Sunday, July 20, 2014

Behavior Management: The Stop Light, Clip Chart Debate

Students in Line with Teacher
    Many of us (including myself) use a stoplight clip chart in our classrooms to help manage behavior. You are likely aware of the debate surrounding this system. There are many teachers who feel the system is inadequate and unnecessary (I have always been, and remain, ¨on the fence¨ on this one). Their reasons include: the system is too publicly displayed, the system doesn´t really help to modify behavior, and students who end the day on red leave the classroom feeling bad (just to name a few). In my own use of the system, I offer a blue level where students may also move up. In addition, as long as students are not on red (red typically means they have had several chances throughout the day and chose not to change his/her behavior), they can move back up (on my own classroom stoplight blue is the first color and red is the last) if they begin to make better choices.
     I have always been intrigued by those who manage their classes without such a system. As such, every year I reask myself if I will continue using the system (so far I have always answered yes to that quetion). I am always so tempted to leave that system behind for the following reasons: I hate having to check who is on orange so I can take their recess away (also, I hate taking away part of their recess! Most kids who find themselves changing their color for por choices are the very ones who really need their recess time. In addition, sometimes a child lands on red and I wonder if their Little behaviors really grant a phone call or email home (which is supposed to be one of the consequences).
    What would I use instead of this system? Likely nothing. I have read several teachers post about just moving students to a time-out (or refocus área) which is what I do anyway. If their behavior still doesn´t improve then those teachers know it´s time to contact home. It sounds simple enough. It really does (hence why I am so tempted to change my own system to a posible non-system system). My main issue with this is that in my class any students on green get a hole in their punchcard. Those on blue (for outstanding behavior) get two holes. They turn in their completed punchcard for a prize form the prize bag which is what makes my system so motivating (of course that´s where others would argue the need for intrinsic rewards versus extrinsic...my oh my it is a delicate balance, isn´t it?). I have thought about how I could maintain this system and I suppose I could still use the punchcards without a stoplight system. I would still know whose behavior for the day did and did not grant a punch, as well as those with outstanding behavior who deserve two punches (I´m not quite willing to let go of my punchcard system.).
    A second option would be to try out Edmodo (another system I have looked at but declined for at least the last two school years). I think this system would not eliminate the need to manage and monitor itself, but, unlike my current system, it is my understanding that parents can be contacted through the system, so this might mean instant feedback to the parents (a definite plus).
    What I have really determined through all this thought process is no one system is right for everyone. A system that might have worked for a teacher might change later in that teacher´s career. I think as long as we teachers really think about why we use the systems we use, and if it makes sense and works for us then that´s the most important thing. I am not trying to persuade anyone in any one direction or another (especially being so undecided myself). I´m simply thinking out loud on a topic I continue to think about as a new school year lies in the horizon.
    Please share your own thoughts. What behavior management system do you use and how does it work?

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