Positive Behavior Support Through the Teaching Pyramid Model

Positive behavior support (PBS) is a process that focuses on children’s challenging behaviors as a way to understand the purpose of the behaviors and to teach new skills to replace the challenging behaviors. Recent research has demonstrated that PBS can result in a decrease in problem behaviors (Fox 2003).

The PBS process provides strategies for early childhood educators and families to help children with challenging behaviors become more successful in school, at home, and in the community.

Recently, PBS has been seen as a model to be implemented school-wide, whereby the staff work together to ensure that children understand behavioral expectations and receive instruction in social-emotional learning.

The Teaching Pyramid

Lise Fox and her colleagues conceptualized a tiered framework for early childhood classrooms to support positive behavior (Fox et al. 2003). This framework, labeled the Teaching Pyramid Model (see figure page 267), provides a continuum of supports and services designed for young children to build social competence and prevent challenging behaviors. This framework has three tiers of intervention.

The first tier of the Teaching Pyramid Model consists of two levels of a universal classroom practice that focuses on the prevention of challenging behaviors and the development of social competence in all children. The first level focuses on developing positive relationships with children, families, and staff. Research supports the notion that responsive and nurturing relationships are essential to a child’s development (National Research Council 2000).

These early relationships set the foundation for future relationships. Practices such as actively engaging children, teaching within routines and play, responding to children’s verbal interactions, promoting the communication of all children, and reinforcing and encouraging attempts at learning are encouraged.

The second level of the universal tier involves providing a supportive learning environment, including implementing a curriculum that promotes learning in all developmental areas, using developmentally and culturally appropriate teaching practices, providing predictability in classroom rules and routines, reinforcing clear behavioral expectations, and providing a physically safe environment. For many children, these two levels of classroom practice may be all that are needed to support average social-emotional development.

The secondary prevention tier of the Teaching Pyramid Model focuses on children who are delayed or may be at risk for developing age-appropriate social skills and emotional regulation. All preschool-aged children need some level of adult guidance and instruction to learn how to express their emotions, play with peers, and solve problems. However, some children will need more focused intervention to learn specific social-emotional skills (Denham et al. 2003; Strain and Joseph 2006). Families of these children will also need guidance to help them foster social-emotional competence at home.

The tertiary intervention tier of the Teaching Pyramid Model applies to a few young children who have patterns of persistent challenging behaviors and need an individualized, comprehensive intervention approach.

Although the lower levels of the pyramid may be in place, these children need a behavioral assessment to determine the function of their challenging behaviors. They also require an individualized behavior support plan outlining specific strategies to address the triggers of each behavior, teach replacement behaviors, and provide consistent response to problem behaviors (Dunlap and Fox 2009).

The Kimochis Early Childhood and Elementary Curricula can be used as a Tier 1, universal, classroom-based program to equip children with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively.

The Kimochis Early Childhood and Elementary Curricula can also be used as a Tier 2, secondary prevention program. Educators can use the curriculum in small-group settings to focus on specific skills that are especially problematic for children in this population. These difficult skills could include: sharing, taking turns, handling upset feelings, cooperating and attending in a large group, and proficiency in play with others.

Finally, the Kimochis Early Childhood and Elementary Curricula could also be used in a Tier 3, focused intervention program for children receiving individualized attention directed at specific areas of skill-building.