Behavior Management

As I’m preparing to head back into the classroom next year, I’ve been revisiting my philosophies on a number of items.  One of the big ones is behavior management.  I’ve been reflecting back on what I used to do in the classroom, what I’ve observed, what I’ve read, and what I hope for the future.

One of my biggest guiding principles with behavior management is the importance of building relationships with each student.  I want to know my students as individuals, treat them with respect, build trust, and have them know that I care about them.

In the past I learned about the responsive classroom approach from my time student teaching and really liked their philosophy.  I read The First Six Weeks of School to help set up a positive classroom climate and The Morning Meeting book to continue building our classroom community.  Students always loved this time together to get to know their classmates and me as well.  I think having those stronger relationships helped when behavior issues arose.  [If you haven’t heard the responsive classroom, check out this site here for a good overview.]

I’m currently mulling over whether I need a more formal “classroom behavior management system.”  I know a lot of schools use clip charts, Class Dojo, or a variety of other ideas.

In the past, I’ve done a variety of different systems.  My first year I did a “Caught you being good” ticket system.  If a student was “caught doing something good” – working hard on a project, walking in the hallway nicely, kind act for a classmate, etc. they could randomly get a ticket.  I didn’t give tickets for every good act, so the idea was to be on your best behavior and possibly earn a reward.  At the end of each nine weeks, they could enter a raffle for a handful of items (books, pencils, candy, nerf ball, etc.).  The psychology major in me liked that it was a variable reward system.  The practical teacher in me liked that it was a very low-key system.

My second year of teaching I was team teaching and we all decided we needed to be on the same page with our management systems.  We decided to go with a fake money system.  Students earned money for doing their job – agenda signed, homework turned in, etc.  We could also give them bonuses for an exceptional job.  It was also possible to impose fines when they weren’t doing what they were supposed to.  Each week they could visit the “class store” to get erasers, pencils, bookmarks, candy, etc.  This was a lot to keep track of and got to be a bit expensive.

I think I kept up the money for my third year and then switched back to a type of ticket system the year after.

I’ve never felt quite satisfied with any of the behavior management systems I’ve put in place.  I’m wondering if I can throw any formal classroom management “system” for just building relationships and dealing with behavior in a relational way.

What are your thoughts?  What do you do in your classroom?  What’s worked well for you in the past?


4 thoughts on “Behavior Management

  1. Scott says:

    Alison, thanks for taking a risk and being transparent about your practices. We too utilize Responsive Classroom Morning meetings and closing circles. We also utilize second step. What we have found is that by eliminating token economies, clip charts, and free philosophy of… we get this if we earn this. .. Has helped us to focus as a learning community. Many of the class management systems like class dojo and others have unintended consequences and seem to focus us in on the wrong things publicly. Focusing on relationships, authentic learning, and building a community through appreciations and substantive conversations is a great place to learn and thrive in.

    • Alison Harper says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts! I appreciate you taking time to comment. I agree that many management systems focus on the wrong things and I want to focus on building a supportive learning community. It makes me happy to hear about your success!

  2. jenorr73 says:

    I moved away from any kind of visible reward system years ago and haven’t looked back! I love Responsive Classroom and the teacher language piece (of it and from Peter Johnston’s Choice Words) have helped me immensely. The hardest part is being willing to spend the first month or so building community so that everyone is invested in everyone else’s success. We jump into content so soon and always feel it isn’t soon enough!

    One thing I did in the upper grades that I’ve never done with my primary kiddos was to have the kids recognize each other’s awesomeness. I had keys (die punched, originally for a workshop and I didn’t want to just throw them away) they could grab and write on when a classmate did something that was ‘a key to success in our classroom.’ Then on Friday afternoons we would pull a few out of the box and share them. It was fabulous.

    • Alison Harper says:

      I am so glad you have had such great success with Responsive Classroom and haven’t looked back! That gives me confidence moving forward with my gut feelings. I agree that it’s worth the time investment at the beginning of the year building that community. And I absolutely love the key idea for upper elementary!

      Jen, thank you so much for taking time to comment and give some feedback! I appreciate your thoughts.

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