Ditching Behavior Charts for Better Behavior in the Classroom

I ditched behavior charts long, long ago, and I have never regretted it! (Don’t miss the FREE behavior toolkit download below!!)

AND, I have had fewer behavior problems!! 😎

Not only was it more work to keep up with and more rewards to provide… I saw how it damaged a child’s view of themself and others 💔

My first year teaching prek, our school had a policy for having clip charts in the classroom. I made it all cutesy and used it for warnings, consequences, and rewards. I started noticing that certain kids were earning a reputation and were becoming known as the “bad kid” to other students. It really hit me hard when I started noticing parents at pickup looking at the chart to see where their child landed for the day. I heard parents saying “who was on red today?” Or “oh no! Sally was on red again!” I started seeing not only students judge their peers, but parents judge the students in my classroom.

As a teacher, you know these students are my babies and my heart longs to defend them and see them shine. My heart was broken at the negativity around tracking behavior.

I saw students feeling defeated because their impulse control wouldn’t allow them to make to green any day of the week.

A behavior chart is not only on display for all to see, but it also isn’t differentiated. A whole class system won’t work for every child.

Keeping a record of wrongs *can* make a child more aware of actions. But, it’s also building a character story about them that they they they can see.

Here’s what I do, now:

  • Set clear routines, procedures, and expectations
  • Practice expectations
  • Praise examples of expectations being followed or exceeded. And praise, and praise, and praise… so everyone can hear it and notice
  • Say “I’m looking for a class leader setting a good example for others to be my next __.” (Fill in the blank with things like Line leader, teacher helper, first choice at centers, etc…)
  • Have 1-on-1 talks about ‘what’s a better choice’ and ‘what’s going on’ when a negative behavior shows up. Help your students see why that action hurts learning, friends, safety, etc.
  • Make sure students know you have to see them follow directions before they can be allowed to participate in labs. Lab safety is huge, and participating in labs is a big reward. Talk about the importance of following directions in labs and put emphasis on students earning that privilege.

If you need something more, I have a couple of ideas for tracking or logging behavior while making it work better for each student.

– When I was in the middle school classroom, we used a behavior binder. I love that this is individualized and not on display. This have a signature line for three warnings, then the progression of consequences with signature lines. This is a great way to handle the big behaviors that need tracking. I love the idea of putting a behavior goal at the top showing each student what they are working towards. Now, we have a differentiated behavior tracker. Having a talk over a signature in the binder can guide students to understanding the problem their behavior caused and think about some better choices or alternatives they can work in. This is a great moment for you to mentor your student and give them some coping ideas for next time.

– Communicating behaviors to parents is also important. Behavior calendars are great for this, you can write a little note (or coded note) home that shines light on good behaviors and makes parents aware of any big behavior issues you are having. I have students keep these in their take home folder/binder, and they can bring them to switch classes and specials.

And because I love sharing what I have, I put my three favorite behavior tools together as a gift for you. Click the image below to download my FREE editable behavior toolkit.

The big change here that I LOVE is making sure I build my students up while mentoring them to make better choices. Praising positives and mentoring through negatives.

One more story and then I’ll leave you with a helpful freebie 🙂

I will never forget my first year in 5th grade. A student in the class next to me stuggled with ADHD impulse control. Every day I would hear that teach yell this student’s name, take them to the hall and yell some more. This teacher was weeks away from retirement, and did not have the patience to love this child through their actions They were always on the move.

Coming from a family filled with ADHD, this hit close to home. My heart broke for this precious child. Every time I heard this, I walked out and offered for the student to come work in my room for a while. They could not help their actions, no matter how hard they tried.

I gave them a safe space to work in a desk with few distractions. I talked them through taking their worksheet one section at a time. I let them lay in the floor to work. I let them them quietly to work. If we would have had a clip chart, this student probably would have been devastated by how hard they tried and how often they failed. Mentoring and trying to find what worked best for that student worked well. We’re the behaviors fixed? Not at all. But, we worked to add tools for this student to build on over time and we saw success.

I hope this helps you build a happier classroom environment for you and your students.

Happy Teaching!!

-Elementary Ali

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