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RTI Education: Use it for for Behavior Management

Kathryn Phillips

No doubt by now, most teachers have heard about the Response to Intervention (RTI) model as best practices for providing academic interventions for struggling learners.


This system for managing student learning can via RTI education also be a valuable tool in monitoring and improving student behavior in your classroom.

RTI Education: A Not-So-New Trend

The iconic trisected pyramid with the green, yellow and red indicating Tier I, Tier II and Tier III levels of intervention is becoming burned into our teacher brains as the “newest trend” in education.  Actually, many good schools have been using this format for many years. It is just in the last 10 years or so that it has gained the reputation nationwide and the fancy new moniker “RTI Education.”

So then, worry not that you are being required to do something new … let’s consider all of  the good things that great teachers already do and fit them into this systematic way for solving issues and intervening at the lowest possible levels. 

As we know, elements of  RTI in the classroom include:

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  • Teaching a strong core curriculum with “fidelity”
  • Providing targeted interventions for a 15% of students who need more help
  • Individualizing instruction for 5% of students who are really struggling
  • Using evidence-based interventions
  • Documenting student progress for objective decision making

Adapting RTI for Behavior Management

We are getting used to the idea for academic interventions. When teachers hear of utilizing Response to Intervention for solving problematic behaviors, however, the initial reaction may be:


“What is a 'core curriculum for behavior'?”

“How are teachers supposed to collect data on behavior - walk around with a golf counter and click every time a kid is out of his seat? Write down word-for-word everything each student says?”  

“I don’t have time to do all that!!”

Relax, there are simple, efficient ways to utilize an RTI format in your classroom for managing student behavior that don’t require a double Ph.D in Engineering Technology and Data Management.

Behavior RTI: Tier One

First and foremost, RTI requires a good core curriculum; this is true of academic RTI as well as behavioral.  For behavior management, this suggests establishing policies, procedure and incentive systems in the class setting.

The Management Plan = The Core Curriculum

 1. Expect

The behavior management plan has a limited number of rules (not more than five), e.g. “Follow directions the first time given,” “keep your hands, feet and objects to yourself,” “be on time and prepared,” etc.   

For those of you using PBIS as the behavioral core curriculum, keep in mind that “Respectful, Responsible and Safe" are not actual rules – they are guiding principles for developing rules for each area in the school.

 2. Enforce

Create a hierarchal system of consequences from minor to serious, e.g. warning, one minute out of a social time, a problem-solving assignment, parent contact and finally, an office referral. 

List these consequences on the plan as well as the rules.

3. Encourage

Research indicates that positive teacher interactions should be offered in a ratio of four-to-one rewards to consequences. Positives might include praise, coupons, class parties or social time, school wide recognition, social incentives or free time. Use positives often, but unpredictably.

Don’t make the mistake of a reward (randomly delivered) becoming an expectation (predictably required).

4. Teach

One of the most overlooked aspects of behavior is that we don’t consistently teach the behaviors that we expect of students.  We expect students to read our minds, or refer to the poster on the wall, or decide for themselves what “respectful behavior” means and act on that. 

Teachers must be aware that they need to “teach to the behavioral test” if they want students to have mastery at these skills. Some ways to accomplish this are:

  • School wide assemblies
  • Student-made “commercials”
  • Student-made posters
  • Class meetings; involving discussion, role-plays, practice, direct teaching
  • Consistent reinforcement of the expectations

Establish RTI Conducive Procedures

Create an In-Out Log

This is a three-ring binder with pages for students to sign in or out when they leave or enter at times other than regular passing times. 

This keeps track of tardies, restroom visits, visits to the school nurse, the office or other places in the school. The documentation of this information is actually written by the student with their name, reason for leaving, and the time exiting and/or entering. 


This procedure provides an avenue of documentation for teachers to have a “running record” of students’ patterns of behavior during instructional periods. For an example of this form and one which you can download for free go to


Utilize a Behavior Documentation Log

On a clipboard, place a sheet with a list of the class members on it. 


Create columns with numbers that correspond to the rules of the class (e.g., "follow directions" is rule #1) and the consequences ("warning" is consequence #1) as well as a column for dates and comments.  If a student breaks a rule, the number that corresponds with the rule is simply circled. If a consequence is delivered, number of the consequence is likewise circled.  Students got through the discipline hierarchy and get a new line on the sheet each day. 


This information, for a very little bit of effort on the teacher’s part, allows for on-going documentation of behaviors, as well a tool for discussing issues with the individual student. For an example of this form and to download a free copy for your use, go to


Share Policies and Plan with Administration and Parents

Providing information of your classroom behavioral policies and procedures to parents and your supervisors will only add to your credibility, competency and professionalism. 


Additionally, this objective information can be provided to an RTI or Child Study Team when you need additional assistance for individual students from building resources .


Analyze the Data

Examining the information obtained on the behavior documentation log and the In-Out Log will help teachers to objectively formulate theories on particular student issues. 


Is there, for instance, a repeated pattern of a student leaving the class at a particular time?

Which students are failing to respond to minor consequences? 

Do particular students need individual instruction on some social skill?


RTI Behavior Model - Tier 1 Review

Having established a “core curriculum” of procedures and behavior management, as well as teaching the skills to your students, using the plan consistently, being mindful of positives interaction, and documenting problematic behaviors, teachers have the basis for using the Response to Intervention model for behavior. 


Behavioral RTI doesn’t need to solicit the OMG response.  The concept is not so new, although it is a systematic way utilizing the best practices great teachers have been using for years. 


How do you use RTI to monitor student behavior? Share in the comments section!

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