Strategies for Successful Group Behavior and Participation

Strategies for Successful Group Behavior and Participation

Listen up, teachers, girl scout/boy scout leaders, team sports coaches, camp counselors, and youth group leaders: this one's just for you!  We've compiled a list of the most important strategies for contributing to group progress while also emphasizing successful behavior and participation. Read on!



  • Establish and maintain clear routines
  • **Give children advance warning when the routine will be different
  • Set clear limits and define what behavior is expected in each setting
  • Announce upcoming transitions, such as a 2 minute warning before changing activities or settings
  • Provide as much information as you can about new experiences in advance
  • For multiple-step projects, provide visuals/examples each step of the way to illustrate the goal
  • Use visual timers to help monitor time left on tasks – this is helpful for those who get frustrated by not finishing


Group Management

  • Have clearly defined behavioral expectations and post them as a visual reference
  • Assign jobs for all students. This contributes to a feeling of community and gives them a chance to be responsible and cooperative
  • Add group incentives for accomplishing goals together such as small group points for good behavior, participation, or task completion
  • Use auditory signals to get their attention (chime/bell), clap a pattern, or use a clear verbal signal such as 1,2,3, eyes on me
  • Make sure to build in lots of movement opportunities to keep children engaged and interested
  • To increase participation, incorporate opportunities to actively respond, such as “Turn to your partner and tell one thing….
  • Always provide lots of positive reinforcement (verbal, gestural, tangible, etc.) to make group activities enjoyable
  • Consider having a behavior monitoring system (green/yellow/red, happy face/sad face, etc) to give feedback on how they are doing
  • To reduce issues while “waiting” for a turn, teach the concept of a “waiting turn”: “When it’s not your turn to do the activity, it’s your “waiting turn”, and you get to help by doing x, y, z”



  • Use brief, clear statements with one step at a time.
  • Avoid lengthy lectures and keep kids actively engaged whenever possible
  • Use more Do’s than Don’ts! For example, say: “Sit down over here” instead of “Don’t go over there
  • Be direct! Avoid sarcasm and indirect requests. For example, say: “Take turns” instead of “I’m waiting for you to play nicely”  
  • Avoid requests disguised as choices. Say “Please put that down” instead of “Can you stop doing that?
  • Pair your words with pictures/visuals, gestures, demonstrations, and physical prompts
  • Be consistent and don’t make threats you can’t follow through on
  • Praise, praise, praise! This is important verbal feedback letting the child know what s/he did right
  • Use specific praise like “Nice turn taking, you two!” rather than general praise like “Good job!


Addressing Problem Behaviors

Preventing Issues

  • Reward children for getting attention in positive ways
  • Provide choices when possible (“Which would you like to put away first, the blocks or the crayons?”)
  • Distraction can be a legitimate strategy!
  • Choose your battles. Rather than getting upset about every little problem, address the behaviors that are most harmful toward self or others
  • Anticipate problem behaviors and intervene before they get out of control
  • For every negative comment a child hears, s/he should hear at least 3 positives!
  • Watch for patterns in problem behavior: time of day, type of task, unfamiliar settings, noise level, number of people around, etc. This may contribute to the solution!

During a Tantrum/Meltdown

  • Remain calm, do not argue, and never raise your voice at the child
  • Try to distract child with another activity or a break from what’s going on
  • Maintain child’s safety and the safety of others; call for assistance if necessary
  • Discuss problematic behavior with parent to find out if there are patterns across settings