Discipline in the classroom can be tricky at times, particularly with younger learners. However, it is necessary for class productivity and student satisfaction, as well as student safety. I recently had to deal with a child who was demonstrating challenging behavior. At first I let it slide however it soon turned into a free for all where the disruptive child was distracting / entertaining the rest of the group and no one was learning anything. I realised then that something had to be done. This class is an after school language class and the children are between the ages of 6 and 11.
The child in question is a good little boy, he’s young and has a short attention span. I had to look at the situation from various angles and decide what would work best for this child. I looked at why he was being disruptive and how I could meet whatever his needs were. I was aware that he needed more attention, positive attention and positive reinforcement. In an effort not to single this child out and to focus on a ‘reward’ system rather than a ‘punishment’ . I created a star chart (see photo below) for the whole class.
Set up of star chart
The class is a mix of older and younger boys, all primary school age. I broke the class into groups and made each of the older boys a group leader. Initially, the leader were provisional until they showed that they could take the ‘responsibility’ seriously. Each leader had 3 or 4 boys in his group. These groups change every week, but the leader remains the same. Changing groups allows for anyone with challenging behavior to be move around from group to group.
I then used a star system; red stars for poor behaviour and blue stars for good behaviour. The behaviour may depend on the class, in my case for example someone running around the classroom when we are all seated earns a red star and someone answering a question correctly or responding to a request earns a blue star. The stars are accumulative and the group with the most blue starts at the end of the month gets a ‘reward’. This reward can be stickers, a small trinket, or they can play a game they like e.g. my boys always want to play soccer.
Once I explained the system to the children, I immediately put it to use. I do not announce what stars are being allocated I simply add a star, red or blue, to the chart without saying a word. I use plenty of praise and instead of having to reprimand a student I simply add a red star to their name.
Initially I thought perhaps I was being over the top by creating such an ‘elaborate’ system to deal with one troublesome child. However, I have been absolutely fascinated how well it has worked. The class is so much more controlled, everyone is learning and the child with ‘challenging’ behaviour is now as good as good, most of the time. In fact in my most recent class this child was reprimanding other children for poor behaviour. The spin off of this system is that all the students are motivated. I was told by a parent that their child had been doing an optional homework worksheet with great enthusiasm in order to earn a blue star for his group.