top of page

How to teach behavior expectations effectively

Author: Dawn Mitchell


Hi everyone,

If you are like any of the new teachers that I have had the privilege of working with over the years, I know that many of you may have been surprised by some unexpected student behaviors during these first weeks of school.  When you pour time and thought into planning and preparing engaging lessons and students do not always respond with desired behavior, it can be puzzling and even frustrating. 

One important lesson experienced and effective teachers have learned is the importance of teaching what you expect kids to know and be able to do. 

With content area instruction, we typically begin with a pre-assessment to determine what students know and don’t know. We then plan accordingly to meet them where they are in order to teach what they need to learn so they can grow towards mastery.  It is important for us as educators to approach behavior in the same ways we do our content standards.  If we value it, we must teach it.  We can’t assume students already know what we expect.  We also can’t assume that our students have had the same prior experiences we have that enabled us to inherently treat ourselves and others with respect. We must value what they know, and respect and appreciate where they are. We must work to provide positive and consistent support for the actions and behaviors we want them to exhibit in our classroom community.

Take a few moments to read through this short blog post by Aaron Hogan on how to teach behavior expectations effectively and how to then consistently reinforce them.

What expectations for student behavior and performance do you need to explicitly teach?  Make a quick list.  Next, consider how you will effectively teach them to students this week.  Knowing how to respond to student misbehavior is also an important skill to develop.  Intentionally considering the most effective ways to redirect and respond to students that positively reinforce desired behavior is essential to your growth and to the growth of your students.  This past week Niechelle Freestone, our district’s lead psychologist, shared tips to help us effectively avoid the “bait debate” and classroom power struggles.


1.) Use Diffusers:

a. Ignore the challenge, not the student

b. Be direct, matter-of-fact

2.) Watch your Paraverbals:

a. Don’t be condescending

b. It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it.

3.) Show them the shoulder

a. Don’t engage, model the correct behavior with other students, change the timing and engage later

I want to leave you with a quote by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as you consider your role as the creator of your classroom environment.  Dr. Cantrell, our deputy superintendent, shared this with me as we discussed the importance of each of us modeling the behaviors and the example we want our students to follow. 

If we lead by example in word and in deed, working to build relationships and to create possibilities for growth in learning, our students will follow us. 


Dawn J. Mitchell,

President, SCASCD



bottom of page