I emailed a kindergarten teacher that I worked with and asked her if she could write something to me about why she doesn’t use behavior charts. From my observations of her teaching, I think that she is quite is masterful teacher and I thought that you might want to read the very thoughtful response that she wrote back to me.
” I honestly do not believe that behavior
charts help very much. I have tried them a few times…sticker charts, wall
charts, etc…but realized that they just didn’t help me or the kids. They just
ended up being another thing I had to remember to do. We even have a school wide
behavior system that I’m not sure if you’ve seen. It’s in all of our classrooms.
I think the DOE wanted all schools to make up their own thing. I am not a fan of
it, but have to follow it because it’s a school-wide program. I think it ends up
rewarding the wrong things & the wrong kids.
For me, it’s mostly about creating an environment where the kids understand that
they are responsible for their own behavior & there are consequences when they
do something they KNOW they shouldn’t have. Of course, that starts at the
beginning of the school year and continues throughout the year until the very
last day of school. We start the year learning about each other, the classroom,
& of course, the classroom rules. I have my own basic rules but I also try to
create the rules together with the class & we create the chart & write them down
& put it up on the wall. But, honestly, I don’t really do much with that chart
after that. Mostly, it becomes a part of our daily classroom life where we talk
about “doing the right thing,” “making good choices,” and discussing what
happens when someone is doing something they shouldn’t. I find what happens when
it’s something you talk about as a regular part of your day is that the kids end
up “policing” each other & taking charge. They know when someone didn’t make the
right choice & they tell each other. They also know there are consequences…and
yes, I admit, I do use choice time. They either get “5 minutes” taken away or
they end up having to choose their center last & they know this. Sometimes I
forget when I have told someone they’ve lost some of their center time & the
kids remind me…”Miss Roque, remember “he” did that, so he goes last” or they
just remind each other w/out even having to tell me.
For me, their behavior is their responsibility, even at 5 years old. It is also
something I know that is constant…from the very first day of school…to the
What are your thoughts about this?
Thank you Renee for these thoughtful posts. I started out training in a first-third classroom in Berkeley taught by an incredible teacher. I was so impressed – it was the early 1970s and learning was all experiential. My teacher made all her own materials and the whole school had written their own reading program that no publisher would touch because they said it was too much work. Of course all the teachers were implementing it with great success. We learned every method of teaching reading that existed. My training was superb (through UC Berkeley school of ed) and I spent every day of that year in the classroom. My teacher had control over her class through many means– the 3rd graders trained the younger ones, the readers read to the non-readers, the activities were all engaging and self- selecting as to level, the classroom had daily meetings to talk about feelings, and so much more. The idea of using behavior charts I admit was something we would never have considered. My master teacher once had to resort to using “behavior modification” to teach one little boy to read (no one left her classroom without being able to read) and she highly regretted it. She said in any case it would not have lasting effects.
I admit to this day that I react negatively to all the behavior modification that is used freely in classrooms. I am now retired and admit that I would never choose teaching as a career if I had a second chance. Thank you again — you are really making an incredible contribution to the plight of teachers and teaching.
Your post supports the idea that when we co-construct rules and emphasize cooperation and acceptance, we build a safer and happier community in which perhaps fewer rules (and behavior charts) are needed … what a refreshing idea!
Behavior charts and behavioral modification are not new ideas. Structure -and clarity about structure- can indeed help children with learning disabilities, but behavior charts often highlight and reward the accomplishments of students who are already doing well and, sadly, consolidate the opposite for students who struggle or whose strengths are not the most recognized or valued.
When my son was in elementary school, he had one teacher who had a superb ‘control’ over the classroom. As far as I know she did not keep behavior charts. On the other hand, she kept raising the bar for her young students and then went on to help them meet her expectations … one step at the time. It was one long year, but at the end she presented each student with a portfolio of what they accomplished (big bow on top). This is how self-esteem gets taller, and how children become proud and grow into good men and good women.
Here are some thoughts that Silvia shared with me via email:
having worked in therapy with some kids with learning disabilities, it is
striking how good their intentions often are, and how esoteric and unfair reward
systems seem to them.
once I met with teachers and headmaster of a private school to explain that
my young client actually did not intentionally put herself in positions where
she would be hit by a ball. She had -as they knew already- sensory integration
issues and literally as a young child would get overwhelmed by too many stimuli
and not realize that she should not stand where a ball is about to hit her.
School thought she was disruptive and intentionally trying to get other kids in
trouble. And she has the IQ of a genius.
Mom used stars to reward good organization and behavior at home, but this was
not in comparison to other kids so it made her feel good because it just
measured her own behavior. And moms are super sweet and supportive, not punitive
I really value your comments and support of the blog. I was excited to read about your early experiences in the classroom. That is so much the way education should be. Your last statements are so depressing although I can really empathize. I recently me a friend who tol me that her son, who just graduated from Yale, is thinking about going in to teaching. I suggested that he might want to rethink that plan. Then afterwards I felt awful. I’m the one who has, over the years, always encouraged young people to become teachers because I loved the profession so much. I hated hearing my words to my friend. They really depressed me. This mechanization of education really MUST change.
I totally agree with you about structure and clarity. Children really do crave both of these qualities, particularly children with special needs. Unfortunatley, too many teachers confuse this with rigidity and with a reward system, not understanding that a class can be a caring community that ultimately self-monitors. This is really clarified by the kindergarten teacher’s description in my next blog post.
I would love to hear more about your son’s teacher. In what way did she raise the bar? I love the presentation at the end of the year of a personal portfolio tied with a ribbon!