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Saturday, March 3, 2018

R.I.P Clip Charts- The Evolution of Whole Class Behavior Plans And Why I Stopped Using Them

Pocket Chart Behavior Plan Example

You were told in college to use them. The teachers you were placed with for student teaching and observation hours used them. You were even asked in your interview what your whole class behavior plan would look like. You worked for hours planning out what it would look like, how it would look, and how it would be explained to students. It was your guide to an orderly classroom environment. Or was it?

There is no denying that our educational practices of discipline have changed over the years. When I was young and in elementary school I don't ever remember seeing a clip chart. If you didn't listen, then you stayed after school for a detention. If you were really misbehaving, you went and saw the principal who had a giant paddle hanging on his wall. Luckily, I never had to see the paddle, I just heard about it!

When I graduated from college we had learned all about positive reinforcement and how much praise students needed. I loved the idea of recognizing students for great behavior but didn't like the idea of the stop light or the clip chart. I had read or heard about a positive plan called "Behavior Baseball".
This is borrowed from a Google Search- not my actual chart!

I felt like this was the best thing ever for my first grade students. They all started on a home run daily. If they made a bad choice and couldn't change their behaviors they moved back to third base after a reminder was given. If they continued they would go back to second, and then first. Of course I spoke with them and we came up with a plan for improving their behaviors, but the damage had already been done. They were embarrassed for being different from the other kids.  To top it all off, I introduced money to my first graders by giving them a penny for each day they stayed on the home run spot or third base. I spent at least 5 minutes every day handing out pennies and making sure students colored the correct color on their chart that went home. (home run- green, third base- yellow, second base- orange, and first base- red). But, something still never felt right. My students who always behaved always had more money for our monthly store time and my students who struggled with behaviors always felt ashamed when moving their baseball back a base.  At store time they would cry when they had only a few cents to spend and the other kids had a penny for each day. This plan was only working for the kids who didn't even need it. So, I took it down and threw it away. R.I.P Behavior Baseball.

In the middle of my career, I stayed home with my son and homeschooled him for first and second grade while he received behavioral therapy. One of the main reasons I decided to pull him from school after kindergarten was because he would cry to me at night saying, "I won't ever make my goal! I am always on red! I can't control myself mommy!" It was devastating to see my son feeling so negative about school at such a young age. He was also having sever behavioral issues a home and I knew early intervention was the key to a successful future for him. One thing I was sure of was that when I returned to the classroom, I would do things differently.

So, when I returned, I was so excited to have a different plan! I still wanted to recognize the positives I was seeing, and wanted students to know that if they made a mistake they could come back from that mistake and still end up on green at the end of the day. YES.. this would be the plan that would work and would still meet the expectations parents and administrators had for behavior plans in the classroom. I would combine this plan with DOJO points and students could keep track of how many times they clipped up or down. This had to be the answer.... or so I thought.

Since you've seen the name of this post, it obviously wasn't the answer. Students still had to go over and move their clip. When they moved up they were super happy and excited. They could even FLY OFF the chart and onto my shirt for everyone to see how GREAT they were doing. This worked out great for the kids who were always behaving and those that needed that extra praise and encouragement. But, once again, when a student was making a bad choice and had to clip down, it just felt plain wrong. They would have to walk over and clip their name down for everyone to see. Sometimes I would do it without saying anything, and everyone still would look directly at that student knowing it was him or her. It felt so guilty and wrong, and honestly, all of the time I spent trying to "catch" students being good and making sure at least someone different clipped up daily was exhausting! To top it all off, students would say to me, "I just helped Mikey pick up his school box, can I clip up my name?" Students were behaving only for extrinsic motivation and had no intrinsic motivation to just behave because it was the right thing to do. Again, this chart was not working. It had to be taken down. R.I.P Clip Chart.

So last year, I decided to try a whole new method. I was going to focus on making better connections with my students. I would focus on our visible learning in the classroom and ONLY on learning behaviors. I really wanted students to learn that intrinsic motivation was so much more important. So with the help of some teachers and a very creative friend Sandy Fiorini, a group of us began using a new plan in our rooms. It was based on our schools Visible Learning Characteristics but could be adjusted to any learning trait.

These were the desk plates that each student had on their desks. I also had a chart hung in the room.

Students also set a goal for each week on Monday and reflected on Friday's using these sheets. 

The most surprising part of this program was how students were asking where the clip chart was at the start of the year. When I explained we didn't have one and I trusted we would all become a community of learners who work together they were in shock! I felt like I was finally moving in the right direction. Students were being recognized when I saw which skill they were working on. Other students could move a students name to a Visible Learning quality if they noticed them doing it. Students were more aware of how and when they were being a Visible Learner. My kids begged for Class Dojo points so I tied the points to when the clipped over to a Visible Learning quality. They didn't lose points, an only received points. When students misbehaved we had a private chat about it. For extreme cases when a conversation wasn't enough and misbehavior was a common thing, we set up a private behavior plan where the student and I tracked areas on which they needed reminders. The parents, that student, and I worked together to praise and encourage hard work and effort on areas of struggle. I saw happier students and I felt better about the behaviors being addressed on a one to one basis in a private way. Something still wasn't right though. I still felt the need for kids to have clips! Part way through the year, I dropped the whole class Visible Learning Clip Chart and only used the desk plates for self reflection. Upon reflection, I was still wasting time by having certain kids go and clip their name to the trait they were exhibiting. Kids who were more risk takers moved their clips more often than those who were not doing these things. I kept the chart up, but the clips went home. In retrospect, I wish I had dropped the points as well. I only kept them because students got to choose items I was giving away at the end of the year by the number of points they received during the year. The more points you had, you got to be the first person to choose an item. EVERY student got several items, but again those with less points knew who they were and so did everyone else. This is a huge regret I have, and I wish I could go back and change things. 

So, with no chart, no points, and no visible behavior plan how would my students know what was expected? The same way they would in any other class I have had. We set expectations together as a group. We developed our classroom rules and norms together and practiced and modeled expectations and routines. We discussed issues at a class meeting when they arose. We continued working on  creating a safe and happy classroom community where all students can count on one another and are responsible for our learning every day. We ALL recognized others when they were being kind, caring, safe, and persevering in their learning. When a student misbehaved, I addressed it privately with that student. When behaviors escalated, students were given a calming down place to collect themselves so we could talk and brainstorm solutions. I used Go Noodle's calming tools when I saw my whole class needed a break and then used those same strategies one on one with a student in crisis. All of these things happened in my classroom with behavior clip charts, but now there was no humiliation and embarrassment attached to a misbehavior when a child couldn't control himself or herself. I felt better and so did my students. 

Recently I have begun learning about the Zones of Regulation. This is definitely the next step for me in my evolution of helping students to be self aware of their emotions and feelings. I will write a post about this later as I learn and research more!
Zones of Regulation

How has your discipline system changed over the years? Maybe you are new to teaching and don't know how to get started. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!