Let’s get real.
If kids were always on top of their actions and words, they wouldn’t need Behavior Charts.
But the truth is, they aren’t. Simply by virtue of the fact that such a chart is needed implies a lack of insight and control.
Are these bad kids? Of course not. But once we start tallying all the infractions committed within the course of a time period, an activity or a day, we start to send the message that they are. And no matter how many rewards are given for happy faces, check marks or whatever number is highest on a scoring key, the student is still left feeling like there is something terribly wrong with him. In addition, s/he is still dependent on monitoring by another rather than himself.
This is not to say that data collection is not needed. It is. However, with a slight variation on the theme, the data can become as much a tracking system for noting change, as it is a tool for increasing personal responsibility without seeming judgmental or demeaning.
Uh-Oh Charts encourage students to evaluate their own behavior. They give children a chance to catch themselves being good and to recognize when they’ve goofed. Its design can be a 2-column chart in which one side is headed “Good choices” and the other reads “Uh-Oh.”
The instruction to students is to give themselves a star, a tally or any marking of their choosing whenever they engage in either of the above. When the teacher notices a whoops moment occurred, s/he can say to the child, “Tell me about the choice you just made.” If the child confesses to having made a poor choice, a tally is placed in the Uh-Oh column for being honest and recognizing a poor choice. If the student is the first to acknowledge a mistake, two tallies can be given along with hearty praise for being so cool as to realize and own that behavior.
There is tremendous value and reward in being truthful and saying, “Whoops. I spoke out of turn.” Or, “I realize that I didn’t respect someone’s personal space.” Kids actually look forward to filling up a card with tallies that note their off-task behavior according to their own reckoning, especially since it no longer is followed by a consequence.
This is the first step. Developing awareness is the prerequisite for developing control.
Let’s start here.