Classroom Behavior Charts and How to Use Them
Classroom behavior charts are just a fancy way to call a scoreboard where you keep a list of how your students are behaving. And, coincidentally, even though it is usually used for younger pupils up to middle school, the results of using such a chart became better the older students get.
There are three main benefits to using a classroom behavior chart:
- Social pressure
But, as is the case with any tool or rule, improper use may turn a good thing into something used for oppression.
Thankfully, with a couple of pointers, everyone can introduce such a tool in the best possible way. And if it is your first time using a behavior chart, make sure you discuss it with your students and their parents or guardians to reach a mutually agreeable solution.
What is a Behavior Chart?
There is no standard way in which to form a behavior chart. Generally, you will want to have a list of students with some sort of grading system on the side. For the aesthetics, you can always consult Pinterest.
In its basic form, it will have positive points for doing good things and negative points for doing bad things. And what will be considered good and bad, and how much points will be given for each is strictly up to you and your class.
Ideally, you should keep the list itself as simple as possible. Especially if it is displayed publicly. This way you can add and remove points with everyone knowing what is going on.
Good Tool for a Well Managed Classroom
For a well-managed classroom that is both productive and supportive, using such a tool will improve how your students behave and make them strive to do more. This can be for some tangible benefits, or simply for social points.
But if you are dealing with a classroom divided with individuals influencing social connections by unfair means like material or social standing, it may turn into a debacle.
As an educator, you need to be careful to teach your students that being productive and following social etiquette is a good thing. This will only work if you are willing to lead by example.
Otherwise, you are the executive branch giving yourself even more power – and your students will know this.
How to Use Classroom Behavior Charts
The aesthetics and goals you want to achieve with a behavior chart are strictly bound by your ethics and ideas on how children should behave. While we can discuss which one is good or bad, there is no consensus about the details.
However, there are things that work and things that don’t. Focusing on cooperation and self-improvement is always a good thing. Also, using too much stick or too much carrot will lead to negative consequences.
Thankfully, there are five steps that you can use to carefully build your classroom behavior chart and ensure that it will have the best possible impact on your students.
#1 Establish Good Rules
This rule is important for any type of classroom management. But when it comes to tools you will use that will discipline or reward your students, it becomes even more important.
Luckily, there is a simple solution for those who are not experienced in statecraft and legislation. Namely, keep only a few very clear rules as well as a liberal approach, but make the correction for bad behavior significant enough that students will not forget them.
Ideally, you will want all of your rules to fit on half of an A4 paper and to be clearly legible. This way you can even distribute them to the parents and guardians.
If you need more rules you are probably making mistakes elsewhere. Cut down the unimportant aesthetic corrections and only leave what is necessary. Consider that there might be behaviors that you find annoying, but which are not actually destructive.
#2 Stick and Carrot
If you want for a group to behave in a way you find appropriate you shouldn’t only use negative reinforcement.
Some behavior charts only deal with negative points, red fields, or some other way to show how many times that student has misbehaved. This unbalanced approach will make itself useless quickly.
If you give a red dot every time someone misbehaves, you will only impact those who have a few dots. But for the student who has accumulated twenty dots, this type of punishment now means nothing.
Having both good and bad points allows you to propose ways for misbehaved kids to solve their situation by doing something good. And that is the desired result of this tool, to make unruly kids behave well on their own accord.
#3 Consistency is Everything
It is completely okay to allow misbehaved students to garner good points on the classroom behavior charts that wouldn't be accessible to those who already have good points. Something like helping clean the school grounds or making an extraordinary school project.
But this doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t reward any student who might do that or who applies for the project.
Make sure that you always address bad behavior and reward good behavior on equal grounds. This means no playing favorites and especially no diminishing someone’s special ability. Those abilities should be recognized and promoted as to push other students to find their own.
#4 Limited Democracy
A classroom is not a democracy. Any teacher that tries to make their class a utopian Summerhill school has found it to be utter chaos that needs even more authoritarian pulls to be turned to a normal learning environment yet again.
Having said that, a limited democracy and allowing your students to influence rules and regulations to a point will be highly beneficial. Give them a periodic chance to introduce amendments and changes to your rulebook.
This will teach your students a valuable lesson about mixing form and function to create something useful. Such lessons will serve them well in the future.
#5 Make it Ceremonial
Ceremonies are the stable of transferring tradition. Because we have come to see tradition as something predominantly negative, many teachers opt to have a more casual approach when engaging with their students.
But neither ceremony nor traditions are bad things if done properly. The ceremony of rewarding and recognizing someone by giving them a gold star can have a positive emotional impact and push that student to repeat that achievement.
Similarly, a penalty and shame of ceremoniously receiving a bad red dot with a lecture about how they will hopefully clear this blight from their record soon and show their potential will connect the negative emotion with negative behavior for the person being corrected.
There are two major pitfalls when creating behavior charts that are far too common among teachers. Because they are not a product of bad intention but simply a lack of awareness, you may quickly find that you have fallen.
Thankfully, if you are mindful of these issues it is easy to avoid them. Just think before ever punishing or rewarding anyone and you should be on the right track.
Don’t Implicate Self-worth
This can’t be stressed enough. The fact that some students are better and some are worse, as well that some have special abilities others don’t should mean nothing to their worth as students. Even the worse student that is on their worse behavior still deserves human respect.
Classroom behavior charts should designate the student's achievements, not their worth as a person.
Always emphasize that while someone's results and behaviors can be measured differently, that doesn't implicate their worth as a person. Everyone has the potential to be happy, productive, and have good relations with their friends and classmates.
They might not be equal in ability, but everyone is equal in self-worth.
Don’t Play Favorites
This is a rehash of rule #3 and that is because it is so important.
Of course, you have a favorite student because there is always that one student that does everything just right and seems disposed to do well in life. But that student should never find out what you think about them.
The best way to equalize the field is to create a mutually exclusive challenge. Challenge the bad students to do something and challenge good students to help them. This symbiosis will be beneficial for both and might even make new friendships.
But, whatever you do, never tell them that one is your favorite and one least favorite. Suppress that feeling deep inside until even you can barely find it.
Classroom behavior charts can be a very useful tool if done properly. But, they can also lead to problems in a badly managed classroom.
If you follow the rules for yourself and carefully designate your behavioral goals, you should be confident to proceed. You must make your charts just and balanced and with a singular goal of showing your students how good behavior pays out.
Never use such a chart for discipline or simple revenge, because even the worse behaving students have the potential to change and become great. And showing them the way is what being the best teacher is all about.