I recently viewed a funny clip from the Ellen Show featuring a very articulate kindergartner who took great delight in explaining his classroom’s color behavior chart to Ellen. It was quite complicated and Ellen was struggling to understand it.

Earlier this week I ran into an equally confusing behavior chart displayed prominently next to the classroom door of the 1st-grade class where I was the substitute teacher for the day. The teacher left great notes for the academics, but the behavior chart sub notes were a bit mystifying to me. They stated that the children would all start in the middle of the chart on the green level,  and would clip themselves up or down, according to their behavior. At the beginning of the day, a couple of students moved their clip up to a higher level upon entering the classroom for good behavior they attempted to explain to me, but I wasn’t really understanding why they were moving their clips before class even started.  That was okay, I figured I would catch on to this system eventually. Later, during ELA, one rambunctious child was never in the right spot and was causing a disturbance with his classmates every few minutes, until I would intervene and lead him back to what he supposed to be doing. I happened to remember the behavior chart during one of these trips, and said to him privately, “If I need to talk to you again about your behavior before recess (30 min. away), I’ll ask you to move your clip down to yellow” (which was just below green). His eyes got as big as saucers, and I was curious to see what effect this would have on his behavior. A few minutes later, he was once again disturbing classmates who were across the classroom from where he was supposed to be. I whispered to him to move his clip to yellow and he burst into tears wailing, “NOT YELLOW! PLEASE GIVE ME ONE MORE CHANCE! JUST ONE MORE CHANCE!”       

Surprised by his strong reaction, I innocently asked, “What happens if your clip is on yellow?”                                                                               

 “I lose recess.” he whimpered.                 

I had only been in this class an hour but already realized this student could not afford to miss recess, nor could the rest of us afford him missing the opportunity to run around for 15 minutes. I now understood his strong reaction to moving his clip down a level and I told him I would give him another chance. After that incident, I decided not to invoke the behavior chart, and to my relief, the students ignored it as well, and the clips stayed put the rest of the day.

These two examples illustrate the need for classroom management that isn’t gimmicky or punitive but helps students take more ownership of their own behavior (and is easier to explain to substitute teachers). 

I enjoy helping teachers examine their behavior management styles and in many cases, consider even more effective ways to reduce those pesky, low level but often recurring misbehaviors that wear teachers out like nothing else. Let me know if I can help you out with your classroom management.