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July 12, 2019

Building a Bridge to Skill Acquisition in Eight Easy Steps

Help Your Students Gain Positive Skills

At its widest point,the Grand Canyon stretches 18 miles (29 kilometers) across.It is 6000 feet deep.That’s more than a mile!Manypeople consider it to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world.The Grand Canyon isan example ofamazing geology where it seems impossible to get from one side (where you are) to the other side (where you want to be).

A similarcanyonexistsin classroom management: Challenges withstudent behavior (where youare)…great student behavior (where you want to be).

So how do we do it? How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? The answer is simple. W ebuild a bridge.

Building bridges in classroom management is all about explicit instruction on skills gaps. A long time ago when I first started teaching students with emotional and/or behavioral challenges,Ireceived some advice from a speaker. She said,“When kids misbehave, it’s because they either can’t do something or they won’t do it, but either way, we teach.” We build the bridge.

Now, building abridgeacross a canyonis a daunting task. It’s complex and involves math, science, engineering and so much more, but building a bridge to skill acquisition can be done in 8 steps:

Step 1:Create a written mini-lesson plan that includes:

  • Theskill the child is missing. What can’t they or won’t they do that could improve behavior?
  • A breakdown ofthe desired skill into specific stepswith adescription ofeach step. What does it look like? Sound like?
  • A description of how you will teach, model, practice and reinforce the skill. Should it be a mini-lessonor can you use a children’s book? Should you model or can a peer? What are some ways the student could practice the skill with support and on their own? What types of reinforcers are motivating to the learner?

Step2:Meet with the student to begin the mini-lesson.

Step 3:Providethe student arationale for the importance of the skillto which the student can relate. Maybe they need the skill for a futurejobor the skill could help themget better ata hobby.

Step 4:Provide modeling through video or role play. Check out this great resource on video modeling.

Step 5:Provide guided practice through additional role play and activities.

Step 6:Give specific feedback and positive praiseduringguided practice (Step 5).

Step 7:Put thestudent in situations, natural or created, where the skill can be applied and generalized.

Step 8:Highly reinforce thestudentfor exhibiting the skill.At first, you will want to do this every time he or she exhibits the skill you want. Soon, you will be able to provide intermittent reinforcement until eventually, the skill will be a natural part of the student’s positive behavior repertoire.

There you have it, 8 easy steps to building a bridge to skill acquisition. This will help you and your students get from where you are to where you want to be!

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