Strategy: Using Planned Ignoring

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What we give attention to will increase. The use of planned ignoring is a simple, yet extremely effective strategy to decrease minor problem behaviors in the classroom. Planned ignoring is the opposite of providing your attention: it is planning to withhold your attention following a specific behavior. Often, teachers do not realize that when they respond to a student who seeks to gain attention, even via a reprimand, this is still a form of attention. In fact, with some behaviors, providing a reprimand will make it more likely you will see the behavior again.
Effective planned ignoring can help students unlearn problem behaviors that obtain attention and, when paired with positive attention, teaches them more socially appropriate behaviors to interact with peers and adults.
How Using Planned Ignoring Connects to CARES
Planned ignoring is an effective strategy for minimizing the number of times you have to explicitly correct a student’s behavior. By using planned ignoring, you can focus more on reinforcing positive behaviors and providing behavior-specific praise for the behaviors that you would like to see more of in your classroom. By shaping desired behavior through planned ignoring paired with praise, you will be able to maintain and deepen authentic relationships with your students. You will also be able to effectively communicate to students the types of behaviors that you wish to see more of in your classroom.
Some key elements to effective planned ignoring:
1) Only ignore behaviors that students do for attention. If a student is performing a behavior to escape an assignment, ignoring the behavior will not be helpful. Example attention-seeking behaviors include interruptions, making noises, and talking to other students.

2) Planned ignoring is never an appropriate strategy for behavior that is harmful to the student or others (e.g., aggressive behavior, bullying). These behaviors will require the use of a different strategy.

3) Identify specific behaviors to ignore. While there may be many behaviors that you want to change, it is best to focus on one or two at a time.
4) Provide positive attention (see Using Behavior-specific Praise) for appropriate behavior. Remember that you still need to teach students positive classroom behaviors and solely using planned ignoring will not achieve this. As an example, you can ignore Christa if she blurts out in class, but as soon as she raises her hand you can respond with, “Thank you for raising your hand to get my attention!
5) Do not give attention to the behavior. The behavior you ignore will get worse before it goes away. This is because the behavior used to work to get attention, so students will try it again and again and again until they realize it is no longer effective.
6) Do not use planned ignoring if you cannot commit. If you start off ignoring a behavior, but end up responding, the student will learn that they just have to continue or heighten the behavior to get your attention. For example, if you ignore a student blurting out your name and they continue to say your name louder and louder until you respond, they will learn that they just have to get louder to get you to pay attention to them.

How To

How to Use Planned Ignoring

While planning to ignore an undesired behavior is a simple strategy, it can be very hard to implement if you are not used to ignoring behaviors. However, continually practicing not attending to behaviors can have you using this strategy effectively in no time!

Step 1: Identify the student(s) of interest and choose problem behaviors that you will ignore. Decide which problem behaviors you want to focus on and which ones you will not focus on. Think about those behaviors that you feel are most disruptive in the classroom. What do these behaviors look like? Are they different across students? When do they occur? It helps to describe them so you know exactly when to implement your ignoring. Also, think about the reason the student is exhibiting the behavior. Is the student exhibiting the behavior because they are seeking your attention or the attention of others?

Step 2: Practice ignoring the problem behaviors you have identified. This can include turning away, removing eye contact with the student, and continuing instruction when the behaviors occur. Make sure to provide positive attention to the student(s) when they are exhibiting the behaviors that you DO want to see! You can also give attention to other students for exhibiting appropriate behaviors as you are ignoring the problem behavior of another student.

Note on Peer Attention: If the behaviors you are seeing in the classroom are related to getting peer attention (e.g., joking in class, walking around and talking to peers), then consider teaching your students to ignore those behaviors as well. You can teach your class and then prompt them (e.g., “Class, I will be looking for students who are staying on task and not talking with one another. I see Kennedy is working. Christian is not talking to any friends. Great job!”).

Step 3: Make sure to record when the problem behavior occurs, when you ignored the behavior, and if you provided positive attention afterward. Tracking this information will help you to identify your progress regarding the use of the strategy and help problem solve later on.

Step 4: Perform steps 2-3 daily for one week and evaluate your implementation efforts at the end. Did you find that you were consistent with using the strategy each time the student exhibited the problem behavior? Did you remember to provide positive attention/reinforcement for the desired behaviors? Did the student(s) problem behaviors decrease?

Important Note: When using planned ignoring, expect that initially, a student’s problem behavior will dramatically increase (i.e., an extinction burst will occur). This is due to the student “testing” your reaction in an attempt to gain your attention. In other words, the behavior will “get worse before it gets better.” However, don’t be discouraged; if you stick with it, you will see a change!

Strategy Tool

Using Planned Ignoring - Strategy Tool
Use the Using Planned Ignoring strategy tool to help guide your use of the strategy with your students.


Using Planned Ignoring - Reflection
Take a moment to make sure your plan is going to work.

Goal Setting

Using Planned Ignoring - Goal Setting
Use the following form to fill in the week, time of day, and behavior(s) you are ignoring.

References to Other Relevant Resources:

Hall, R. V., & Hall, M. C. (1998). How to use planned ignoring (extinction). Pro Ed.

Gable, R. A., Hester, P. P. , Rock, M. L. , & Hughes, K. (2009). Back to Basics: Rules, Praise, Ignoring, and Reprimands Revisited. Intervention in School and Clinic, 44 (4), 195-205.


Concentration Areas: Connection to the Curriculum; Authentic Relationships; Reflective Thinking About Cultural, Racial/Ethnic, and Class Differences; Effective Communication; Sensitivity to Students’ Culture

What is CARES?

CARES is an acronym for the five domains that research has found to be successful in engaging students of culturally diverse backgrounds at school. Each letter refers to a significant element of interaction within the classroom. Applying all five domains of CARES works because it promotes a better understanding of students and ourselves by using strategies that deepen those relationships every day.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All five CARES domains, together with the Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, support one another and need to be applied in the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

Research has shown that each of the five CARES domains has a significant impact on students and their behavior when used regularly and over time. Students who are known and understood by their teachers as individuals in the classroom report deeper connections academically and to their school. When teachers understand their own cultural heritage, they better understand the differences between themselves and their students and report higher levels of mutual respect with students. This also helps teachers to recognize the similarities they share with their students as well as recognize ways in which they are different. Students are more connected and engaged in classrooms where teachers welcome exploration; invite, acknowledge, and celebrate cultural differences; make relevant connections to the curriculum; listen attentively to understand how each student is approaching the concepts; and use humor and other effective communication tools.

Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate

Concentration Areas: Smooth Transitions, Pacing of Instruction, Student Engagement, Clear Expectations, Use of Praise, Use of Reprimands, Level of Disruptive Behavior

What is Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate?

Positive Behavior Supports refers to the proactive ways that teachers work with their students, as well as the ways that teachers respond to challenging situations with students. The focus is on recognizing and affirming student strengths rather than punishing them or taking something away from them. A positive approach to the classroom will promote a classroom climate that is welcoming to all students and is a place where students want to engage with the teacher, each other, and the curriculum. All individuals, students and teachers, and the interactions between and amongst all classroom members play a role in the climate.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, together with the CARES domains, support one another and need to be applied to the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

In a classroom climate that is positive and welcoming to all members, the classroom becomes a safe place where culture and diversity can be openly discussed. A supportive climate is one that promotes student engagement and success. Students feel supported and motivated to be an active member of the classroom community. The teacher taking a positive and proactive approach creates a climate of care and respect and promotes desired student behaviors. This classroom is also a place that provides consistency to students, which is especially important for students who may experience stress and uncertainty outside of the school building. Teachers who have positive and proactive classrooms report fewer disruptive behaviors from their students, an increase in student achievement, and better overall perceptions of school climate.

CARES Overview

Greeting Students at the Door

Using Journals to Build Relationships

Identifying Reinforcers for the Classroom

Using Social and Emotional Coaching

Using Behavior-specific Praise

Using Active Supervision

Using Group Contingencies

Using Precorrection

Teaching Behavior Expectations

Providing Academic Feedback

Increasing Opportunities to Respond

Developing and Using Clear Academic Objectives

Posting and Using a Schedule

Coaching Process – Menu of Options

Coaching Process – Providing Feedback

Coaching Process – Introduction and Overview

Observation Practice 4

Observation Practice 3

Observation Practice 2

Observation Practice 1

Using an Attention Signal

Teaching Classroom Routines

Physical Classroom Structure

Values Card Sort – Example

Card Sort Introduction

Coaching – Interview Guide

Opening the Meeting

Defining and Teaching Classroom Rules

Mrs. James

Miss Faber

Double Check Classroom Check-Up Overview