Last week, an interesting discussion began over on The Art of Education about behavior management. Essentially, Jessica points out how difficult it is to keep track of award boards and incentive programs for students in th art room. She also points out how it can be frustrating to devise incentive programs when being in art is truly a privilege.
You know, I agree with her in so many ways. Honestly, it is a PAIN in the BUTT to keep up with who is getting what and when for their good behavior. It does often feel as if you could spend an entire class on “getting stuff for being good.” And, some students feel the deserve something for behaving in ways that they should without prior motivation. I also whole-heartedly agree that students should be excited to be in art class, and that privilege should be enough to encourage positive behavior.
Her post got me thinking about how motivating tools are used in my world.
Recently, I had to attend a week-long 40 hour “new teacher institute” for all educators new to my county. There were teachers in my class with no prior experience and teachers with 34 years of experience. I was extremely lucky that my county offered a program that took the time to “teach” me about the county expectations and how to begin the school year on a positive note. I was further “lucky” that this program was free and offered the opportunity for me to earn PLUs (professional learning units) needed to renew my teaching certificate.
Yet, even with all that “lucky” the course was still butt-numbingly boring and it took everything I had to stay on-task. I moved, rocked, scooted, talked, giggled and was generally quite disruptive (even though I tried really hard not to be that way). One of the county teachers running the course was the county director for the special education programs. He took pity on me -and many of the other adults like me- and had an “incentive” program for participating in the classroom discussions.
Sometimes, when we participated, he would give us a little ticket to write our name on and he would host a mini raffle. The winners got to pick from a small assortment of “prizes” from the “prize table.” The prizes came mostly from the dollar store and were the sorts of things teachers like to have in their classrooms. Honestly, I wouldn’t have participated in the discussion unless I had the opportunity to win something.
The incentive motivated me.
And, I think our students are the same way. They are lucky to have access to free education, and they are extremely lucky to have art in the classroom. But, incentive programs can help them to be more motivated and participatory in classroom activities.
I’m using Behavior Bingo in my classroom this year. I made a little chart, and when I notice a student doing something “above and beyond,” then I allow them to write their name on the board. Once a student gets his/her name 4 times in a row, then s/he is eligible for a prize. This program is easy because I don’t have to keep track of it. Students write their own names on the board, and as such, they keep track of their progress. It is a rule in my classroom that if a student asks for a reward, then s/he will not receive it. This rule keeps students from asking to get their names on the Behavior Bingo all the time.
The chart is paper and I can add more tiles to it when needed, so we can play the same game for a 9 week period. I don’t start over after one student wins; we just keep playing. Students love the opportunity to block one another from winning as well; and that makes things interesting. I also reserve the right to cut the squares up and randomly select winners if we go too long without a winner. . . All in all the system is really working thus far.
My school is a Title I school. I’m offering prizes like sketchbooks, coupons to local restaurants, educational toys, and educational materials. The local restaurants donated free meals when they realized I was trying to recognize local students (awesome!). So far, the favorite prizes have been books and sketchbooks.
Ultimately, I think it is all about balance. Everyone has to find what works for them, their students, their classrooms, and their schools. This incentive program works for me. . . But, I know many teachers who don’t like and don’t use incentive programs. . . And, their classrooms run great. So, to each his or her own. If you are in to incentive programs, I hope you find this helpful.
My Behavior Bingo poster is enclosed. Feel free to post, resuse, and share this with your teaching community. If you post online, please link back to this post. And, please do not share for a grade or profit.