Promoting Positive Behavior


Some days are better than others. This applies to teaching as well. As adults, it’s easy for us to understand that we have good days and bad days. However, it is hard to remember that our students are just like us, and they will occasionally have a bad day too. Classroom management can be one of the toughest things to tackle as a teacher, but it is the MOST important. If you can get your management down early on, then the rest of the year runs smoothly. One of the most common behavior management strategies teachers have used is the “card” system. With this system, each student has a green, yellow, and red card by their name hanging somewhere in the room. The color tells them what their behavior is showing and often times there is a consequence that comes with the dreaded “red” card. While this can be effective, is it really the best way? Each year when I was teaching, I liked to start the year off with my number one rule: Stay Positive. Let’s focus on what makes each individual great, not what they need to “work on”. Here are five ways you can promote positive behavior in your classroom without using these little cards.

Tip 1: Project Positive
It is so incredibly easy to say “don’t do that” or to call out the bad behavior. But, one of the best ways to promote positive behavior is to point it out. If Johnny is sitting nicely working on his spelling words and Sally is making spit balls and aiming them at you, should you yell at Sally and give her the attention she wants or should you focus on Johnny? By calling out Sally (or going over to the board and flipping her card to yellow) you are giving her an audience; with at audience, Sally now has a choice to back down or keep going. Most of the time Sally is going to keep right on track and you may end up with a spit ball on you if Sally has good aim. If you chose instead to turn your attention to Johnny and praised him for his positive behavior, Sally may see the attention Johnny is getting and stop what she is doing. Students often times act out because of their friends and if you take away their audience, you take away the thrill.

Tip 2: Objection!
Just like every court case is different in a courtroom, every behavior is different in a classroom. When a jury hears a case, they hear about what the person being tried did yes, but they also hear about the person. Everyone has different circumstances and often times the circumstances can make all the difference. If you know that Suzie’s parents are going through a divorce and she starts yelling at her neighbor, what you do for Suzie might be different than what you do for another student who might just need to learn how to use his/her inside voice. You want to make sure you are individualizing punishment. You don’t need to play favorites, but seeing what the student is doing and considering why a student is doing it is important. The punishment does need to fit the crime the motive should always be taken into consideration.

Tip 3: Practice Makes Perfect
We all know it takes practice to do anything well. One way to bring positive behavior to your classroom is through practicing everyday activities such as lining up or turning in homework. If you practice these procedures the same way every day, it’s easier to manage your students and it’s easy to “reward” them using verbal praise. It is also easier to utilize Tip 1 through this method.

Tip 4: Reward
We all know rewards are nice to get but it can be expensive to buy different prizes or candy. If you want to reward good behavior, you can get a mason jar and put “warm fuzzies” in them. When a student does something kind for someone else, you can give them a “warm fuzzy” these warm fuzzies are simply the little craft puff balls that you can get for a relatively low cost at a dollar store or craft store. Once the jar is full, consider having a class reward like extra recess, or free time to draw. 

Tip 5: Praise!
In our world today, there is a lot of focus on material things. Instead of giving students a material reward, you can send them home with some praise. Put a pin on their bag that says something like “Ask me about my grade on Ms. Smith’s test” or “Ask me about the good choice I made today!”. You can have students bring back the buttons to be reused. Having students bring them back will promote responsibility and give you a chance for them to tell you about their night.

We all love hearing compliments about ourselves, and our students are no different. There are so many things we can do to promote positive behavior while not drawing a lot of attention to the negative behavior. Focusing on the positive instead of the negative can make for a less stressful you and a more positive classroom. 




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