Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why I Don't Need a Behavior Chart

Behavior Management is a tricky thing to learn to do. As a new teacher, I went through all of the wrong methods. While I never used a clip chart, I did the marble jar (failure), the group points (another failure), and tallied on a clip board (also a failure).

I took away recess and sent kids to the office. Those things worked sometimes, but never for my repeat offenders. Calling parents worked sometimes, but it was damaging to my relationship with parents after calling home became my only tactic. All of these failed behavior management attempts had two things in common. 1. They didn't work consistently. 2. I was exhausted because I was doing all of the work.

And then my behavior salvation was revealed to me through a Responsive Classroom workshop. Now, Take-a-Break is now the ONLY BEHAVIOR SYSTEM I use.

Here are my observations about why all of those other strategies failed me:

  • I was tracking behavior, not helping students internalize the social skills
  • I wasn't teaching replacement behaviors
  • I was the keeper of the behavior decisions, not the students
  • I wasn't building relationships or community as a part of my system
  • My consequences included no buy-in from students
  • My reminders and behavior tallying was meant to help, but it was still demoralizing 
  • The same kids were in the same trouble for the same behaviors, every day. 

I teach big kids, fourth and fifth graders. Take-a-break is a wonderful, respectful, student-centered strategy to help all students manage their own behavior. I have seen it work in Kindergarten all the way to 5th grade. Here is how it works.
  1. The teacher sets-up a comfortable and friendly area for students to use when they need to self-regulate emotions or behaviors
  2. The teacher provides a structure for how to use the area through modeling and practice
  3. The teacher provides students with feedback to help them use the area to internalize behaviors and feelings

You can see the below that the fanciest part of the area I use is the fern, which has since died. Horticulture is not my strength. Good thing my husband took that class with me in high school! Since he isn't at school regularly enough to keep my plants alive, I have since replaced the fern with resilient succulents. Drought resistant succulents. 

the red cushion sits atop an overturned crate. The crate is just short enough to slide into the bottom shelf. We tuck the cushion beside it. 

yellow shelf courtesy of the hallway dumpster pile at the beginning of the year

Mirror pilfered from empty classroom. You could also add a hand mirror to your area. For emotional awareness. 

You can see that we sign-in on the clipboard in this one. 


A five minute timer helps. In the basket we keep fidgets, thera-putty, and writing utensils. The clipped forms are filled out for the second break a student takes. I got wise and had them printed on carbon paper to help me avoid making a copy to send home. 
Sound easy? Like all behavior management systems, it requires consistency and discipline on the part of the teacher. Once I got some momentum, I was able to find a few things that help me be the best disciplinarian I could for my students.

Here are a couple of quick guides for implementing Take-A-Break.


Some additional tips: 

  • Avoid appointing a "king or queen of Take-a-Break"
    • Even your most well-behaved student has some things to work on. Talk to the class about your expectations that all students work on a behavior goal. 
  • Front Load for Behavior Success
    • When you notice a behavior that is a problem in the classroom (recently some of my students have gotten into the habit of talking back when I ask them to do something, for example) bring it to the class in your morning meeting. Let students know that you will be paying especially close attention to this kind of behavior and that they should be aware of it. If they need one, they will be asked to take a break. 
  • Normalize Emotion Management
    • Make sure students know that managing strong emotions is hard for you sometimes too. I recently had a student gently suggest to me that I might need to take some deep breaths. He was right. I did, and then I thanked him for the reminder. My students bring this incident up all the time when someone is struggling to use their thinking brain instead of their emotional brain. 
Ready to implement Take-A-Break? Here is my Ready to Print and Editable Product on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

1 comment:

  1. I am interested in this idea, but had a couple of questions. This is my 5th year teaching fifth graders and it has been my WORST year behaviorally:( I've never prayed so hard for the end of the year to come lol. Anyways, I could see the TAB just becoming an opportunity for kids who are already off task to just get out of work and waste class time. Do you see this with behavior issues?

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