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Intervention

How to Develop a PBIS Lesson Plan

11 Min Read
How to Develop a PBIS Lesson Plan

The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework is designed to support the development of positive behaviors through consistent guidance and explicit instruction. Positive behaviors are the foundation of a healthy learning environment. Setting clear expectations for classroom behavior gives students the framework for interpersonal success and gives teachers criteria to evaluate student progress. This article will discuss developing positive behavior support lesson plans and provide examples of PBIS lessons by intervention tier.  

7 Essential Elements of Positive Behavior Support Lesson Plans

Research by Simonsen et al. (2012) points to seven essential elements of PBIS lesson plans: alignment to school-wide expectations, clear learning objectives, required materials, examples/non-examples of positive behaviors, explicit instruction, follow-up activities to reinforce positive behaviors, and plans for ongoing evaluation.

1. Alignment Targets

When you develop your lesson plan, you must identify your instructional targets. Unfortunately, PBIS standards are not always explicitly included in state-level educational standards. That’s okay. Many of the fundamental competencies of PBIS are also represented in standards for social and emotional learning and citizenship.

When aligned to frameworks at the state level, PBIS in the classroom becomes a powerful tool for establishing healthy learning environments. By including expectations for student behavior that reflect broader norms, you provide students with a clearly defined roadmap for success. Then, as students develop greater self-awareness and resilience, they see improvement in performance in academic domains.

2. Measurable Learning Objectives

Your PBIS lesson plan should include learning objectives that are specific and measurable. If you are unfamiliar with writing learning objectives, this resource from the University of North Carolina Charlotte explains how to use Bloom’s Taxonomy to develop learning objectives. Table 3 in their resource offers some examples of learning objectives for the affective domain, such as, “When I’m in class, I am attentive to the instructor.”

As you write your learning objectives, think about the level of mastery you hope for the student to achieve. What does success look like? When assessing individual progress toward these outcomes, you should use specific feedback that is instructive rather than punitive. Measuring progress toward mastery of learning objectives should be seen as incremental milestones rather than in terms of success and failure. Errors and mistakes along the way are merely opportunities to grow.

3. Required Materials

Consider the materials that will be needed to teach this lesson plan. Your lesson plan should include a detailed inventory of all the materials. For example, materials could consist of worksheets, textbooks, manipulatives, graphics, and videos.

4. Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Behavior

By providing clear expectations and examples of appropriate and inappropriate behavior, you give students everything they need to meet those expectations. It can be helpful to use a Looks Like, Sounds Like, Feels Like approach to set baselines for appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior.

Elaborate on how mastery of the learning objective should look, sound, and feel. For example, let’s say the learning objective is:

Students will demonstrate responsibility in the classroom by arriving each morning with all their supplies.

Describe what mastery looks, feels, and sounds like and provide examples of inappropriate behaviors for the given context.

One way to highlight the indicators of mastery is to discuss expectations with the entire class. For example, talk about what it means to be a good friend or a responsible student. These facilitated discussions help establish a common language for talking about behavioral norms.

5. Explicit Instruction

We provide explicit instruction by employing various behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagement strategies, such as chunking up information and offering multiple ways to demonstrate mastery of behavioral expectations. The I Do – We Do – You Do model is a method of explicit instruction that takes students from new concepts to new competencies through close supervision and guided practice.

  • I Do: First, the teacher introduces the new concept by modeling it in practice.
  • We Do: Next, the teacher works with students to scaffold the new learning and guide them through practice.
  • You Do: Finally, the student attempts a demonstration of mastery on their own.

Using hypothetical scenarios to talk about appropriate and inappropriate responses allows students to see how these behaviors work in the real world. In addition, by talking through these made-up exchanges, teachers can model the critical thinking and reasoning process, showing students how to handle challenging or ambiguous situations.

As you discuss the scenario with the class, ask them to come up with several possible responses that would be considered appropriate and several that are inappropriate. Exploring multiple responses helps students see that sometimes there is no one correct answer. There can be several different ways to solve the same problem.

6. Follow-Up Activities to Positive Behaviors

As you work through the lesson, pause frequently to interact with students. Offering low or no-stakes opportunities to practice positive behaviors helps to reduce the impact of social anxiety and supports the notion of the classroom as a healthy environment to learn and grow.

PBIS in school values can be reinforced by follow-up activities at the individual, classroom, and school levels. Teachers can help students work on their skills at the individual level through one-on-one interactions. These conversations are the perfect time to check in with students and provide specific feedback to help students strengthen their skills.

For the classroom, games and free time can be powerful motivators to reinforce positive behaviors. Schools can also hold events to strengthen PBIS. For example, activities like music breaks and specially themed days like Spirit or Pajamas Day help reinforce the community aspects of learning and give students a chance to practice their social skills in a supportive environment.

7. Ongoing Assessment

A PBIS lesson plan must also be forward-looking. You should include planned procedures for collecting observational data and reinforcing positive behaviors that are also appropriate in practice and context. Describe how you will respond to problematic behaviors and what corrective actions must be taken to remediate errors and reinforce the fundamentals.

PBIS Lesson Plan Templates by Intervention Tier

When developing  PBIS classroom lesson plans, they should be differentiated based on the three intervention tiers. Each student deserves a plan that is built around their unique needs. Below are three examples of PBIS lesson plans by tier. 

Tier 1 PBIS Lesson Plan Example

Tier 1 is meant to address the entire student body. It is the foundation of a strong PBIS initiative. In Tier 1, a schoolwide guide of rules and core behaviors are put into place for staff to educate the students so they realize what is expected of them. These regulations are usually decided upon by a core group of teachers and administrators and handed down to the rest of the staff. Typically, if championed correctly so that both the faculty and students apply and adhere to these standards, 85% of the student population can be expected to comply.

While there are plenty of options, depending upon the district, here is a PBIS lesson plan template for Tier 1:

Goal

Students will learn proper behavior in the hallways of the school.

Discussion

Brainstorm with the students to figure out what is acceptable conduct in the hallways and what is not.

Materials needed

This could include videos as an example of proper behavior, a smartboard presentation, a whiteboard for discussion, or any other material that will benefit the discussion. 

Activities for learning

The teacher may decide to use role-playing with the students or even simple multiple-choice questionnaires. 

Assessment

To ensure the students understand the PBIS goal, the teacher could choose to give a true/false test to determine if the students comprehend the objective. 

Discuss positive reinforcement

The key aspect of PBIS is to use positive reinforcement through reward to promote positive behavior. Instruct the students on how their positive behavior will result in compensation (this will most likely be tickets or tokens, but not in all cases). 

Tier 2 PBIS Lesson Plan Example

Tier 2 lesson plans are put in place to address those who are not quite on board with meeting behavior expectations yet, which is usually about 15% of the student body. 

These students are at higher risk, but because of the typical size of a Tier 2 group, lesson plans can be created for a relatively smaller group of students. The teacher, or even the PBIS council, will be able to develop lesson plans focusing on behavior that appears on a more individual level. 

Many of the behaviors that indicate a need for Tier 2 or 3 interventions can arise from emotional and behavioral disorders, developmental disabilities, or learning differences. However, it is important to keep in mind that some of these students will have an IEP or a 504 in place that will dictate what strategies and measures are necessary. The PBIS team can discuss whether it’s best to pursue tier-based interventions or focus on following the student’s IEP or 504.

An example of a Tier 2 PBIS lesson plan may look something like this: 

Goal

The student will display less disruptive behavior.

Mentor for students

A guidance counselor or administrator will meet briefly with the students twice a week to help keep them on track and answer any questions or concerns. In other words, this can be someone who will meet with the student often to ensure they are trying their best to work toward the goal.

Discussion

Brainstorm with students to help them figure out alternative ways to deal with frustration. Create a checklist for the students to follow when they are faced with situations that may unsettle them. 

Assessment

Determine ways to gauge the success or failure of the students trying to overcome this problem. 

Positive reinforcements

Identify how often the students will be rewarded with positive reinforcement for their commitment to overcoming this challenge. 

PBIS committee

After time has passed, the PBIS committee can decide whether each individual student should continue with Tier 2 interventions, should be placed in a Tier 3 PBIS group, or if they are doing so well that they can be moved to Tier 1 instruction. 

Tier 3 PBIS Lesson Plan Example

Tier 3 PBIS is meant for a relatively smaller number of students who experience more significant learning or behavioral difficulties. For every 100 students in the school district, Tier 3 may only be for one or two. This tier is designed to offer highly intensive individualized support. 

Goal or problem to be addressed

Highly disruptive behavior that requires significant remediation or accommodation.

Mentors for student

The school guidance counselor, an administrator, and a therapist who is not employed by the school should be considered mentors for a student. An outside perspective from another professional can bring about new ideas.

Determine factors that contribute to student behavior issues

The need for intensive support may be due to family background and home life, developmental disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, or a variety of other factors.

Brainstorm discussion

As this is an intensive support program, there could be an assortment of ideas to help address the behavioral problems, including providing more dedicated space for the student’s learning, checklists, a special aide for the student, or meetings with parents. 

Assessment

Determine how long the Tier 3 PBIS interventions will be in place before it is determined if they are working or if a new approach or solution is needed.

Positive reinforcements

How will the student be rewarded through positive reinforcement if their behavior is improving? Tickets or tokens? More time allowed back in the regular classroom if appropriate? A variety of behavioral reward approaches are possible.

PBIS committee

When enough time has passed, the PBIS committee—along with the school counselor, administrator, and therapist—will meet with the parents and the student to determine the next steps. Have there been positive changes, or is further support needed? 

Integrating PBIS Learning Goals with Academic Lessons

Promoting positive behaviors within your classroom community provides a foundation for improving student social skills and building an accountable learning community. Since students’ experiences outside of school vary widely, PBIS instruction and support reduces the impact of inequity and gives all students the tools they need to succeed. Students from all backgrounds can overcome obstacles and develop healthier relationships with these skills.

In addition to behavior-focused PBIS lesson plans, integrating PBIS learning objectives across the curriculum into academic lessons helps students see how these values work across all contexts. In fact, research has determined that integrating PBIS learning goals within academic lesson plans for many schools is more efficient and effective than using parallel approaches. By combining academic and PBIS elements into a unified curriculum, you can provide more explicit instruction that meets the whole child’s needs. Paired with frequent check-ins with individual students and the whole class, incorporating PBIS throughout the school day reinforces the universal values of accountability, self-awareness, and pro-social behavior as beneficial in all aspects of our lives.

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This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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