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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Wrist Bands: Individual Behavior Supports for Music Class

With so many students to teach and so little time with each class, managing to give each student the kind of individual support we'd like to is a monumental task! And often when individual students are struggling in school, music teachers are left out of any individual plans that are created for them. I've found a few strategies in the last few years that have been very helpful for students who need individualized support that are realistic for me to implement as a music teacher. I hope they will be helpful for others as well. One strategy that has been helpful for targeting one specific behavior goal for individual students has been the rubber band method. I've since learned that this strategy is fairly well-known within some circles, but it was new to me when the school psychologist shared it with me a few years ago and it has been very effective for some situations!

I have used this strategy as a way to give a student a silent reminder when they are working to reduce the frequency of a specific targeted behavior. That could be roaming the room when it's not appropriate to do so, calling out/ interrupting, name-calling, throwing, or any other behavior that the student exhibits frequently within a class period.

The basic idea is simple: I start with a certain number of rubber bands on one wrist. Any time the student exhibits the targeted behavior, I silently move a rubber band from one wrist to the other. The goal is for there to be at least 1 band left on the first arm when the class period is over. Once the student starts to adjust their behavior and is consistently successful, I can reduce the number of bands that I have to start with.

This strategy works within the context of my job as an elementary music teacher because I can just put the bands on my arm in the morning whenever I know I have that student in class that day, and if I happen to need it for more than one student within the building I can use the same bands and just replace them after each class leaves. I don't have to create a new individual chart for them, and I don't have to set something up for that student that stays out in the room somewhere (like many homeroom teachers might do with a visual on their desk etc).

The rubber band strategy works in general because it doesn't draw attention to the behavior- for the other students in the class, who generally don't even notice me moving bands so it doesn't create any sense of shame for the student, or for the individual student, for whom it avoids giving any sort of positive reinforcement for the behavior but still gives them the reminders that they need. It also works because it's very concrete, and it allows us to work with realistic goals- we aren't expecting a behavior to immediately disappear, but to help students be more aware and gradually correct it over time. And it helps me keep track of data without having to stop to write things down, which is never convenient, and often it helps me see the student making progress more easily- it can be hard to remain patient when a student's progress is slow, but it's easier to notice that gradual progress happen when I notice I only have to move 3 bands instead of 5, etc.

When I have used this I have done it in tandem with an individual behavior plan that the support team creates for the student for their overall school time, so I fill out their chart, give them a sticker, check off a list, or whatever they are using outside of my room based on how they did with the rubber bands in my class. It saves me some of the headache of trying to remember lots of different individual plans while I'm in the middle of teaching, while still working with whatever they are doing in the rest of their classes with other teachers.

I hope this helps you find manageable ways to support students in their behavior goals! I'm planning to share more of my favorite strategies for individual behavior supports in the future. What are some tools that you use in your own teaching practice? I'd love to hear more ideas in the comments below! And if you want to learn about how I build a classroom community and foster positive character in my music classes you can read about all of my procedures and strategies in this post.


  1. Love the concept, but I can see certain students shooting the rubber bands around the room :-)

    1. That would definitely worry me too if the kids were the ones wearing them, but in this case the teacher would be the one wearing the rubber bands, not the students :)