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The Simple Correction Sequence

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

We all have a toolbox of strategies we use when students are displaying challenging behavior. One of the most effective and efficient tools I’ve ever used is the Simple Correction Sequence (developed by Dr. Geoff Colvin, from the University of Oregon).

The simple correction sequence goes like this: you notice a student is engaging in a behavior you don’t want - they are playing around at their desk distracting others, maybe they’re on their phone when they are supposed to be working. Before you address the behavior, take a moment and check yourself. Make sure you are calm, and that your tone of voice is respectful and reasonable.

1. Restate the Expectation - The First, thing you will do is Restate the Expectation. “The expectation is to be working quietly right now.”

2. Request the Student to Demonstrate the Correct Behavior - Next, Ask the student to Show you! “Can you show me you know what to do?” Then all you do is say, “Thank you!

That sounds easy, right? But what if they don’t comply?

3. Give them a Choice - If they don't comply, all you do is add one additional step: give them a “choice” where you offer an option to do what's expected or face a low level consequence.

Let’s say that this student who is messing around, entertaining his table group and the whole class, doesn’t get back on track. (ideally, you pull the student aside privately to remove the ‘audience’, then Give them a choice - “you can work here in your group, or you will need to move over to the other table.”

Resist the urge to go too big with your consequence, low level consequences that are more immediate work best.

That is because you can more easily follow through with a short term immediate consequence than something really big that would take a lot of organizing and coordination.

Once you give the student a choice you WAIT. This is the secret sauce - you say, “I’m going to give you a minute to decide. And then actually WAIT, stop talking to them!

I literally will move my body away, check in with another student, and then turn back and ask, “So, what did you decide?”

The wait time is really the key to making this work. It's really important that we are not in kids faces when we correct them. Their brains can easily misinterpret adult behavior as threatening, especially if we have a stern look on our face or a loud voice.

Try to keep your face as neutral as possible and try to use as few words as you can.

I like to save my words for the good stuff. When we use a neutral expression and calm voice, AND we give them wait time and space, it allows their frontal cortex to work. If we give kids time for their brain to engage, they will almost always choose the right thing. And when they do, you say Thank you!

4. Deliver the Consequence - If the student refuses to make a choice or argues, you calmly deliver the consequence.

I might say, ““okay, looks like you are choosing to move to the other table.”

The 2-Minute Rule

If the student continues to argue, you have now stepped into what Jeff Sprague calls the “2-minute rule.”

“The 2–Minute Rule” means that if you can’t successfully correct a challenging behavior within two minutes, it should be referred to an alternate setting or to an alternate staff member.

There are a couple reasons for the 2-minute rule. First of all, if you are supposed to be monitoring a large group of students, like at recess or lunch, often its really tricky to spend much more time than 2 minutes with your back to the class. The second reason for the 2 minute rule is that this is not productive - it's turning into a power struggle.

"You know What they say about power struggles is, “It's like mud wrestling with a pig - you both get dirty but the pig loves it!"

But seriously, if you’ve been calm, reasonable and respectful and a student is still not responding to you? The student is waving a red flag saying, “It's not about you, it's not about now, it's not about here, there is something else going on.”

And let's be clear, many students with behavior problems, because of their past, can rocket from 0 to 60 in a flash. They can move from silly, attention seeking behavior to explosive behavior from just a simple correction - even if you do this correctly.

Because of this, I always think it is a good idea to explain to students in advance what you will do in the event that you need to correct their behavior. That's Fair Process. Lay it out clearly so they know you won’t be yelling, threatening, or intimidating them. By setting the stage early in the year letting students know that you will always be respectful and calm, even when they make mistakes and don’t follow the rules, can promote trust and a sense of safety.

Check out my video Simple Correction Sequence and feel free to show it at a staff meeting and share it with your colleagues! Comment below and share what else you do that can correct student behavior in a respectful, positive way!

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