As teachers we spend a lot of time assessing students’ behavior for them. We do it in lots of ways. It may come in the form of praise (and unspoken criticism). It may be an actual points or reward system, or behavior clips. It may be in the looks we give, the discussions we have, the things we choose to notice or not. At this time, I don’t plan on getting into the details of the methods we may use. The point is simply to realize that we, the teachers, are judging and assessing behavior for children. While this does teach them what we value, it does not teach them to notice their own behavior, or decide for themselves what constitutes positive or negative behavior.
This year I have tried a new technique. I initially implemented this in an effort to get some of my students to recognize and take responsibility for their own behavior. It is simple. After an activity or lesson I would meet briefly with a student and ask them to point to how they would rate their behavior. We kind of talked about what the faces represent (Red was way off task/angry/disruptive. Blue was a little distracted or off task. Yellow was neutral – not bothering anyone, but not participating. Green was engaged and participating.) After the student selected where they thought they were, we would discuss their rating, and make a plan for what they wanted to work towards.
I was amazed by the results. My students that tended to blame others and shift responsibility for their behavior were actually very self-aware when we talked about it this way. It also normalized some of those “in between” behaviors – we are not perfect, after all! Sometimes we all space out, lose interest, etc, and it is not that bad. I think the continuum helped my kids to see that things are not all black and white, good and bad.
A very positive result that I had not even anticipated was the fact that my kids were self-assessing. I was not telling them whether they were behaving well or poorly – they were considering for themselves what they did or did not value, and also what they wanted to work towards. This gave me an opportunity to help them notice how they feel about themselves and how certain types of behavior leave them feeling. This is deep stuff for young kids!
I do not use this method with all my kids, although you could. I do think the minute or so of one on one time with some of my kids made a world of difference. You could easily use a tool like this to help a child communicate how they are feeling as well. Sometimes pictures help the words to come.
Do you have your students assess their own behavior and/or feelings? How do you do it?