I’ve gotten a lot of responses to my earlier post about how I Dislike ClassDojo. Some have been explanation of how a teacher uses this tool in an effective way. Others have wondered why I have singled out this tool and defended their use of it. Still others have asked what I do instead. Do I use reinforcement and consequences for behaviors? How do I use them?
What I do is loosely based off of Love and Logic. Here’s a poster of Love and Logic rules I found posted at TeachThought.com
As far as reinforcements, I give positive verbal feedback all the time, but I don’t have a prize box or give special treats or parties or anything like that. I’m of the opinion that there are certain things that are necessary and expected in polite and productive society, and you do them because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re getting something special for it. Think about it, as an adult, there aren’t many situations in which you get something extra just for doing what you were supposed to do, are there?
What about consequences? Well, before I talk about consequences, I want to talk a moment about the intention behind the behaviors. From what I’ve noticed, there are a few reasons why kids tend to do things that we’d rather they didn’t do:
- They didn’t know it was a problem.
- There was a misunderstanding.
- Something else in their life has caused stress, anger, or sadness that makes dealing with difficult situations appropriately much harder then normal.
- It was an impulsive response.
- They’re testing their boundaries.
- It was done maliciously.
Now, how I do things isn’t perfect, but my first step is to talk with the student and try to get a sense of the motivation behind their behavior.
- If they didn’t know it was a problem or there was a misunderstanding, we talk through it, and that’s typically the end of it. Some misunderstandings require a little more problem solving. (One time last year a student asked if he could lick another child’s candy, and the candy owner misheard him. He thought the kid asked to look at his candy. Now, I don’t know who would want to let someone lick their candy, but I’m not six years old either. The candy licking student replaced the candy with something from his Halloween stash the next day, and he had to throw away the candy he licked lest he think that was an acceptable way to get someone else’s snack.)
- If it was impulsive (sometimes exasperated by other life events), we talk about ways to take a moment and consider your actions before actually doing or saying something. Depending upon what they did, some sort or retribution may be in order.
- For boundary testing and maliciousness, I give logical consequences to set the tone that such behavior will not be tolerated.
I also keep lots of records. I have a notebook tabbed with student names, and make a quick note whenever we have one of these little talks about their choices. If there is a consequence of any kind, I also record that. I keep careful documentation for several reasons. One reason is that I don’t want a student trying to pull the wool over my eyes. I’ve overhead kindergarteners talking about how they work their teacher’s behavior system (a clip chart) so that they always end the day on a good note; they just do something good at the end of the day and it reverses any bad choices from the morning. The “I didn’t know that was a problem” reason only works ONCE for a behavior. If we talked about it in January and you do it again in February, well, you actually DID know it was a problem. While I know everyone forgets, I think it’s less likely for a child to forget when we’ve had a one-on-one conversation about why that particular behavior is not acceptable than if we talk about it as a class.
I also keep documentation to see if something seems to be a bad habit or recurring issue. If a behavior is repeated after we have had logical consequences because it was seemingly to test boundaries or to be malicious, I’ll often pull out a book with a similar problem and that student and I will talk about how things played out in the book, and how their problem was similar. Sometimes this slightly removed perspective can be helpful in seeing their problem the way others see it. If it’s an impulse control issue that seems to be a bad habit, we work out a way to help the student to notice the warning signs, and reduce or stop the behavior over time. The plan we come up with would be dependent upon the problem and the student.
There are non-negotiable behaviors at every school, typically the types of things that would be illegal if an adult did them, that can’t be handled in this manner, but I’ve had success with handling most situations in this manner.
As far as notifying parents goes, I don’t tell them about every single tiny thing. My rule of thumb is if we didn’t need to do anything more than talk about it, we handled it in the classroom and it wasn’t a big enough deal to write home about. Any issue that resulted in some sort of consequence is something parents should be informed of, and I typically include the number of times that type of problem has occurred when I write about it so parents can make informed decisions about how they talk with their child at home. I tell parents this at the beginning of the year, and have yet to have a parent who wants to know about every time I speak to their child.