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If you’ve ever gone to the supermarket with a toddler in tow, you probably know the art of pre-correction. Anticipating the possibility of a bored or tired child acting out, you come prepared! You might think ahead to bring along toys, snacks, music, or some other form of distraction, in order to nip any misbehavior in the bud. If you are successful, you accomplish your shopping task, your toddler is a happy camper, and all is right with the world.

Taking this analogy into a middle school classroom (and granted, it’s not as simple as distracting a toddler with toys!) pre-correction is still one of the most intuitive Proactive Classroom Management strategies there is. Simply stated, it’s the art of “getting in front of” problem behaviors before they happen.

Being a proactive teacher is almost always more effective than being a reactive one. With PCM #8, you’ll focus on what students should do during a given activity, time frame, or location, and plan ahead for it, rather than reprimanding or giving consequences after the fact. 

Predictable Contexts

Like all of the PCMs, this one also seeks to teach, monitor, and reinforce appropriate behaviors we want to see from students.The first step is to take into consideration the environment your students are (or will be) in and ask yourself some questions:

  • Are there common triggers/transitions that might pose challenges (for some, or the entire group) based on past behavior you’ve seen?
  • Can gentle reminders be given in advance that cue students to what is appropriate and expected?
  • Do students know what is expected of them and have they had opportunities to practice?
  • Can you reinforce the appropriate behaviors (to shape their behavior as they get closer and closer to doing the right thing)?

How to Set Students Up For Success:

  1. Review expectations for a given activity/procedure
  2. Give students a demo, verbal reminder, or enable them to rehearse/practice your expectation
  3. Build your pre-correction into classroom routines, so eventually no rehearsing is necessary (except for a refresher now and then)

Remember, you are not “scolding” after the fact, you are reinforcing the positive direction you want them to head toward! And, yes, the little humans in your care may need reminders/rehearsals every once in a while. 🙂

Examples of Pre-Correction

  • Use procedural prompt cards/expectations posters in the room for a visual reminder (so you don’t get to sounding like a broken record)
  • Give clear directions, reviewing procedures for a task, how to signal a need for help, and what to do when finished
  • To keep engagement high with classwork and assessments, use interspersed practice, not massed practice (i.e. 4 easy questions, 2 harder, 3 easier, 1 harder, etc.)
  • Focus on process and trying new things
  • Focus on the successes, the “not yet” (Hey, you got 2 correct! vs. You got 8 wrong so that’s an F)

Mutual Respect

Practicing pre-correction will require thinking ahead to anticipate behavior issues that may come up. Typically, a beginning teacher may not always think to prepare themselves for this, but veteran teachers can also benefit from being aware of the power of anticipation.

Sometimes, you’ll have to be open to changing the environment, your timing, or your delivery, to best provide a learning experience for a student or group of students. It doesn’t have to mean there is any less rigor in your teaching, but it does offer respect to your students. Don’t be afraid of the change – especially if it means a more harmonious, well-engaged population of kids in your room who respect you right back!

Yes, pre-correction will require more up front time to “train” the students, but it’s time well spent.

Not even the “super-est” of “super teachers” can anticipate every situation that might prompt disruptive behavior, but if you keep your expectations clear, and honor your students by allowing them to strive for improvement when they “mess up”, and reinforce them positively when they meet you halfway, you’ll be just fine. 


Video: see some pre-correction in action!

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