New Teacher Series: Using Antecedent Interventions

Something I've wanted to do for a while now is start a blog series specifically for new/ beginning teachers! There are SO many things that I wish I had learned or had access to my first few years in the classroom.  I'm hoping to make the first few years a little easier for teachers with these posts!

Although the series will be targeted towards new teachers, I think many of the things I'll share in the series can help or inspire experienced teachers too!

This post will focus on using antecedent-based interventions (ABIs) to support students. I'll explain what ABIs are and share multiple easy to implement!


What are antecedent-based interventions (ABI)?
Simply put, ABIs decrease "undesirable behaviors" and increase engagement by modifying the environment before the "undesirable behavior" even starts. The point of ABIs is to give students the supports they need before they need to use "undesirable behavior" to express what they need/ want.

The process/ steps for implementing ABI:
ABIs are often identified for individual students who have behavior plans (BIPs) after a FBA is completed. However, many ABIs are best practices for running a smooth classroom. ABIs can be used across the entire classroom to support all students without needing a FBA/ behavior plan. 

If you are wanting to implement antecedent-based interventions for an individual student, work with your team to do the following:
1. Identify the "undesired behavior." This step involves conducting a functional behavior assessment. Work with your school psychologist or supporting BCBA, when possible!
  • Define the interfering/ undesired behavior (make sure it's a concrete definition)
  • Identify where and when the student is showing the behavior  (scatterplot data is helpful with this)
  • Take ABC data to identify the antecedent (what's happening before the behavior) and what the student is getting after the behavior (the consequence) 
  • Identify what the environment is like when the student shows the behavior (is it quiet, loud, during a transition, etc.)
  • This data will help you to identify: the setting events, the function of the behavior and a solid definition of the behavior. 
2. Collect baseline data.
  • Collect frequency, duration, etc. data in a variety of settings and across multiple days. 
  • This is important so you know where the student started and then you can compare data after you implement an ABI. 
3. Implement the appropriate ABI.
  • Work with your team to choose an ABI that is linked to the function of the behavior that you identified in step 1. The goal is to choose an ABI that will get students the same consequence/ need met as the interfering/ "undesired behavior.
4. Monitor progress
  • Continue to take data after the ABI is implemented to make sure it's working!

Don't forget that ABIs can be identified for an individual student in BIPs but that they are also helpful for ALL students! Below are some examples of ABIs that can be implemented even without conducting a FBA/ BIP. If most of your class is having trouble with a specific time of day, there is likely an antecedent-based intervention that can help! 


Arranging the environment:
Modifying or changing the physical environment to increase students' positive behaviors can be pretty simple and helpful! Some examples ways you can arrange the classroom environment to support students include:
  • Using furniture, rugs or tape on the floor to create visual and clear boundaries for spaces in the classroom
  • Switching out/ changing materials in centers and lessons to keep engagement and interest high. (What student wouldn't get bored doing the same thing for weeks at a time?!)
  • Using pictures/ visuals to show students where materials belong


  • Providing students with visuals and schedules so the expectations in each area of the classroom are clear. 



  • Using different visuals/ markers to show students their individual spaces (you can use square markers, tape on the floor, carpet pieces, etc.)
  • Creating an attractive, organized and neat learning environment



Structuring time:
Structuring activities throughout the day is so helpful for the students and staff! ABIs that include structuring time include:
  • Using timers to show students how much longer they have to work, how much free time they have or until a transition. You can use kitchen timers, visual timers, timers on iPads, sand timers, etc. 


  •  Using visuals (like contingency charts and first/ then boards) so students know what activity is next in the schedule. 


Offering choices:
Giving students choices is one of the most effective ways to increase on-task behavior and decrease "undesired behaviors." A good rule to follow is to give students 2-4 choices (based on their communication and developmental levels) and to provide them with appropriate choices. Here are a few super simple examples of choices you can give students:
  • Ask them what teacher/ staff member they want to work with
  • What writing material do they want to use (i.g. "Do you want to write with a smelly marker or a pen?")

  • What time of seat/chair do they want to use (wiggle seats, ball chairs, standing, etc.)
  • What order do they want to do the activity in (i.g. "Do you want to do your word work or writing first?")
Providing access to sensory supports/ enriching the environment:
Giving students access to the sensory supports they need and creating a calm environment are other ABIs that will benefit many kids! Some examples include:
  • Having therapy balls (my students love this chair!) wiggle seats
  • Keeping a variety of fidgets accessible. I have this pack and my kids love them all! 

  • Using weighted vests, blankets, body socks
  • Keeping headphones out and easy to grab

  • Using light covers over florescent lights or using lamps for lighting if you're able to
Changing the routine or schedule:
Changes in routines can be hard for students. Creating a predictable and balanced routine/ schedule can be really beneficial to students. Some examples of modifying the schedule/ routine include:
  • Minimizing the number of transitions across the day. (i.g. If a student needs to go to the bathroom right when they arrive to school, have them go directly to the bathroom and then the classroom; instead of going to the classroom, unpacking and then transitioning to the bathroom.)
  • Reducing the number of students transitioning at a particular time (i.g. have a small group of students transition at a time instead of the entire class at once)
  • Giving students warnings about schedule changes and transitions (You can do this verbally and with visuals!). Talk to students about any schedule changes ahead of time!

  • Reducing wait time during transitions without giving students something to do (Grisham-Brown et al., 2005). It's a great idea to give students something to do like little exercises, holding a fidget, singing a song, etc. during transition wait times. 

  • Balancing a variety of activities across the day (i.g. work then break, work then break, mixing in time to move after sitting, etc.)


Use highly preferred items/ activities:
Mixing in highly preferred items and activities across the schedule is the last ABI I'll share about. Some examples of ways to add highly preferred items/ activities include:
  • Scheduling time daily that students will consistently get break time/ preferred activities

  • Implementing students' preferred topics, interests, etc. into lessons or behavior charts
  • Scheduling a break/ preferred activity following work time


Let me know what you'd like to have next in the new teacher series! You can leave a comment here, send me an email or a DM on social media! 

Note: This post has affiliate links. I personally purchased all of these toys for my classroom and my students love them! I was not given the toys nor am I paid by the toy companies for promoting them. I simply get a few cents from Amazon if you purchase them through my links.