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Classroom management to me, is a biological organism: it is always evolving, and certainly never stagnant. I am relatively new to the field, and my first experiences in teaching was in a group daycare center. The center I worked in required all classroom’s 3yrs and older to implement the “stoplight” system….familiar with it? I think we all are!

Although there are a definite amount of positives to this system :providing visual cues to children that are easy to comprehend, daily reminders to families, student initiated plan; There additionally seems to be many failures. In reality I think for many teachers this system just doesn’t cut it. I am in that category: I’ve tried it…had some success stories (especially with 3yr olds), but mostly failures with it. I think part of the problem is I don’t truly believe in it. And after all, if I don’t believe in a management system how will a child?

My “beef” with the stoplight, is its lack of flexibility. Certainly you can implement your own take on the system (when I had it, children were given 2 warnings before moving to a different color, unless the behavior was unsafe), but I still feel lack it lacks something: RECOGNIZING POSITIVE BEHAVIORS. I mean just look at the thing?? One color for “good/green” choices, but tw o colors for “red/undesirable?” It is understood that if you want to change behaviors you provide focus & attention to the positive, desired behavior. How does this system do that?? It really doesn’t. Sure, children need visual cues and reminders when they are making undesirable choices…but they should also be recognized for the positive efforts they make with visual cues as well.

The Turtles Class Goal System

Many teachers implement a classroom reward system that honors positive choices and mine is no different. Last year I provided a “Character Counts” incentive program to my students. For every positive character action they did that I witnessed, they received a color-coded link, with their name and action written on the link, and each color representing one our Five pillars of character:

  1. Leadership
  2.  Manners
  3. Classroom Pride
  4.  Kindness
  5. Listening Skills

Our pillars of character were chosen for a mixed age group, based on how attainable they could be for everyone. (You could easily modify these for qualities you want to focus on in your own classroom)When our “character chain” was a certain length, the class got a reward. (parties mostly), and the child’s links went home with a certificate. [Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of this system in action. What I can say for the system…is that it worked out excellently! It definitely created a strong “teamwork” philosophy, and many children were excited to be “caught” in action.

This system, though rewarding group efforts still does not exactly teach individual children how to manage themselves positively. So I am in search of something between the two….

Individual student Effort Recognition

Here is a fantastic system from The Inspired Apple that I am leaning towards implementing somehow, if not replicating exactly:

I love the idea that this system is visual still, yet allows children to have 4 positive behavior recognition steps, and 3 negative. Children still start the day on “green”, but what a neat way to demonstrate visually how children’s days can vary: some days they can be “ROCK STARS!”, and yet if they don’t achieve the top-level, there are still 2 other levels of good behavior recognition. Additionally the negative behaviors can be Levelled, you can giving warnings, (“singing the blues”),  address the behavior verbally (“speaking with management (teacher)”), to taking action “tour dates cancelled (Taking breaks, talking to parents etc).” And did anyone notice that the “ROCKSTAR” stats is…..RED?!?! OH the twist of fates…Throw the stoplight out the window, cause this guitar ROCKS!

I think that allowing this type of flexibility in recognition of behaviors also takes the pressure off of children to perform on “green”. In my experiences I found, that many of my daycare families become OBSESSED with whether or not their child had a “green” day. I dread telling the parents if the child went to yellow or red for minor issues. (If it is a serious scenario I don’t bat an eye when discussing the behavior.) It’s with the mild cases that the stoplight system bothers me….Somedays I feel like in reality it is not the parents business to know if the child moved down the stoplight. Afterall, it is a classroom management system, intended to help teach children appropriate classroom behaviors during school hours, and is not necessarily practical beyond school hours. A child can have a fantastic day, go to red for a behavior, and that is all the parent will hear.

I am uncertain if I will utilize the same colors…maybe I might try to incorporate the pillars of character colors as well. I may also try to match my color system to that of the school district I am in. (The 4k & 5k in my area uses purple as their “excellent behavior” color). But what a neat twist on an old idea.

What types of class management tools are you using this year???