Planned Ignoring

Planned Ignoring is an intervention strategy designed to decrease a student’s off-task behaviors by withholding attention. This strategy is most effective when a student’s behavior is motivated by the desire to gain the attention of others. It should only be implemented if the behavior is not harmful to the student or others (e.g., calling out, getting out of seat). After identifying the target behavior, the teacher ignores the behavior every time the student engages in it (i.e., teacher does not talk to the student, look at the student, or react to the behavior in any way) and models appropriate replacement behaviors for gaining attention. By doing so, the teacher encourages the student to self-regulate their actions and fulfill their desire for attention by engaging in more acceptable behaviors. Planned Ignoring is a minimally intrusive intervention that is respectful to students and produces lasting behavior changes.

Implementation Tips

Teach Replacement Behaviors
Identify and teach the student replacement behaviors that are equally or more effective at getting attention as the disruptive behavior. For example, teach a student to tell appropriate jokes instead of teasing his peers. Provide opportunities for the student to practice and provide positive reinforcement when the student uses the replacement behavior.
Expect an Increase in Behavior Before it Decreases
Students will often respond to the denial of attention with an extinction burst -- an increase in the frequency and/or intensity of the behavior. Continue to implement Planned Ignoring through the extinction burst, which is typically followed by a sharp decline in the behavior.
Begin in a Controlled Environment
For behaviors that may be difficult to ignore in public (e.g., unhygienic behaviors) start with ignoring the behavior in a more private, controllable setting such as in the classroom or in small groups.
Track Data
Record data on the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior before and during implementation of Planned Ignoring to monitor the student's progress. A simple data tracking sheet from The Kansas Institute for Positive Behavior Support can be found [[|here]].
Ensure Essential Needs Are Met
When implementing Planned Ignoring, make sure that the student’s physical, social, and emotional needs are met. Students sometimes use negative behavior to express an unrelated need. For example, if a student has no friends, they are more likely to engage in inappropriate behavior to get attention from their peers. Students are also able to make more informed and beneficial decisions when their basic needs are met.
Control Your Own Behavior
If you find it difficult to ignore the student’s behavior, use cooling down techniques such as counting to ten or taking deep breaths to decrease tension. It can be helpful to direct your attention to something else such as an unrelated task, a book, or another person when ignoring the student’s behavior.
Be Consistent
It is important to remain consistent when Planned Ignoring, as attending to the target behavior even one time during this process can inadvertently lead to strengthening the behavior. If after one week, the behavior continues or becomes more intense, the teacher should consider an alternative behavior intervention.
Be Discreet
Although meeting with a student prior to implementing Planned Ignoring is helpful and encouraged, once Planned Ignoring is in action, it is important not to explicitly state it. For example, if a student initiates a target behavior (e.g., getting out of their seat), the teacher should not state to the student or in earshot of the student, "I am going to ignore this behavior." Simply do not acknowledge the behavior in any way. If the teacher needs to communicate to others that Planned Ignoring is being implemented, use previously agreed upon physical gestures that can be used discreetly and will not be noticed by the student engaging in the disruptive behavior.


Reinforcing Class Routines/Rules
Planned Ignoring can help reinforce previously taught classroom routines (e.g., raising hand for attention). For example, at the beginning of the year, a student might frequently call out in class instead of following the classroom rule of raising her hand. The teacher can implement Planned Ignoring by directing his attention away from the student toward others who are requesting attention appropriately (i.e., raising their hands). While implementing Planned Ignoring, the teacher can expect an increase in the student's disruptive behavior (i.e., calling out) for a period of time (anywhere between a few days to a week). If the teacher continues to ignore the behavior during this time and reinforces a desired replacement behavior, there will be a noticeable decrease in the disruptive behavior. This process reduces the student's use of the target behavior and also reinforces all students in the class for following classroom expectations.
Using Student-Teacher Conferences When Planning
When appropriate, students can be included in planning the implementation of Planned Ignoring. During a Student-Teacher Conference, the student and teacher identify the disruptive behavior and the reason why the student engages in it. For example, a student might call out in class because they are worried they may forget their question. Together, the teacher and student determine new, non-disruptive ways to get their needs met (e.g., write down the question, raise hand). After the replacement behaviors are modeled and practiced, the teacher explains that attention will no longer be given for the target behavior. [[!/strategies/2ab7aa22-876b-48ba-8cb9-f6008c315649|Student Contracts]] and [[!/strategies/7f2e7a09-a96b-4447-965c-b43d88e66970|Modeling Behavior Reflection Forms]] can be used during the student conference.
Setting Expectations for Whole-Group Planned Ignoring
Teaching the entire class or learning community to ignore disruptive behaviors can build classroom community and shared accountability. During a whole-group meeting time, have students discuss what types of behaviors are beneficial to learning and a positive community and which are not. Together the group can develop a plan to ignore behaviors which are destructive to individuals or the learning community. With the class, determine verbal and non-verbal prompts that the teacher can use to signal to the group when a behavior should be ignored. When implementing Whole-Group Planned Ignoring, do not focus on specific students during the class meeting, instead encourage the class to build a common understanding of positive classroom behaviors. [[!/strategies/290a50f5-2b68-41a0-b78f-ff074f5dec77|Verbal Prompting Planning Templates]] can be used during the group discussion.
Collaborating with Other Staff to Implement Planned Ignoring
Planned Ignoring is most effective when implemented across settings and people. For example, if a student frequently calls others names in multiple environments, all teachers and support staff working with the student can collectively respond with Planned Ignoring. By withholding attention across settings, the disruptive behavior becomes less reinforcing more quickly than if only implemented in one setting. The teachers and support staff can also collaborate around which alternative, appropriate behaviors to encourage (e.g., raising hand, addressing teacher respectfully, etc.) and establish common methods of reinforcement. Other adults such as family members and coaches can also be taught to use the strategy outside of the school setting.

Related Strategies