Information on this page about the interventions is based on the book, Prevent-Teach-Reinforce: The School-Based Model of Individualized Positive Behavior Support, Second Edition by G. Dunlap, R. Iovannone, D. Kincaid, K. Wilson, K. Christiansen, and P. S. Strain. 

What is the strategy? Why does it work?

This strategy involves teaching a student basic skills, such as reading, writing, or math, that will allow the student to be actively engaged and to complete instructional activities. This intervention is selected and implemented when the student is engaging in the challenging behavior because of lack of skills to do the tasks required of them. The strategy may require seeking the expertise of academic area experts.

There are several reasons for using the strategy. First, it is vital for all students to learn basic academic skills. The skills are building blocks on which all content throughout the student’s school years and post-school years are dependent. Second, although teaching replacement behaviors are extremely effective at reducing challenging behavior and increasing appropriate behaviors, if the student does not have the basic academic skills, the replacement behaviors may not be sufficient for future success. Third, there is ample evidence that academic and behavior challenges are closely associated. That is, behavior challenges impact academic challenges and vice versa. Teaching basic academic skills can increase the competence and confidence of the student and make it less likely for the student to need to engage in challenging behavior.

Functions and antecedents the teach specific academic skills intervention works for

If challenging behavior occurs…

  • Because the child is lacking necessary academic skills to do instructional tasks.

Steps for Implementation

  1. Based upon the PTR Assessment data, determine the specific academic skill the student needs to acquire to be actively engaged and complete the task.
  2. If necessary, consult with content area specialists to get materials, lessons, and other supports to teach the skill.
  3. Break down the skill to be taught into components. Use the following sequence to teach the skill:
    • Provide instruction and rationale for the skill being taught. Provide several real-life examples of how the skill is used.
    • Demonstrate how to do the skill by modeling.
    • Provide the student with guided practice opportunities after modeling.
    • Provide immediate feedback during guided practice including positive comments for correct steps and corrective feedback for errors. Corrective feedback should be followed by more practice opportunities.
    • Provide multiple opportunities in the next weeks for the student to practice the skill and continue to provide feedback.
    • As the student gains skills, provide multiple exemplars with guided feedback so that the student begins to generalize the skills.
    • Gradually fade the practice opportunities contingent upon student data showing increased mastery.
    • Continue to probe throughout the school year to ensure generalization.

How to implement this strategy in multiple ways (examples & resources)

  • Use Repeated Reading to improve reading fluency by developing decoding automaticity. Students are tasked with reading aloud short passages of text (50-200 words) until they meet a certain criterion of success in terms of particular speed and accuracy goals (Shanahan, 2017)
  • Use Corrective Reading to improve reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension (WWC, n.d.)
  • Teach the student to decode multisyllabic words
  • Revisit the basic concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division if the student is having difficulty with advanced math.
    • Plus/minus sign discrimination training: teach student to circle and discriminate the sign of each problem before calculating the answer
  • Assess and focus on the specific components of reading such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, or text comprehension.

Intervention Central Resources:

Other Resources:

Supporting Research

Barton-Arwood, S. M., Wehby, J. H., & Falk, K. B. (2005). Reading instruction for elementary-age students with emotional and behavioral disorders: Academic and behavioral outcomes. Exceptional Children, 72(1), 7–27.

Hagan-Burke, S., Gilmour, M. W., Gerow, S., & Crowder, W. C. (2015). Identifying academic demands that occasion problem behaviors for students with behavioral disorders: Illustrations at the elementary school level. Behavior Modification, 39(1), 215–241.

Graham, S. (1985). Teaching basic academic skills to learning disabled students: A model of the teaching-learning process. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 18(9), 528–534.

Lalli, J. S., Kates, K., & Casey, S. D. (1999). Response covariation: The relationship between correct academic responding and problem behavior. Behavior Modification, 23(3), 339–357.

Lane, K. L., Harris, K. R., Graham, S., Weisenbach, J. L., Brindle, M., & Morphy, P. (2008). The effects of self-regulated strategy development on the writing performance of second-grade students with behavioral and writing difficulties. The Journal of Special Education, 41(4), 234–253.

McDaniel, S. C., Houchins, D. E., & Terry, N. P. (2013). Corrective reading as a supplementary curriculum for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 21(4), 240–249.

Strong, A. C., Wehby, J. H., Falk, K. B., & Lane, K. L. (2004). The impact of a structured reading curriculum and repeated reading on the performance of junior high students with emotional and behavioral disorders. School Psychology Review, 33(4), 561–581.

van der Worp-van der Kamp, L., Pijl, S. J., Bijstra, J. O., & van den Bosch, E. J. (2014). Teaching academic skills as an answer to behavioural problems of students with emotional or behavioural disorders: A review. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 29(1), 29–46.

Wehby, J. H., Falk, K. B., Barton-Arwood, S., Lane, K. L., & Cooley, C. (2003). The impact of comprehensive reading instruction on the academic and social behavior of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 11(4), 225–238.
What Works Clearinghouse. (n.d.). Evidence snapshot: Corrective reading.