Teaching Strategies

Big Picture

New functionally equivalent replacement behaviors and general positive behaviors must be specifically taught and reinforced. The teaching strategies section of the BIP should include specific, thorough information about how to teach the student to use the FERB.

This description should be detailed enough so that an unfamiliar individual could pick up the plan and know what the steps are to teach the desired behavior; it should include specific teaching strategies that will be used (e.g., prompting, shaping, role play, etc.) Materials that are required for the student to use the FERB should also be included (e.g., picture cards to be used for communication, etc.)


Providing detailed description of how the desired behavior will be taught will help implementors know what steps to follow to teach the behavior. Additionally, it can help identify areas where the implementors may need more support or where the plan is breaking down and not working. Finally, including a teaching plan helps to ensure that the strategies selected for instruction are developmentally appropriate and match the student's learner profile.

Key Concepts

  • Teaching requires progressively shaping, prompting, modeling, cueing, reinforcing and eventually fading supports to increase the independent use of the desired behavior. How to teach the desired behavior(s) should be described using strategies which are known to be successful for the student.
  • If multiple FERBs are identified, detailed teaching strategies for each FERB must be outlined within the BIP (i.e., a FERB for escape from work and access to preferred item must have separate, detailed teaching plans).
  • The frequency of instruction and practice can be outlined to ensure implementors know the intensity of instruction required to support the student in acquiring the desired behavior (e.g., 2-3 five-minute practice sessions daily).
  • Practitioners should avoid specifying the use of a particular curriculum. Rather, describe specific strategies to use to teach the desired skills.


Selection of teaching strategies should be based on what is known to be effective with the student. For example, do they respond well to video modeling? Or, do they require role play for practice?

When determining the teaching strategies needed, it will likely be helpful to create a task analysis of the FERB to determine what steps are needed to be taught. Doing so will help the team identify specific strategies (e.g., prompting, visual supports, etc.) needed to support instruction during each step.

Collaboration with the teacher or individual who will be implementing the BIP will be important here, to ensure appropriate and effective teaching strategies are identified.

Examples and Non-Examples

Scenario One

  1. Challenging Behavior: Screaming, flipping tables during math instruction
  2. Function: Escape
  3. FERB: Use of Skip Card
Example/Non-Example Rationale

Non- Example: Teach the student to use a skip card.

Non-Example: Lacking details about which strategies will be used, materials needed.

Kai's teacher will develop: Skip card, visual prompt of words “I don't want to do this”, and a list of success-level tasks to present quickly.

Kai's teacher will begin with role play. The teacher will: (a) Tell Kai “we are going to practice how to stop doing an assignment that is too hard! I'm going to give you a REALLY hard worksheet. You can say “I don't want to do this” or you can point to this skip card on the table”. Practice the above scenario frequently, in times when Kai is calm and not upset by work or demand. Be sure that these are teaching times only - outside of regular math instruction times.

(b)Eventually begin to practice using the strategy during regular instruction; it will likely be necessary to prompt or remind Kai to use the strategy (“Remember to use your words or your skip card if it's hard and you don't want to”).

(c) When Kai uses the replacement behavior (“I don't want to do this”), immediately remove the work and provide a success-level task.

(d) Once established, Kai's teacher will teach and model steps a-c to support staff.

Example: Complete, detailed description of how the student will be taught.

Scenario Two

  1. Challenging Behavior: Self-Injury (biting arm/wrist)
  2. Function: Tangible (access desired toys, iPad, music)
  3. FERB: Proximity (student stands near item) and reaching towards item
  4. Of Note: Student does not yet use verbal language. Student has a limited attention span and is unable to imitate behavior.
Example/Non-Example Rationale

Non- Example: Model and role play the FERB for the student. This should be done 3-4 times throughout the day.

Non-Example: Lacking complete description of how to teach the FERB.

Additionally, teaching strategies identified do not match the learner profile (e.g., limited attention, no imitation ability), as modeling and role play require a student to be able to watch instruction and then imitate the behavior.

Teaching opportunities should occur 2-3 times per day, when student is calm (e.g., not displaying challenging behavior).

Instructional steps:

  • Hold up desired item (e.g., iPad, personal DVD player, etc.)
  • Physically prompt student (light guidance at the elbow or wrist) to reach toward the item, preventing student from being able to bite their arm.
  • Immediately provide the student access to the item.
  • Allow student to engage for 2-3 minutes
  • Remove desired item
  • Block attempts to bite (if necessary) and physically prompt the student to reach toward item.
  • Continue to repeat for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Fade the physical prompt by moving down the prompt hierarchy.

Note: it may be helpful to have two individuals providing instruction.

When the student is independently reaching toward the object held within arm's length, teacher should move a few steps away and require the student to stand up and walk toward teacher/preferred item. If additional support is needed to teach this step, teacher should contact behavior specialist.

Example: Teaching strategy is clearly outlined with specific strategies. Frequency of instruction is outlined. The teaching strategy identified (prompting) is developmentally appropriate for the identified student.


Incorporating elements to support Treatment Fidelity, (e.g., cheat sheets, task analysis, and/or checklists) have been shown to increase the consistency, fidelity, and quality of intervention implementation. It is recommended that teams take time to create an Action and Coping Plan to support implementation of the BIP.

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