I'm eating my humble pie because, well, I was the biggest clip chart advocate out there. Every time I read blog posts that are just like this one, I rolled my eyes and said "Please. Kids need consequences. Parents need to know what their kids do every day. How do kids learn right from wrong without clips? They'll never convince me to get rid of my clips!"
So, I got rid of my clips.
This year, my teaching partner and I started what we call a student-led classroom. To be honest, it's probably not a true student led classroom because I've never seen what that looks like in a second grade class. All the literacy I've read on if is for older grades. But, we decided that we want our kids to do the talking. We want them to be active participants, not bystanders, in their education.
So, we made a class goal. It says "In this class, we help each other behave and learn." And everything we do is geared toward that one goal. We use accountable talk (which, if you're curious about that, scroll back a few posts and you can read about what that looks like), we do TONS of shared reading/writing, we've given the kids the power to interrupt the class when they have great ideas or when they notice behaviors that need to stop and we've tried to make the focus of our classrooms the kids and not the teacher. It's a learning process and we're not experts, but we've had a really great year!
So, in October, I taught a PD at my school about Accountable Talk. And, several coaches and both principals talked to me afterwards about what was going on in our classrooms. They loved all the things they saw and they challenged us to get rid of our behavior clips. They said that if you've built up this big classroom community, then kids aren't going to want to destruct that. They're going to want to be a part of it.
So, I talked to my partner teacher and we decided to just go for it! And, guess what? It has been amazing!!!!! I could have never predicted how well it would have gone.
I get a lot of questions from other teachers about what it looks like so I'm going to answer those questions here. Just in case you're interested.
And, from one hard-core doubter to another, I'm going to challenge you to take down your defenses when you read this. I know it's hard because, well, I am one of you. Ha!
"How did you tell the parents? Were they confused or upset?"
When we decided to get rid of the clips, we just typed out a note explaining it to the parents. We made sure to explain our thought process and why we're doing it. We didn't get one single angry parent or phone call.
"So, do you communicate daily behavior to parents anymore?"
We do not. When a kid gets in trouble at home, their parents don't call me to tell me about it so that I can punish them again at school for it. The same applies for school. We decided that most of the things we were moving clips for were small things anyway. The kids know that if they continue to misbehave day after day, we will call their parents in and have a sit-down conference between their parents and themselves to discuss the behavior. But, we don't feel the need anymore to tell the parents that their kid forgot to raise their hand or was talking in the hallway. Those are things we just deal with in class and move on. It also makes dismissal sooooo much easier to not be scurrying around trying to sign folders!
"How do you reward kids who do a good job?"
Here's the thing. I think we, as a society of teachers and parents, have this all wrong. Kids shouldn't be rewarded for doing what is expected of them. If it's the expectation that students will behave, then I don't reward them for behaving. I do give verbal praise when I see something great and believe me, my kids are happy, well-adjusted and well-loved. But, we don't need to be bribing kids to do the right thing. So, there are no rewards for doing the right thing. They just do the right thing. We do hand out tickets for things sometimes and do drawings for the treat jar, but I'm very careful not to do the whole "I'm waiting for us to get quiet and I see soandso being quiet so they get a ticket...." thing. It's pretty cool because when I see kids doing the right thing, I know they're doing it because they want to and they know it's the right thing to do, not because they think they're going to get something.
"So, is there any form of punishment in your classroom?"
Yes, kind of. We have students take a break. And, yes, I know, I know. You're thinking "Seriously? Time out? For second graders? That's not a punishment!" And, I agree with you. It's not really a punishment. That's the point. When a student misbehaves, we ask them to take a break. They go to a special spot in our classroom that the kids got to pick. And they sit there until they are ready to come back and join the group. When they're ready, they must get the classes attention and apologize for their actions and then they can join back in. I think this teaches two things: giving students a chance to reflect on a negative behavior and the social aspect of apologizing for that behavior. You would think that kids would just sit there for two seconds and then try to come back, but they don't. They sit there until they're ready to come back and join us and sometimes it's a few minutes and sometimes it's a little bit more. It's up to them. Kids just get overwhelmed sometimes and I think it's good to give them a place where they just get out of the fray for a second and regain their composure. I've seen it work time and time again. And, I'll be honest, it works really well for me personally because you know when that one kid is bugging you on the carpet because they just won't do what you ask? It's nice to remove them from the action for a minute! They get a little break and you get a little break and it's a great chance for me to calm down and regain teaching and when they come back, all is forgiven. We don't need to rehash a hundred times that they didn't raise their hand. If a kid has to take a break more than once, they have to wait for me to invite them back to the group. If we're in the hallway and a student talks in line, I just send them to the back of the line. That annoys them (ha!) and it removes them from the situation with the person they were talking to. Just like with the rewards, it warms my heart to know that kids are doing the right thing not because of a fear of punishment but because it's the right thing! I've also had kids just choose to go take a break on their own and I LOVE that! If you need a second to just get it together, go for it!
"What about repeat offenders? We all have them! How do you deal with those kids?"
We use action plans. When there are behaviors that are repeated over and over, I sit down with the kid and make an action plan. I've explained to them that action plans aren't rules, they're steps to help you follow rules. So, I ask them what's frustrating them and they'll tell me. And together, we come up with four or five steps that they can follow to ease the frustration. I love, love, love these! I've made a lot of deeper connections with my kids by just pulling them aside and having one on one conversations with them about their frustrations. And, sometimes, I even tell them about behaviors they're doing that frustrate me. This helps us to come up with steps that are agreeable for both of us. It gives the kids so much buy-in and that's soooo important! I've seen some behaviors majorly improve this year because of this process!
"I share kids with another teacher. How can I do this if the other teacher doesn't want to?"
I will admit that I had the perfect opportunity to do this. My team teacher and I only switch kids with each other and we were both on the same page. I know that's not always the case. But, last year, I used clips and the teacher who I traded kids with did not. It can be done!! I probably wouldn't start this in March. So, you've got time to think about if it's something you're interested in for next year and talk to the person you share kids with. I guarantee you guys can come up with some kid of compromise. Because, I'm telling you, I was on the other side of this last year. And we made it work with no problems!
"I'm scared to do it. What if it doesn't work for me?"
Here's the thing: if it doesn't work, quit doing it! What does it hurt to try? Kids are resilient and they adapt easily to changes. So if you try it and hate it, put your clip chart back out and you're no worse off! But, I doubt you'll hate it. You'll probably be like me and realize how much you were using the clips as a threat to do the right thing and will enjoy the easiness of dealing with a situation and moving on.
So, that's it. That's my clip story.
I dare you to try it :)
If you have any questions, leave me a comment and I'll do my best to answer!
As always, thanks for reading!