What’s Next? Tier 2 Practices to Address Challenging Behavior in PreK

Over the last two months, we’ve been looking at the Pyramid Model – an evidence-based approach to addressing young children’s challenging behavior using three tiers of practice.

Tier 1 — Classroom-wide practices to prevent challenging behavior

Tier 2 — Targeted supports to teach specific social skills

Tier 3 — Intensive interventions

See this handout for full-size visual: http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/do/resources/documents/pyramid_model_handout.pdf

Last month, we took a close look at Tier 1 – foundational practices to build Nurturing and Responsive Relationships and High Quality Supportive Environments – measures that help prevent much of children’s challenging behavior.

In this post, we will address the question, “What’s next?”  In other words, once Tier 1 supports are in place, what are next steps to address challenging behavior that may still occur?  This is where Tier 2 supports come in!  Tier 2 includes targeted practices to address the specific needs of children at risk for challenging behavior – those children who have difficulty regulating emotions, do not make friends easily, or are persistently noncompliant.

What do Tier 2 practices look like?

Tier 2 practices are about skill building.  Many children exhibit challenging behavior because they are missing key social and communication skills!  Consider a child who is aggressive with peers during play – often taking materials or hitting when frustrated.  This child may be missing skills needed to ask his/her peers if he/she can play with them, or if he/she can share their materials.

Over this post and the next, we will examine Tier 2 practices in two skill areas where many children need support: 1) social problem solving, and 2) friendship skills.

This month, we’ll look at how to support children’s social problem solving. (Keep an eye out for our Social Problem Solving Professional Development Suite coming soon to the VPI+ website!)

Teaching Social Problem Solving

It is important to teach children about social problem solving before they encounter a problem.  They need to be taught how to treat others and what behavior is acceptable.  However, what is often most difficult is to know how to turn a social conflict into an effective teaching opportunity “in the moment.”  That’s what we will focus on here.

In this video, you will see five steps for teaching social problem solving in the moment and how to use them in a classroom.

#1  Recognize and describe the problem

#2  Encourage solutions

#3  Discuss consequences

#4  Agree on a solution

#5  Try it out


Did you notice how this teacher used materials to help her talk to students about the problem and possible solutions?

This teacher used part of a classroom “Solution Kit” developed by the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL).  You can download and print a Solution Kit poster and solution cards (in full size and cue card size) for teachers to take and use in their classrooms.

Unfortunately, we more often see teachers use ineffective practices like these:

Solving the problem for children – Why don’t you just share?

Minimizing the problem – It’s no big deal.

Telling children to just figure it out – You two can work it out yourselves.

Punishing (or threatening punishment) – If I see this again, you will have to sit out of our game.

Talking to each child separately (not coming to a joint resolution)

Another mistake some teachers make is trying to have children problem solve when they are feeling too overwhelmed by strong emotions.  Children in a highly emotional state are not likely learn to learn from the process.  Instead, it may be appropriate to first help children regulate their emotions before engaging them in problem solving.

Source: istock

Supporting Teachers to Use the Strategies

The resources below can help you support teachers to use these strategies.  And our upcoming Social Problem Solving Professional Development Suite, including a complete set of resources for training and supporting teachers will be coming soon the the VPI+ website.

Two-page resource from the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) for teachers and coaches/mentors on key points learned during the training and reviewing classroom practices for future reference

Materials for a classroom Solution Kit (Poster; Solution Kit Cards – full size; Solution Kit Cards – cue card size) for teachers to take and use in their classrooms

Fidelity checklist of key practices for use during planning and follow-up/observations by coaches/mentors.

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