Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas: Behavior Management Using Activity Boxes

Hi Friends!

Welcome to the Bright Ideas Link Up for APRIL!    I'm teamed up with 150 fellow Bloggers, to bring you some of the best and brightest ideas!!!   You'll be able to click through to read everyone's ideas in the linky at the bottom of this post.  

My "bright idea" is a technique that I have used when working with students with behavioral issues such as Bipolar, ADD/ADHD. This is a simple technique, using activity boxes to redirect behavioral issues that become disruptive to the classroom routine.

I began using this technique when I was assigned a student that had ADHD with severe behavioral issues. The objective is to redirect the negative behavior before it escalates.  I have used activity boxes with students that could become aggressive, and violent not only to themselves but also toward other individuals. It also is helpful for children that may not fully understand why they are behaving inappropriately.

Setting up activity boxes is simple.  Sometimes the simplest idea can be the one thing that helps you connect with a student!

There are a few guidelines I like to follow when setting up activity boxes for individual students for the first time.

1.  Include the student in the process.   This is important because the box is intended to help that student re-direct their negative behaviors.  It isn't going to have the degree of success if the student isn't engaged in the materials included in it.  

2. The container should be the size of a shoe box.  My first activity boxes were actual shoe boxes.  I love the Nike shoe boxes that have the flip flap lid. I would go to the Mall and ask for the empty boxes.   Students can pick their box, and help decorate it.  Shoe boxes are compact, and will stack easily in a storage closet.

(Yep, all of you out there that are OCD that would want the boxes to match might want to re-think that for good reason.  Students will develop a sense of pride in their activity box. They are more apt to utilize it and work toward positive behavior if it represents them!)

3.  The contents of the activity box should have an educational value.   Using activity boxes is not intended for a student to get out of doing work, or to play after disrupting class. This is a tool to use to defuse negative (escalating) behaviors.

(Note:  One of the successes I had using this technique was with a student with Bipolar.  He would have violent outbursts including throwing furniture,or objects.  He would throw himself into walls and bang his head on the walls, etc. When he was in a rage, you could not reach him verbally. When I introduced the activity boxes to him,  we sat down together and chose items that would go into it.  He liked dinosaurs and books.  So his box included books about dinosaurs, drawing paper, pens, informational cards, and a card game.  I bought him a "how to draw" book that he could look at to learn how to draw animals.  When he would feel himself losing control, he would have permission to work independently using his activity box. He'd spend anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour or so working with activities in his box and then he would be able to rejoin the activities with the other students.)

4.  Go over the ground rules for using the activity boxes.  This would include proper way to use and take care of the materials in the box, appropriate time to use them, etc.  Remember to focus on the positive as much as possible!

The box I chose for this demo is pretty cool.   It is a little bigger than a standard shoe box.  It's technically a plastic tackle box.   I chose this particular box because it has a tray that sets inside which is perfect to hold pens, and other art supplies.  The space under the tray could then hold small books and activities.

The items I chose for this demo are small 5 x7 softbound books, a word search book, a super cool frog magnifying glass for exploring, a half size composition book (they had these at Walmart during back to school, they look just like standard composition books just cut in half).   

This is a better view of the cute magnifying glass.  (I found these at Walmart in the Easter section. They had ladybug style too! They are adorable).   The booklets have text as well as questions in them to test comprehension.

This is a picture of the tray.  I put my new Scentos Markers (love!!!) in there.  You can see there is lots of room in this box.

This picture shows how nice the books fit into the bottom of the box.  The tray fits on top and the lid clasps.  The box is compact enough that it can fit in a student desk or 

I had to post a picture of this cute little paint can container I found.  It's just slightly smaller than a standard paint can.  I found it in the Easter isle at Walmart.   Not as big as a shoe box but there is enough room to hold some art supplies, small books, and some drawing paper.  

I hope that you have found this post to be helpful.  If you have any questions about putting together activity boxes, feel free to email me at   or you're welcome to leave a comment with your email address and I will contact you.  

Below, you'll find a link up of the other Bloggers participating in this event.  I hope that you'll take some time out of your busy schedule to read through the posts.  Be sure to share the Bright Ideas with your friends and colleagues!


  1. I love this idea!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing!! I really want to try it next school year if I need it :)
    I love the tackle box!

  2. Hi Danielle,
    This is really a great idea! I wish I had it several years ago when I taught at a behavioral school. I think it would be very useful for my gifted kids too that always seem to finish their work quickly or for students that need a little push to inspire them. Thanks for sharing!

    :) Shelley

  3. I love this and as I was reading I had a few of my kiddos who will greatly benefit from this! Thanks!
    Teaching Ever After

  4. This is a great idea! Having the box for the student specifically designed for them!


  5. A great post and thank you for sharing. I discovered that plasticine can be very helpful too. I have a young man that has been a huge problem to a few teachers but is a little angel with me now that I keep a supply of plasticine on hand. I have him model what we are covering (takes a little external thinking occasionally ...) and it works a treat. Once the others are settled to some group work or worksheets I sit quietly with him and we go over his worksheets/exercises together and he now completes all his work. I'm going to make him an Activity Box this weekend :)

  6. How do you keep them from using it to get out of doing work? I have a student with Adhd and one behavioural and both just never initiate returning to the class work or even flare up again when they are prompted to return.

  7. thank your for sharing. such a lovely idea. i am going to try it out as every year i'd encounter one or two student(s) with behavioral problem.

  8. This is a lovely idea. I don't have children with severe behavior issues, but I do have some that are more gifted, they finish their work quickly and are difficult to keep quiet during activities, since they are so easily bored. I do have a question, though. I don't know about kids from other parts of the world, but here, in Romania, in my school, they are all very curious and if a kid gets something, the others will want that something, too and they will keep asking why is their classmate getting stuff that they aren't. So my question is: do you have these boxes for all the children in class? And if not, how do you explain to the others why they don't have these boxes? I teach 4 year olds and it might be difficult to make them understand. But maybe I could have one for each kid and use the boxes instead of the "5 minute break" punishment for bad behavior. For example, if a kid is noisy/angry/sad, instead of giving him the "break", where he'd be isolated from his friends/toys for 5 minutes, I would just give him the activity box and have him work on that until he's calmed himself and feels ready to go back to his friends or his activities. What do you think?

  9. I agree with the above poster. Do you have a box for everyone? How do you keep this from becoming a "reward" for bad behavior. I would think many children would consider misbehavior themselves in order to get a box.


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