The Chalk Blog

Building a Bridge to Skill Acquisition in Eight Easy Steps

Help Your Students Gain Positive Skills

Grand Canyon

At its widest point, the Grand Canyon stretches 18 miles (29 kilometers) acrossIt is 6000 feet deepThats more than a mile! Many people consider it to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The Grand Canyon is an example of amazing geology where it seems impossible to get from one side (where you are) to the other side (where you want to be). 

A similar canyon exists in classroom management: Challenges with student behavior (where you are)…great student behavior (where you want to be). 

So how do we do it? How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? The answer is simple. We build a bridge. 

Building bridges in classroom management is all about explicit instruction on skills gaps. A long time ago when I first started teaching students with emotional and/or behavioral challenges, I received some advice from a speaker. She said, “When kids misbehave, it’s because they either can’t do something or they won’t do it, but either way, we teach.” We build the bridge. 

Now, building a bridge across a canyon is a daunting task. It’s complex and involves math, science, engineering and so much more, but building a bridge to skill acquisition can be done in 8 steps: 

Step 1: Create a written mini-lesson plan that includes: 

  • The skill the child is missing. What can’t they or won’t they do that could improve behavior? 
  • A breakdown of the desired skill into specific steps with a description of each step. What does it look like? Sound like? 
  • A description of how you will teach, model, practice and reinforce the skill. Should it be a mini-lesson or can you use a children’s book? Should you model or can a peer? What are some ways the student could practice the skill with support and on their own? What types of reinforcers are motivating to the learner?  

Step 2: Meet with the student to begin the mini-lesson. 

Step 3: Provide the student a rationale for the importance of the skill to which the student can relate. Maybe they need the skill for a future job or the skill could help them get better at a hobby. 

Step 4: Provide modeling through video or role play. Check out this great resource on video modeling. 

Step 5: Provide guided practice through additional role play and activities. 

Step 6: Give specific feedback and positive praise during guided practice (Step 5). 

Step 7: Put the student in situations, natural or created, where the skill can be applied and generalized. 

Step 8: Highly reinforce the student for exhibiting the skill. At first, you will want to do this every time he or she exhibits the skill you want. Soon, you will be able to provide intermittent reinforcement until eventually, the skill will be a natural part of the student’s positive behavior repertoire.  

There you have it, 8 easy steps to building a bridge to skill acquisition. This will help you and your students get from where you are to where you want to be! 


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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Student Brain Development

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