I had a system that I used rigorously: The first time a student talked while I was talking, they got a green card, second time, yellow and third time, red. Once they got a red card, they went to time out, and if they didn’t change their behavior they received a write up.
I referred so many students over the course of the year that it became obvious the approach was not sufficient. Furthermore, the referrals did not change their behavior. I was in despair by April.
That’s when I went looking for new ideas for how to deal with these kinds of classes. After a lot of research and some soul-searching, I created a new system. I want to share what I changed and why it worked significantly better.
The new system had two changes: First, if a student got a card, they could get rid of it by changing their behavior. Second, there was a class score, a series of numbers on the board from 10 to 1. The score could go up or down depending on the choices of the class as a whole.
While these changes did not solve all of my behavior problems, they gave me significant leverage. My previous system tended to 1) ignore the kids that were cooperating and 2) negatively brand the ones that weren’t. My new system 1) rewarded the kids that were cooperating and 2) gave clear, non-punitive signals to the ones that weren’t.
The numbers work because I can use them for so many things. If the majority of the class is doing well, I can increase their score. In addition, individual students, both those dependably cooperative and habitually disruptive, can be encouraged to earn points for the class by answering questions correctly or doing the right thing.
The end result is that a class with 75% cooperative students will earn a reward for cooperating even when as much as 25% of the class is not. This helps to ensure their cooperation week after week. Rather than growing alienated or bored, the “good” kids will increase the pressure on themselves and others to cooperate.
The change in cards was equally instructive. In my old system, when a student received a card, they felt it as a kind of stain. They tended to try and hide it or give it away.
By giving the students the opportunity to change their behavior and return the cards to me, those cards became feedback instead of punishment. Certainly some students continued to get red cards and time outs. Others, however, seemed very glad of the opportunity to make better choices and be rewarded by “losing the card.”
I hope my suggestions are helpful. For some good advice on behavior management, check out the Notes on The Discipline link at http://atlantachoral.weebly.com/resources.html If you need someone to brainstorm with, feel free to contact me.