The behavior chart has been taken out with yesterday's trash. But I still have to go back to school and face all those kids and all their BEHAVIORS!! Now what?!
After the post I wrote a while back about Never Using A Behavior Chart Again, I still get tons of emails, questions, comments, stories, pleas, suggestions, etc. I have really loved hearing from everyone and I have heard so many amazing stories from other parents and teachers. But since I was replying to so many emails, I decided to write several posts about managing classroom behaviors in the absence of a behavior chart. These are ideas that can be easily used in classrooms or homes with varying degrees of implementation depending upon need, experience, and comfort level.
You can read all of the posts in the series here:
BUT, but what about those few little people who still can't quite follow directions. The ones who try your patience, who struggle no matter what you do. The ones who disrupt every lesson, hallway line, and activity.
We are always going to have kids who have issues beyond what a whole class system can manage, we just need to help them in a different way.
I have been using an individualized goal setting system the last couple of years that I have found to be extremely successful in helping individual students make behavior changes. It concentrates on the individual needs of the child by setting specific goals and helps him to focus on changing behaviors in small, manageable chunks.
First, we use a goal setting form to focus in on the desired behavior. We talk about how the child, teacher, and parents will work together to help him find success.
When helping to create and meet behavioral or academic goals with kids, I have discovered a few basic tenets for praise and goal setting that are helpful to keep in mind.
1. Only focus on one or two goals at a time.
Really, one goal is best. More than two is overwhelming and none of the goals will receive enough focus and attention to become internalized or automatic. Chances are, these kiddos have some attention problems to begin with, so throwing a handful of goals at them is an exercise in futility.
Although, sometimes it's REALLY hard to choose only ONE behavior goal!
2. Allow the student to help choose the goal.
He must have ownership of the goal or he will not be invested in reaching it. The child has to really want to make a change and giving him a goal that he is not interested in working towards is a recipe for failure. You might have to do some resourceful psychological maneuvering to get the kid on board. Be creative!
3. Make sure the goal is well understood by the student.
The desired behavior should be broken down into each identifiable element and taught explicitly, step by step with very clear expectations. I usually try to meet with the child one to one when the class is busy elsewhere to model the expectation exactly and talk with him about it.
4. Goals should be very specific.
“Be good” is not an appropriate goal because it isn't clearly defined. ‘Sit calmly with hands and feet to yourself on the carpet during lessons’ is a more specific, definable, and attainable goal. Be sure to break that down so the student knows exactly what that looks and feels like and how to achieve it. If the behavior is complex, you might break it up into two or three separate goals and reach them one at a time.
If you've got a kid who is all over the place, talking, calling out, etc. during mini lessons, you might just start with 'stay in your own space' as a start. Once that is mastered, add in 'raise your hand to speak during a group lesson' and keep working to pull back each undesirable behavior.
5. Accept close approximations initially to build confidence.
When goals are first introduced, attempts and close approximations should be honored in order to provide an initial measure of success. As the student improves, more complete compliance is expected. This is how they learn what it takes to get to the expected behavior. Scaffolding, if you will.
6. Praise the behavior specifically, noticing effort and results.
Again, be specific and praise the behavior, not the child. Instead of 'You were so good!' be more specific about the actual behavior - 'I noticed that you listened so well without calling out during our math lesson!' "You kept your hands and feet to yourself during the entire recess time!"
7. Allow students to self assess.
Before you pass any judgement or give any praise, ask the student how it went. Most of the time, I find that kids are either too hard on themselves and do not recognize progress or they think they have done very well when they really haven't met the goal. In either case, asking the child how they felt about it will reveal volumes.
8. Keep it positive, optimistic, and consistent!Sometimes it's hard to do when they're driving you crazy and you think you can't take it another minute! :)
Once we set a goal, I make sure we have a way to track progress. I use fun tracking sheets with stamps, stickers, bingo markers, etc. to keep track of progress.
And this is where I come to the thing that I think makes this so successful:
I never track failures to meet the goal. They never get a strike, or a sad face, or have something x'd out because they exhibited a negative behavior. We don't dwell on how often the kid failed to meet the mark or did the wrong thing. This is not about what the kid did wrong, this is about recognizing what the kid did RIGHT.
That's not to say that there are no consequences for highly unacceptable behavior. What I mean is that when the targeted behavior is not shown during the time period we are monitoring, there are no negative marks on the progress sheet.
The only thing that goes on the sheet is praise for meeting the goal. If the goal was not met, meaning the target behavior was not shown, then nothing goes on the chart. When the behavior goal was met during the specified time period, the child receives praise for the behavior and we chart the progress on the sheet by filling in one of the circles.
The ultimate goal is to fill in the entire sheet to earn a reward. The time it takes to complete the sheet is up to you and the child. I have had kids complete it in half a day and some who take 3 days, depending on the child and the goal. But when the sheet is full, the reward is earned.
I never give tangible rewards to my students so rewards might be lunch in the classroom with the teacher and a friend, or extra computer time, or maybe something at home that the parents are helping to provide.
If a traditional sort of recording sheet isn't working, try something a little different that might interest certain children.
And lastly, try to keep this as private as possible. I know it can't be a complete secret, but my goal is to preserve the child's dignity. However, I have noticed that when using this, the other students often become little encouragers and support their classmate with smiles, high fives, and words of support:)
If you choose to give this a try, or already use something similar, let me know how it's working or any suggestions to make it more successful!
If you would like to try any of the sheets and activities shown in this, you can find them here. Just click on the pictures. These files contain much more than is shown here and more themes are available, with more coming soon.