Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Positivity Redux

Today was day two of my new two-pronged approach to classroom management - lots of positive attention combined with giving checkmarks to well-behaved groups - and it is really working. The kids started the period already doing as well as they were at the beginning of the period the previous day. I made only one negative comment the whole period, and everyone was much more relaxed.

To address concerns made in the comments section: sure, once I reward them they will see the next reward coming, but that's just the nature of the beast. The advantage, however, is that I've never spelled out an accounting system, so they can't come to me demanding points - they have only a vague idea that good behavior might lead to a checkmark. Any teacher who has dealt with kids whining, "But myyyy table was good, too..." knows how detailed systems can backfire. Actually, I'm a bit surprised, but so far none of the kids have said anything about why I'm making checkmarks!

My colleague who made the comment about bribes vs. rewards said today that she used to use a mysterious smiley/frowny face system without ever saying a thing about what it was for... when the kids were acting up, she'd draw the two-column chart on the board, with a smile on one side and a frown on the other. Then, whenever she even walked near the chart with her chalk, the kids would all straighten up and pay more attention. She said she never, ever put any checks in the frowny face column, only in the smiley column (more positive attention), and she never actually did anything with the chart - no rewards, no punishments. It worked for years, though she did not use it every day.

Also, I like academic rewards better than candy, too, Erin. I am a little careful about rewarding them with "no homework" passes because I don't want to reinforce the idea that homework is a chore to be avoided. Also, if you're giving valuable assignments, you don't want them to miss even one day! Giving kids a break from homework is fine if you do it very, very rarely. School supplies or subject-related objects (like polished minerals for Science) can make good rewards.


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