Classroom Management, Part 2: Hands-on Techniques for Tier 2 and 3 Students

My last blog post was centered around laying a foundation for good classroom management that targeted all Tier 1 students. If you missed that post, read it here! Tier 1 refers to support for all students in the classroom. This is where about 80% of your students will be. Tier 2 refers to a small group of students who may need differentiated strategies to aid in their behavioral progress in class. This will only account for about 15% of your students. Tier 3 refers to students who need individualized plans that support their specific needs. This accounts for less than 5% of your students. This three-tiered system creates a pyramid of student behavior and aids in helping teachers guide students in a way that will encourage and support behavioral change in their class. Take a look at this infographic based on information from (Positive Behavior Interventions & Support).  

Now that the tiered system makes a little more sense, let’s talk about behavior management for our tier 2 and 3 students in the specialty classroom. 

Like I mentioned in my last post, specialty teachers do not get to spend as much time getting to know their students as the classroom teachers do. Before a class comes to their music rotation, I reach out to the classroom teacher and ask if there are students who need any special accommodations in my classroom. These include, but are not limited to 504 and IEP accommodations, specific behavior issues or behavior plans, and/or medical conditions. Knowing this information helps get a jump start on seating charts and I can begin to think about possible provisions that may need to be made in the event of a behavior infraction. 

Proactive Management

Classroom management should be more proactive instead of reactive. Think about the purpose of a lifeguard, not an EMT. If I am able, I try to pull students into the hallway to have a private conversation about specific behaviors they are demonstrating. When we start to get to know our students better, we begin learning what might trigger an unfavorable behavior. Taking the time to get to the root of the behavior will help the student feel seen, supported, and reduces the likelihood that misbehavior will become a recurring problem. Setting up routines, as mentioned in my last post, can help. Here are some additional strategies that you can try to help manage the behavior of your tier 2 and tier 3 students. 

Star Student Award

At the beginning of each class, I announce that I will be looking for two star students. Most of the time they are chosen at random and everyone gets a turn to be the star student before I start over again. At the end of the class, if the chosen students participated and did what was expected of them, they receive a little certificate and a star sticker to put on their specialty name badges. In past years, I have also given them a Starburst for being a star student. Sometimes I remind the class in the middle of the period about the star student award as a subtle reminder of how they should be acting. 

Rest Stop 

When I review classroom expectations at the beginning of the school year (and again after a long break), I have a section in my slide show about consequences. My consequences are as follows: 1) Non-verbal warning, 2) Verbal Warning, 3) Sit out of activity, 4) Speak with the classroom teacher, 5) Call/Note home, and 6) Office Visit. I aim to be fair in using the consequences and honest with myself in using them in order. Students know the order of the consequences. After the non-verbal warning, students understand that one more strike will send them to the “Rest Stop.”

I use my “Rest Stop” to implement consequence number three, “Sit out of the activity.” When I ask a student to take a rest, I also tell them to flip over the 3-minute or 5-minute timer and they sit in an area away from other students. When the timer is done, and they are ready to return to class, they can come back to the class activity or lecture. When I initially sit a student out, I expect them to continue to pay attention to class; they just need to be momentarily removed from the carpet. My “Rest Stop” is my go-to intervention for behavior management. You can add anything to your rest area that you think will help particular students. 

Break Boxes

In addition to the timers, I also have a break box sitting on the rest stop desk. The contents of the box are from and she has many resources on her page for helping the social and emotional well-being of a student. I use the break box for my Tier 2 and 3 students who may need a little more structured time away from the carpet or need additional help managing their emotions. If your Tier 2 and 3 students become frequent flyers to the rest area, make sure you have a routine established with them when they are asked to take a break. 

Sticker Charts

Another idea for individualized behavior plans might be a sticker chart or punch card. Work with the student and classroom teacher to come up with a couple of behavior goals for the student. If the student meets their goals for that day, they receive a sticker on the chart. Once they hit a certain number of stickers over a period of time, the student gets a prize. You can find hundreds of examples on the internet if you do a quick search of “student behavior sticker chart.”. 

These are four examples of strategies that work for me in my classroom. However,this is only the tip of the behavior-management-strategies iceberg for tier 2 and tier 3 students. I have taught at three different elementary schools and I have used multiple different strategies based on the students and student behavior. Choose a few different strategies to have ready for your students. Make space for a trial and error period:not everything works the same way for each student. 

As you were reading this, perhaps names of your students who need a little extra support or targeted behavior management strategies pop into your brain. I hope some of these management strategies can help those students, and in turn, help you.

Katherine (Katie) Ross is a BTS music specialist in Alpine School District and taught elementary general music in Virginia before moving to Utah. She graduated from West Virginia University’s School of Music with a Bachelor of Music Education and received her Master of Music Education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. When she is not teaching in school or serving on a committee, she enjoys teaching ukulele private and group lessons. Katie coaches Crossfit classes to adults and hopes to someday be certified to coach Crossfit kids classes. Katie can be reached at or @hellomissmusicteacher.

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