Ditch Your Behavior Chart.. Try This Instead!

 Yes. I am on the bandwagon of getting rid of the behavior clip chart. I did it, I stayed on top of it, and I saw few results. The same students clipped down (with as much clipping up as I could do) and the same students clipped up. I even made sure I had more students clipping up than down so the chart wasn’t just a negative behavior management tool.

But it just wasn’t working. I saw the same behavior every day, every week.

I do think it’s a good visual for students to see how their behavior falls on a scale. I think it makes students feel great to clip all the up to the top color. But I have a question. What does behavior, both “good” and “bad” have in common? 

Time and self-control.

Students who do the right thing throughout the day allow themselves time to learn all the goals for the day. Time to complete their work. Time to discuss learning with classmates. Time to ask questions. Time to learn.

Students who are distracting are taking up time. That’s time you have to confront the behavior (even if it’s a quick redirect. That’s time that a student has to spend trying to focus again), time to have the student clip down, time to get everyone back on track, and a lot of times there isn’t much time left to do what was intended for that part of the school day. And as much as behavior clip charts hold students accountable for owning their behavior, it doesn’t hold them accountable for how their time in the classroom is spent.

So, this is why I say it’s time for a new behavior management strategy. And that’s what I said to myself in 2017 when I was tired of dealing with the behavior clip chart.

But I had to have a back-up plan. I knew there were a lot of things I didn’t like about the clip chart. 
  • I didn’t like having to make sure I knew students actually clipped down and making sure I paid attention to have them clip back up. 
  • I didn’t like the shame that goes along with a student clipping down. If I were that student, I’d spend the rest of the lesson fixating on my embarrassment and mistake.
  • I didn’t like that sometimes I wouldn’t give the students making right choices the opportunity to clip up.
So, when deciding what my next plan would be, I had to make sure it would be something that would combat all the things I didn’t like about the behavior chart while also encompassing what I did like about it: accountability.
That’s why I grabbed my attendance list, made several copies, clipped it to a clipboard, and started tracking time spent with tally marks.

Here’s how I see it, all students owe the same amount of time in a week. They all owe time spent during lessons, collaborative learning, centers, walking in the hallway, packing up for the day, etc. Most students will use that time wisely and do the right thing. Some won’t. And in doing so, how they spend their owed time reflects the time they get to relax after a long week of work.

My team and I had something called “Fun Friday”, 20 minutes each Friday that was dedicated to students doing what they wanted. Drawing, talking, playing on the computer, playing with blocks, etc. Given our schedule and their limited time for recess, it was something used to celebrate their hard work.

Now, if students used their time wisely in the week, they’d get their full 20 minutes. If they decided to spend some time making unacceptable decisions, they owed time. This time was tracked through tally marks. One tally mark meant one minute of time owed.

When I introduced the concept of tally marks, we had a discussion about what having self-control looks like and what not having self-control looks like. When we listed out the things that lacked self-control, I explained that those take up time. When a student decides to take up time, they are choosing to owe that time during Fun Friday. That way, everyone has owed their time by Friday.

So, starting Monday morning, I have a clean attendance sheet and I show it to students. And I say, “Right now, everyone has their Fun Friday. It’s up to you how you spend your time this week.” No threats. No shame. No warnings. Just accountability.

If a student does something that is considered “lacking self-control”, I look at the student and I say, “That’s a tally mark.” So quick, I don’t have to name names, no one has to get up, and most of the class doesn’t know who I’m talking to. Sometimes I will need to say, “___, that’s a tally mark.” depending on what’s going on in the classroom, but the point is that it’s quick and it’s calm. I have my clip board with me all school day Monday-Friday and I’m always ready to hold students accountable for their time.

When we get to Fun Friday, I sit everyone on the carpet and I say, “If I call your name, that means you don’t owe any time. You are caught up on your time for the week. If I do not call your name, that means you owe some time to practice self-control.” I call out the names and those students can go have their relaxing time. Students who owe time walk to their seats and put their heads down.

“Put their heads down” has a negative connotation to it, I know. But I explain from the beginning that this isn’t because they’re in trouble, it’s just a good way to practice being still, being quiet, and essentially doing it to make up for the times they weren’t during the week.

I go around and tell students privately how much time they owe. I have a timer on the board and I tell them what time it will be at when they’ve owed their time. Then, they can get up and take part in the relaxation.

I love this technique because it also reflects how our choices affect us as adults. I owe my time doing so many things. Planning, prepping, grading, calling, among so many others. Sometimes I do the right thing and get it done in the right time. Sometimes, I choose not to and I owe that time later. Usually when it’s inconvenient for me. What I hope this teaches students, and what I tell them when they owe time, is that you always have the choice for how to spend your time, but in doing so, you choose your consequences, both good and bad.

So, if you were looking for an alternative to the behavior clip chart, this has worked so well for me. I’ve never had a student refuse to owe their time, and I’ve had so many students decide that sitting out while others play isn’t worth the lack of self-control in the week. It also gives the students who consistently show self-control a tangible as well as intrinsic reward. I’ve done it since 2017 and I don’t have any plans to stop.

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