusion might not be accurate.

To maximize the benefits of a behavior management system to your student, your perception as a teacher must be accurate so that you can select the appropriate intervention for a particular behavior.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Why do you believe the behavior is a problem?
  • Why do you believe the issue is disruptive to the learning environment of your classroom?
  • Does it make you feel frustrated or helpless?
  • Why do you think the student with behavior problems chooses to behave the way they do?
  • What are the perceptions of other teachers or reactions to such behaviors?

After collecting your perception, consider your students’ views about the behaviors regardless of the grade level. The best way to get students’ perceptions is a non-directive interview where the interviewer mirrors the student's thoughts.

Is there a biopsychosocial issue that influences such a behavior? What does the student do when the behavior is active? Does your student believe the behavior is a problem?

How does the behavior make the student feel? Does your student say they choose their behavior? More importantly, what is the view of other students and their reactions to the behavior?

After that, attain the perception of parents, former teachers, supervisors, and peer teachers. Then find out the contributing sources. It might be:

  • Teacher’s expectations
  • Student age, medical or health status, achievement, social development, grade levels, family situation, or friends
  • Environmental contribution
  • Group arrangement

After collecting perceptions of misbehaviors, next, you’d want to execute context analysis.

Step 3: Analyze the Source of Misbehavior and Make Connections Between Them

What do you believe causes a particular behavior problem?

An example: you have a teaching and learning philosophy. What is its result on the students who have bad behaviors?

How do such students react to different ways of communication? Are your expectations and perceptions influencing the student’s behavior? Might it be a cultural issue affecting teacher-student interaction?

You need solid answers to the questions above. Then, analyze the student to develop the best consequences that are in line with students’ expectations and perception of being in school.

For example, a student might be misbehaving due to a lifestyle change (loss of a family member, parents divorcing, moving, or separation). While none of those justify misbehavior, you must identify the root cause to plan for behavior modifications while rationalizing why the student might achieve it.

Step 4: Develop Classroom Procedures

Your core aim is to develop relationships. At the same time, you want to implement a brilliant behavior management plan with the least possible friction—which means setting clear procedures for doing things in your class to head off misbehavior problems.

Tell your students the procedures of doing everything in class—from how they should ask questions and prepare for class to how you’ll deal with missed assignments and collect work.

Think all the classroom procedures through ahead of time, then communicate to the students to keep your day running smoothly and establish a standard for your students.

Step 5: Write Rules

As a teacher, you need to set general rules or a classroom management plan to govern the conduct of your class. However, students are more likely to buy into the rules if you include them in the process of creating them.

Start with a list that you consider the bare essentials, then discuss with your students to set rules in their language. Your students will come up with more rules than you can ever imagine. However, to make effective classroom rules, sort the students’ suggestions into four or five major rules, and jot them down positively.

Some examples could include, instead of “no talking when the teacher is talking” and “no touching each other,” write “be quiet when the teacher is talking” and “keep your hands to self.”

The rules list should be short because it’s excruciating to remember a long list.

Step 6: Set up the Consequences

A healthy rules-and-consequences system is integral in designing a behavior management plan and creating a culture of academic achievement and respect in the classroom.

Before handling any learning goals, your students should have a grip on the consequences of behavior management plans on day one. Plus, you should relay these consequences to parents, too.

Consequences in a behavior management plan will vary depending on the grade level, the goal of behavior modification, and what correction you’re trying to achieve.

For instance, the consequences of disruptive talk are different from those of chronic avoidance of work.

Regardless of the situation, devise positive and negative consequences. Use them consistently and immediately to improve their efficacy.

Step 7: Separate Time for Praises and Rewards in Your Classroom Management Plan

You need to recognize when a student with behavior problems is doing something right. After all, behavior management plans positively influence a student's intrapersonal, social context, and cultural environment.

When you catch a student who usually misbehaves being good, praise him and give rewards for it because it can make a huge difference in their behavior and how they respond to you.

Rewards are positive consequences of a behavior system that encourages behavior modification in classrooms. When you use it correctly, it motivates students with bad habits to alter non-conventional behavior.

Here are some more reasons why the rewards system works:

  • It increases the motivation of students who misbehave
  • Boost self-esteem as they’re encouraged to achieve another successful result
  • It’ll promote and endorse school effort

However, check for devaluation of rewards in your behavior management plan because, after some time, rewards stop being surprising. Besides, check that the reward system doesn’t become an addiction—that the student doesn't behave right without them.

Reform the Whole-School Ecosystem to Improve Even Unpunishable Stubborn Behavior

Let’s say you’ve set a behavior management plan for your class, but it isn’t working maximally because of administration problems—or you’re dealing with bigger behavior issues. You want to:

Correcting such issues is a tall order and might demand reformation of the school’s entire ecosystem—family, community, and the administration.

The best approach you can take is to enroll in an evidence-based, whole-school reformation model to help you modify serious behavior problems. Positive Action presents you with such a model.