A behavioral matrix is a grid that identifies specific positive behaviors for each behavioral expectation within specific settings and contexts. The matrix is generally assembled with the expectations down the left-hand side and the locations, routines or contexts across the top of the page. Within each box in the grid, three to five specific, positively stated expectations are included. The intent behind using positive terms (the behavior you want to see) is to make a simple and clear list of what behaviors students should be engaging in rather than an extensive list of negative behaviors you do not want to see. Make the descriptions brief but clear and descriptive if you wish. Sometimes a catchy phrase makes it easier to remember the expectation. It is best if the behaviors in the matrix are observable and measurable so that adults and the students themselves are able to see or hear the extent to which they are successful. Younger children, especially preschoolers and kindergartners, may benefit from clear and colorful pictures that show or demonstrate the expected behaviors in addition to text.
In assembling the behavioral matrix, teams generally follow one of two methods. The first is to go through each box in the grid and mentally picture what students are doing if they are meeting behavioral expectations in that location or routine. Those behaviors are described and put into the matrix. The second method often used involves a review of existing behavioral data or observations to identify frequent problem behaviors in each context. The problem behaviors are listed and then their positive behavior counterpart is identified. For instance, if the problem behavior is running down the middle of the hallway, the positive behavior might be walk to the right.
While all behaviors in the matrix will be expected behaviors, only a subset should be taught at any one time. Just as teachers do not try to teach everything about reading at the same time, care should be taken to introduce and teach expectations individually and as needed to allow for more complete learning and practice of the new behaviors. Some teams choose to teach and rollout the expectations in a particular context together. For instance, all the expected behaviors in the cafeteria may be taught and modeled and reinforced together. Other teams choose to emphasize a certain expectation on the left side of the matrix and teach that particular expectation through every location in context over a period of time. Either method works well, and the central point here is simply to break down the teaching of expectations into more manageable chunks.
It is important to share matrix drafts and ideas with the full staff and administration for feedback and revision before the behavioral matrix is finalized.