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Precision Requests

Introduction: Inconsistency in Requests

Students' compliance with our requests is in large part related to our own consistency. If a student thinks there is a possibility that we will withdraw a demand, give in, or forget to deliver a consequence, the likelihood that they will engage in a problem behavior will increase.

What are various ways we can be inconsistent in the classroom as it pertains to behavior?

  • Responding to a behavior sometimes and other times choosing to ignore the same behavior.
  • Giving one response to a student behavior and then later “giving in” to the same behavior.
  • Forgetting to follow through.
  • Responding to one student in a certain way and then responding to the same behavior in another student differently.

What are Precision Requests?

Precision requests are a way to give directions to a class, small group, or an individual to increase compliance and reduce the likelihood that the request will be ignored. They are neutral, predictable, and reliable. They are not magic that works every time, but the more you use them at appropriate times, the more effective they will become. Precision requests are how we give all directions to all students, and are most effective when all adults in the classroom are using them in the same manner.

Why do we use Precision Requests?

  • Avoids unintentional nagging
  • Students know exactly what to expect
  • Keeps adults consistent across the district
  • Eliminates using promises or threats to obtain the desired behavior. (This makes behavior worse because it puts everyone into the coercion cycle.)

Precision Requests How-To


After giving the first direction, wait 5-10 seconds (this can be up to 20 seconds for students with cognitive or language deficits). This wait time gives the student an opportunity to stop, listen, process the request and then perform.

  • Compliance- Reinforce by saying “Johnny, thank you for following my direction” and give him a point on his point card. We are trying to build compliance with the following directions.
  • NonCompliance- Give the second direction followed by the same wait time. During the wait time, do NOT give the student attention. Go about your current activity: get materials ready and reinforce other students that are following directions.
    • Compliance-Reinforce by saying “Johnny, thank you for following direction” and give him a point on his point card.
    • NonCompliance- Deliver the predetermined consequence. Do NOT use something that you are coming up with on the spot (this puts us in the Coercion Cycle).

Things to Keep in Mind

  • No questions (i.e. Jacob could you come over here?)
  • No reminders (i.e. If you raise your hand, I will give you a point.)
  • Precision requests should be taught to your class and reinforced. When teaching precision requests, we do not need to tell the students that we will give them 5-10 seconds.
  • The PLEASE and NEED words are important. Using these words makes us predictable, plus it lets our students know what to expect.

Helpful Tips for When You Are “Waiting” In-between Precision Requests

  1. Break eye contact, turn around, walk away. Avoid giving unnecessary attention.
  2. Show no emotion.
  3. Don't nag.
  4. Get involved in another activity such as reinforcing other students, sharpening pencils, washing hands.
  5. Above all, do not give in! If you give in, the student is taught that they will eventually get what they want if they act bad enough, for long enough.

Variables that affect compliance

Eye contact: Look at the student when delivering the request. You don't have to force them to look back at you, but look at them.

Proximity: Typically, stand somewhat close to the student, avoid delivering precision requests to individual students from across the room. Once the precision request is delivered move about the room. Try to avoid staying near the student since that can be perceived as a stressor, a challenge, or even an attention.

Wait time: Give the student the full 5-10 seconds. Ten seconds is a long time, count it out (in your head) and give the student the full amount of time. For students with language, processing, or cognitive delays give extra time, possibly 20-30 seconds.