I have had this post swimming around in my head for a long time. For me, it was just a matter of how to present it. I hope this works…
Why We Need A Change
I think we owe our children better “behavior management systems.” I will be sharing a plan with you in this post that I hope fits the bill. The systems most commonly used today – color cards, stop lights, clip charts, reward boxes, sticker systems – give the job of managing behavior to the teacher. The child is the recipient of judgment. The judgment may be positive or negative, spoken or unspoken.
These systems do help children know and learn what is expected of them. However, they fail in helping children actually learn to manage themselves and their feelings, and they fail to help children become aware of themselves until after their behavior has been judged. I want to change that. I believe our children deserve to have us change that.
I have read several very powerful posts and articles that reinforce my beliefs that these systems need to be revamped. They each offer their own perspective, and I think it is very valuable to read their thoughts to get a rounded understanding of where I am coming from.
- Check out Nikki’s thoughts from Teaching in Progress to read about one teacher’s journey away from the clip chart system.
- Natalie from Chicken Blog gives a parent’s perspective on what behavior charts are really looking for from students.
- And Muriel’s blog The Positive Classroom is a wealth of information about positive methods for building and maintaining a classroom community. It is hard to choose just one article to refer you to, as all of her work is so relevant to this conversation. Have a look at her discussion of teaching children to focus as a start.
- These great articles, in addition to reading Becky Bailey’s work Conscious Discipline and Peter Johnston’s Choice Words, have affirmed my beliefs.
I have been working as well to come to some solutions for a better system, and have written about a few. However, I was not satisfied with my own solutions, so I kept digging.
I am ready to offer up something that, while it is certainly not enough on its own, I believe to be a positive and effective alternative to the traditional clip chart system.
How This Clip Chart Works
This clip chart is NOT a chart where the teacher tells a child when and where to move the clip. Instead, each child has their own chart, and each child moves their own clips. The purposes of the chart are self-reflection and goal setting.
In the beginning there should be lots of discussion about the images on the chart. It is important that the kids understand that ALL of the pictures are normal and acceptable feelings, and that ALL people experience ALL of those feelings at different times. It is critical to normalize these feelings so that the kids don’t feel that there are “right” or “wrong” things to clip, or that anything is deemed to be “good” or “bad.”
Another key feature of my “system” is that the teacher also has his or her own clip chart. In this way, the teacher can model the thinking that goes into self-reflection, and help the kids to understand what it looks like to make goals about your learning. Here is my chart, which I keep up on my white board:
It is important to know that I am not always focused and on task in the classroom. One day after reading workshop I explained to my kids that I was distracted (and clipped my brown clip there.) I told them that I had a headache, and it was hard for me to concentrate. I also explained that my goal at that point was to be more focused. I did not expect to be able to get to the proud and joyful level that afternoon – that would be asking too much. So I set a more realistic goal. Observing these real feelings is important for kids. They have to understand that they are not bad, and that everyone goes through them.
After the chart is introduced, I like the first few “clips” to be done large group. I use my SMARTboard to project the file, so the kids can all easily see the options. I explain where on the chart I think I was during a certain activity period, as well as my goal for the next activity. The goal component is critical. Each child will actually have two clips – one for their reality, and one for their goal (I use plain clips for the reality clips, and decorative clips for their goals.). I then give them a minute to self-reflect and consider where they were in their learning during that activity period, as well as their personal goal. After they have those thoughts stored mentally, I send them to their desks to move their clips.
There should not be discussion encouraged among the students (or shut down.) Some kids will want to be more private about their choices, and some kids will want to share their goals. Either is fine, as long as the kids know that they are never to move someone else’s clip.
I encourage my students NOT to move their clips at random times, at least at the beginning. We have planned times throughout the day for reflection. This will do two things – it will help the kids to take the system seriously and honestly reflect on their feelings and their learning. It will also give the teacher an opportunity to take note of how kids are self- assessing.
Tracking Student Responses
I also created some data tracking forms to be used as a resource to use if you have certain students whose learning behaviors you want to track, or if you are looking for class information about certain activity periods in the day. You can keep track of how a student self-reports their feelings every day during writing, for example, and you can compare their reflection to how you, as the teacher, interpreted their actions. This system will easily provide lots of insight into what may or may not be impacting student learning, motivation, and behavior.
My hope is that this type of “behavior management” shifts the job of managing to the students. They will begin to learn how to recognize their feelings and learning behaviors, and they will learn to set goals for themselves as learners.
I may still have students demonstrating “negative” behaviors for some time. However, my goal is to build in them the capacity to be self-aware, and after time, become aware of how they impact others.
Get the Charts For Yourself!
My set of charts is available in my store. Have a look if you are moved to do so.
Please give your thoughts and feedback. And please consider sharing this link with friends and colleagues if you are like minded. Let’s make a change for our kids – a change they deserve.