Tuesday, 23 September 2014

One very proud teacher, and a behaviour management system

You know how most years, in most schools, there is that one class that is regularly discussed in the staff room? Well, this year that's my class. I have a huge range of abilities/diagnoses/personalities in my bunch of 24 preps (5/6 year olds). They are all absolutely gorgeous, but boy can they be a challenge.

At the beginning of the year I'd hear stories from the specialist teachers about issues that had happen, and I'd give advice about the next time. I had several meetings with parents to get my head around certain issues, then report back to my principal. Lots of collegiate discussions to get advice, etc.

Then, just last week, came some of the most lovely feedback I have received. A couple of the specialist teachers said that their sessions with my kiddoes had been wonderful - without incident! They commented on how far my kids have come since the start of the year. How much they've grown, and learned. How their behaviour has changed. And I just beamed!! I was super proud - and I told my kids about it! We celebrated their success.

I put this success down to a few things. I'm not the most experienced teacher (this is my third year out of university) but I will try and try and change things up, and take advice until what I'm using works and makes a difference. I have tried so many different behaviour management techniques that I've got quite a repertoire now! I also run a very routine, process-driven classroom, which helps my anxious kids and the ones who are on the spectrum but also helps the rest of the class because little kids love to know what's coming next.

One of the best behaviour management things I've tried this year has been my 'marks system' (I haven't come up with a fancy name for it yet). I have a print out of my class and for each student there are ten boxes:
I keep a copy of this chart on a clip board that is with me at all times nearly all the time. I say to the class what I'll be looking for in terms of behaviour at different times during the day, then I get out my pen and very seriously look at the class and then look back at my sheet. If I see the correct behaviour I will give the students a mark:
When they have 10 marks they choose to either have a prize from the treasure box or have 10 minutes on the iPad. These high stakes prizes have really helped to drive the 'marks system'. When they've got 10 marks of the line going one way, I double back over the same boxes to make a cross, then I use dots. This way I can use the same sheet all week, even though some of my kids might be one their second or third set of ten, and another child might only be on their first set of ten.

I have seen a huge improvement in behaviour since implementing this behaviour management system. As well as having big rewards quite often, I'm also being very explicit with what I'm looking for. If I've asked the group to "show me five star listening" (eyes looking, ears listening, feet still, hands quiet and mouths closed) I will follow up by saying "I like the way Jemima has her mouth closed and her eyes on me". When a student receives their 10th mark I make a big deal of telling them in front of the class and asking "would you like a prize or iPad time?" This reminds the whole class of what they are working towards. I have some students who will get prize/iPad three or more times a week, and they are role models for the rest of the class. We have talked a lot about my expectations.

I also do an 'update' at least twice a day to let students know how many more marks they need to make their next 10. They love hearing that they only have 3 or less to go, because it means that their prize/iPad time is really soon. I also use this update to get kids to think through their behaviour. I might say "Jemima, you only need 3 more marks to get your next prize, so have a think about what you are doing now". This is often enough of a reminder for some students to rethink their behaviour.

On the down side, it is time consuming and repetitive, and if I lose a pen it's annoying. But the benefits have FAR outweighed the negatives! In fact, I had used a clip chart since I began teaching, because it's a whole school thing, and while it's still hanging up in my classroom I haven't moved any pegs up, or down, in a really long time. In fact, the need for consequences has almost completely gone on a classroom behaviour level, because the reward for doing the right thing is so exciting.

Oops, long post!! But I'd been meaning to write about this for ages. I love the way my classroom is running at the moment while using the 'marks system' and I'll definitely be continuing it for the rest of the year!

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