Thursday, September 9, 2010

Creating an Effective Behavior Chart

One key to establishing good behavior from your students is to create an effective behavior chart that is both convenient to use (for you) and easy to understand (for the students).  It is important for your students to know that by meeting the behavioral expectations that you have set for them everyone in the classroom will be able to learn.  If they are causing a distraction by not following the rules, then they are keeping the rest of the class from learning.

Just some things to consider:

Location: Place the behavior chart in a location that is easy to get to (you do not want to have to step over children and climb over your pocket chart stand when you have to move a child's name down the chart)

Ease of Use:  If it takes you more than .2 seconds to move a child's name down the chart then you may need to reevaluate your system. Put it within the reach of your students because for some students, it is more effective if they move their name down the chart.

Effectiveness:  If your student's reaction to having his/her name move down the chart is "Eh, no biggie," then maybe you need to reexamine the effectiveness of your behavior system.  First move down should be a BIG DEAL... they should fear the warning...!  COMMUNICATE your expectations and how they lead to success.

Age-appropriate and timely consequences:  Consequences need to be immediate and should not be held to a later time... i.e. No Recess when recess is several hours later.  If a student displays inappropriate behavior during center time and continues to do so after a verbal warning, then the student needs to be removed from centers and may participate when he/she adjusts his/her behavior.

Parent Participation:  Parents should know what type of behavior chart you are using, the consequences that follow inappropriate behavior, your expectations of student behavior, and if their children are not meeting those expectations.

Behavior Chart:  Fail
My first year, I used this behavior chart as my "Keys to Success."  I thought it was just so clever using the weather to gauge behavior.  Sunny day meant "you're awesome...keep doin' what you're doin', kids!"  Partly cloudy meant "you're pushing my buttons so I'm giving you a warning".  Cloudy day meant that you got to sit against the wall during recess and Rainy Day warranted a call home to Mommy (or Big Brother for one kid... it was more effective to threaten to call Big Brother).  I also had an opportunity for students to move UP to the star for SUPER AWESOME behavior.

Here was the problem... ok there were multiple problems. First, there were just too many steps.  My "partly cloudy" warning was just "eh, no biggie" so students quickly moved to "No recess".  However, recess was at the end of the day, so when that was canceled, may as well go all out!  I met with each parent at the gate to discuss behavior, so a call home was no different than the daily.  Then, what happens when a child gets put on "rainy day" and it's only 8:25 a.m.?  Well, then you're just stuck with a kid who is all ready in deep doo doo so, why stop now?

Most importantly, "cloudy day" was a major FAIL!  At this age, students need immediate consequences.  If a student got in trouble at 8:25, then the consequence needs to come at 8:25:06... not several hours later at recess.  There also shouldn't be a "warning" step on the visual behavior chart... that step should be given verbally, and then there should be an immediate consequence if the verbal warning doesn't work.  Students need to be able to respond to verbal cues and if they can't do that, then they need to face the consequences.

Behavior Chart Ranking (out of 5 stars... 5 being best).

**  Location:  In the corner of the room, about 10 steps from my seat on the carpet and above bookshelves.

**  Ease of Use:  My push pins always fell out and then I would have to get on my hands and knees and move book cases so my students wouldn't step on the push pins and have to go get a tetanus shot or something.

*  Effectiveness:  I did not do a good job of communicating my expectations and how they related to success in the classroom, and to my sanity, and to a positive learning environment, yadda yadda yadda.

*  Age-appropriate and Timely Consequences:  Most of the kids whose names I moved on a daily basis reached "cloudy day" HOURS before recess.

***  Parent Participation:   I spoke to the parents every day at pick up about their child's behavior.  Parents were unfamiliar with how the chart was used in class, which meant that the students were a little bit hazy on it as well.

(Note:  This chart became more effective mid-year.  IT IS OK TO CHANGE WHAT IS ALREADY NOT WORKING... YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT TO NEXT YEAR TO CHANGE ANYTHING!  Just take the time to re-evaluate, re-explain, re-focus on behaviors and expectations!)

Behavior Chart:  Success!
My second year, I created a much more effective behavior chart.  OR did I just do a better job explaining and using the behavior chart that made it so effective?  Probably a lot of both.

Everyone started off on green.  With one step out of line, they were given a simple, quiet verbal warning.  If they did not straighten up, their name moved to yellow, which normally meant removal from the activity and were given the choice to rejoin the class when they had changed the behavior.  If moved to red, which only happened twice, they were removed from the activity but did not get the choice to join back in.

At the end of the day...each child was given a rectangular slip of construction paper that corresponded with their behavior that day.  They were to hold that paper above their heads when I called their names one-by-one to meet their parents.  I immediately spoke to the parents if their child had either a yellow or red slip.  (A call home for either color would be just as effective.  As a mom now, I like to know if my kid stepped out of line AT ALL... not only if they made it all the way down the chart.)

***** Location:  Behind my head when sitting on the carpet with my students, within arm's reach... also within students' arms reach when they were at the board.  (Ignore my face in that picture, and just look at the proximity of that super-awesome behavior chart on my board.  Also ignore the fact that my students are all-up in my face... their parents threw me a baby shower that day... super awesome, I know.)

***** Ease of Use:  Magnets attached the names onto my dry-erase board.  Super easy to move and make a new one when a new student was added.

*****  Effectiveness:  I only had to move 1 kid EVER to red... and he only moved twice, I believe.  My students FEARED their name getting moved NOT because of the consequences, but because they knew I was disappointed and their parents would be too (I spoke to each parent daily at the pick up gate about their child's behavior, and some parents even had similar behavior charts that they used in their classroom).   

*****  Age-Appropriate and Timely Consequences:  If a student failed to follow the rules or directions, he/she was given ONE verbal warning.  After that, his/her name was moved to "yellow" and he/she was removed from whatever super-awesome activity we were doing.  When I had a second to speak to the student alone, and he/she had changed his/her attitude, he/she was given the choice to come have fun with the class or sit alone.  The student always chose to come have fun with the class.  

*****  Parent Participation:  Parents were in an out of my classroom volunteering on a bi-monthly basis.  They saw me use the chart, they saw me reference classroom rules, procedures and expectations.  Some parents even made their own home-version of the behavior chart to keep behavior consistent at home and at school.  EVERY DAY parents knew how their child's behavior was that day because of the little slips of construction paper.  I did not start off the year giving these sheets of paper, but several parents expressed interest in knowing how their children were behaving. 

Most often, the child just needs some time to step back, observe the class, and refocus on how the other children are behaving.  Pump up your energy and excitement so Mr. Attitude sees that it is way cooler to participate in classroom activities than it is to sit alone... in which case, he needs to change his behavior!

Please share with me your Behavior Chart BEST PRACTICES by commenting below or e-mailing me at and I will share them with everyone for you!  If you send me pictures, maybe there can be a whole post with pictures of different effective behavior charts!!!

Happy teaching, friends!!!

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