Pre-correcting and prompting: An evidence-based behavior strategy

Pre-correcting and prompting is a classroom management strategy you can use to tell and remind students of behavior expectations before potential behavior problems occur.

A pre-correction tells students how to approach a new task or situation. When you deliver a pre-correction, you identify what may be challenging and explicitly teach the correct response, using action-oriented language. For example, if you’re going to the first school assembly of the year, you might say, “I know this is our first assembly. We’re going to be active listeners during the presentation by staying quiet when the speaker is talking.”

A prompt sounds and looks like a pre-correction, but you use it to remind students of expectations for familiar tasks or situations. For example, before heading to the assembly, you might say, “Remember we need to be active listeners during the presentation and stay quiet when the speaker is talking.”

Both pre-corrections and prompts describe what’s expected of students in a way that is obvious and easily understood. If your school uses a PBIS framework, pre-correcting and prompting is a prevention strategy that comes before a response strategy like respectful redirection.

Explore: Learn about this behavior strategy

See examples of the different ways you can pre-correct and prompt in the chart below.

Type of prompt/
K–5 example6–12 example
Gesture: Clear and brief physical movement

Pointing to the “inbox” for homework folders

Pointing to the “inbox” for completed exams

Verbal: Rule statements, questions, or verbal cues

Reminding students to put away their books after reading time

Reviewing the norms for classroom discussion

Visual: Picture reminders; visual schedules; written instructions; and tools such as checklists

Posting and reviewing a picture sequence of the morning routine next to students’ cubbies

Providing a daily planner with visual prompts of what students need for homework

Model: Examples of expected behaviors or work products

Having a student volunteer to demonstrate the SLANT strategy

Showing how a finished project meets the criteria on a rubric

Read: How to use pre-correcting and prompting

Objective: After being given explicit directions or a reminder of the expected behavior, students will approach a task or situation with a high chance of success.

Grade levels (with standards): K–12 (CASEL Core SEL Competencies: Self-management, Responsible decision-making)

Best used for instruction with:

  • Whole class
  • Individuals

How to prepare:

Anticipate. Look at the day ahead and think about times when you may need to tell or remind your students of behavior expectations. Are you teaching a new skill that might be difficult for students? Prepare a pre-correction. Are there tasks and situations that have been difficult for your class or for a specific student? Prepare a prompt.

Think universal. As you develop these pre-corrections and prompts, use Universal Design for Learning to think about how you can present them in different ways. Remember to think beyond verbal pre-corrections and prompts to meet the needs of all learners.

How to teach:

1. Tell students the predicted problem. When pre-correcting, explain what could be difficult. For instance: “We’re going to walk on the left side of the hall today. I know that’s new, so it might be hard to get used to.” When prompting, tell students when and what you’ve seen them have trouble with. For instance, a week after introducing the new expectation: “I’ve noticed that our class is closer to the middle than the left side of the hallway.”

2. Give students the solution. Explicitly share the expected behavior. Provide students with examples (“Remember to be an elbow away from the left side wall so other classes can pass by us.”) and non-examples (“If your elbow is knocking things off the bulletin boards, you’re too close to the wall.”). Remember to use multiple types of prompts. For instance, you can point to a visual as you say something out loud.

3. Think flexibly. Adjust the classroom environment to help students be successful. For instance, if you’ll be walking on a different side of the hallway, have students line up on that side. Give students a chance to practice. Ask students to show their understanding by doing what you’ve asked, especially when you’re pre-correcting.

4. Praise students. When students do well, use behavior-specific praise to tell them exactly what they’ve done correctly. For example: “Nice work walking quietly down the hallway and in the correct spot. You were all on the left side and I didn’t hear a peep.”

Understand: Why this strategy works

Pre-corrections and prompts are preventative. They take place before students have a chance to fail at what’s expected of them. This prevention is especially important for students who learn and think differently since they tend to experience failure more often than their classmates.

Pre-corrections and prompts also provide a sense of agency, one of the elements of trauma-informed teaching. Students who have experienced trauma often feel that the responses and reactions they’ve received from adults are out of their control. This strategy allows students to see a connection between their actions and what happens next.

As a bonus, pre-corrections and prompts are flexible by design. Students who struggle to process information verbally benefit from gestures and visuals. Students who may interpret a teacher’s words differently depending on their linguistic and cultural background benefit from the use of different types of prompts.

Research indicates that when used with effective praise, pre-correcting and prompting reduce behavior problems and increase academic engagement. This helps create a more positive classroom environment, which makes all students feel more comfortable and included.

Encourage caregivers to try pre-correcting and prompting at home by sharing 10 tips for helping their child follow directions. These tips incorporate some of the key elements of this strategy.

Research behind this strategy

About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Brittney Newcomer, MS, NCSP is the associate director of thought leadership at Understood. She has served in public schools for more than a decade as a teacher, evaluator, and curriculum manager.