Stop Using Behavior Charts, Part 2


Stop Using Behavior Charts; Removing the Stumbling Block

In Ditch the Clips (Stop Using Behavior Charts Part 1), I shared how much I dislike traditional classroom behavior charts. I believe they do absolutely nothing to model and support appropriate student behavior.

It’s worth taking a look at the responses to that post:
“I have to disagree that clip systems are 'always' harmful and shaming to students. I use it in my classroom. All students begin the day on green (middle of the chart) and throughout the day, they can clip up or down depending on the choices they make. It is NEVER used to punish “mistakes”.

Shall I follow this teacher into the faculty room for lunch? Let’s say she’s having a particularly tough day. Maybe she cuts off a colleague in the middle of a conversation or snaps at someone trying to hand her something. I go to the chart and move her clip (or expect her to do it) down from green. She won’t feel embarrassed or shamed by this? I don’t buy it. Not a punishment? That’s exactly what it is.

Here’s another:
“Behavior charts work great for my Autistic daughter. Expectations are clear, and she gets a visual cue when things aren't going well. As a mother, I can ask her, “How was your day?” and not get an informative answer. However, I can say “What color was your card?” and get an answer. We can go from there to, "Why was your card yellow? What happened right before the teacher switched it to yellow? What words did your teacher say to you? I'm a fan.”
Teacher and Parent as Partners; Removing the Stumbling Block
I will never discount the value of strong parenting, which is exactly what this demonstrates. There is absolutely a way that a teacher could create such a system for this one student, in partnership with the parent, ensuring that it is private and used meaningfully.

The alternative is forcing parents to have to explain these systems in ways that their children can better understand. How about when this happens?

“__ would come home every day & tell me who was on the sad face and that they didn’t make good choices. Then I would have to talk to him about how they aren’t bad, that they are good boys/girls but they may have a hard time sitting still, or don’t know how to use their words so they hit, bite, etc.”
Not all parents can do it this well. Many parents can’t do this at all. And what about for all those kids who internalize the pain without saying anything?

Finally, there are the teachers who say to me, “I would NEVER publicly shame my chickadees, cubs, little lambs (Side rant: CHILDREN ARE NOT ANIMALS! Just call them learners). I put these charts on each one’s desk, not at the front of the room. Seriously? Are they not visible? Are you really telling me that children do not see what’s on another child’s desk and understand? 

We need alternatives!

Celebrating Mistakes, Removing the Stumbling Block There are compassionate, positive ways to teach children how to engage in appropriate behavior. One such option is to develop a system of Celebrating Mistakes. Here, students come to recognize that no one is perfect and understand that mistakes are a healthy, integral part of learning and growing. And no individual student can be identified by name, number, or color. 
 
Another lovely alternative is the one Katie Texas uses. She quietly hands students a “ticket” that says “Please stop what you are doing and make a better choice”. This is done in a way that is quiet, private, and simple enough to manage without disrupting teaching. This is terrific!

Another methodology is to teach children how to be reflective. Helping them to understand their behavior and make changes that are appropriate to them (again, individualized) is a compassionate and valuable system. Michelle Nelson uses a Behavior Notebook.

Finally, there is this concept based in the Responsive Classrooms approach as explained beautifully by Nikki Sabiston in her post Why I Will Never Use a Behavior Chart Again.

It is the responsibility of each individual teacher to get to know his class and to build a safe space for learning and growth that supports all learners respectfully. Each will have to select something that fits her personal teaching style and meets the individual needs of students.

Whatever you do, ditch the clips!

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