This post concerns positive and negative reinforcement of rules and procedures in the classroom. The key to my strategy here is consistency. I do my best not to show any particular students favor, be even-tempered in my distribution of praise and criticism, and show students that there are real consequences to positive and negative behaviors. My decision-making process can be seen in a flowchart at the bottom of this post. It can also be accessed here: https://www.lucidchart.com/invitations/accept/4ac1f6b0-78aa-48af-8419-3986032bdf03.
I’ll begin with my process for positive behavior. At the beginning of every semester, or whenever I start with a new class, I make sure to spend plenty of time going over the rules and expected behavior. I teach elementary this year, so I use five rules in my classes. They are quite broad, like treating the teacher and each other with respect, so I help the students fill in the gaps by showing them what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. When students do something that is positive, I give them the type of acknowledgment I think they would like best. For example, I teach a 4th grader who is quite shy but occasionally speaks up. When I saw him helping his neighbor understand a grammar point, I privately praised him and gave him an extra point for his weekly total. If a student is regularly positive or does something exceptionally good, I’ll send a message home through Class Dojo. Most of my students’ parents don’t speak English well enough to have a conversation, so I’ve occasionally had a Korean teacher relay praise or a request for help on my behalf.
I set aside a lot of time from each lesson during at least the first week of school to model behavior. If students do something that is unacceptable, I give them a verbal warning. This is followed by calling them up to my desk to talk, and if they still don’t stop I subtract points from their weekly total. Once expectations are in place and students know what is expected of them, they only get the verbal warning before they start losing points. I also give detention from time to time when students repeatedly break the rules or do something way out of line. For example, I’ve talked to one of my students several times about how noisy and disruptive he is in class. One day he started howling, and after about 30 seconds of silence after I told him to stop, started again. I gave him detention and brought his case to the school’s attention, as that wasn’t the first bizarre or highly disruptive thing he’s done.
Like Mr. Hutchins in The Art and Science of Teaching, I also like to have Friday recaps of how the week went. I give out stamps in relation to how many points the students accumulated throughout the week, and 20 stamps can be traded in for merit cards, which in turn can be turned in for prizes at the end of the semester. 20 stamps can also be used to change the student’s avatar on Class Dojo, which many students are eager to do.
Marzano, R. (2010). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.