There are times throughout the year when it seems like your classes just aren’t going right. You are working hard on your lessons, thinking of engaging applications, and even trying to add choice into assessments… but somehow it seems you can’t go a few minutes without your classes interrupting, being distracting, or neglecting their work. I’m guessing if you’re here, behavior in your classroom is hindering your ability to get what you need to complete.
You’re not alone. I think I can speak for middle school teachers (and all teachers) everywhere and say that we’ve been there, too.
I find that most times of the year go smoothly and that there is a pattern when these behaviors surface. Perhaps it is a lingering break (winter break, spring break, or summer) that has them all jittery. Maybe it is a busy time of the year due to field trips or fun school events. Or, if you’re me, spring fever has hit, and the kids seem to come out of their very own hibernation, hungry for a chance to push the class limits.
Instead of fighting these “seasons” we go through in our classrooms, I try to embrace it and use it to my advantage. My thought is if we can learn to transfer all of that potential negative energy into something more productive, it could go from a near-dreaded time of year to our favorite time of year.
My Solution: The Chain Competition
If you’ve been following me for some time, you’ve probably heard me mention this before. In my classroom, the chain competition is pure MAGIC.
Rules of the Chain Competition:
- If the class does well that day and requires little to no correction from the teacher, they earn a chain. This even applies to individual re-direction of students.
- Each class can only earn one chain link a day.
- Chains can not be taken away for misbehavior. Once they earn it, they’ve earned it.
- The longest chain by (you set the date, 3-4 weeks from now) gets a prize.
- The prize at the end is usually some sort of fun free time for that class, such as bringing in books, games, and snacks for half of the class period.
Steps to Implement the Competition:
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- Post an announcement or project the announcement on the board to signal to the students that the time has arrived!
- Ask the students: “What are we doing well in the classroom that we should continue doing OR what do we need to improve in our classroom in order to ensure that we earn the chain?” I ALWAYS have the students reiterate the rules THEMSELVES because this is where the magic happens; when the classroom management is taken from the teacher correcting behavior to the students correcting behavior, the classroom becomes amazing. The magic happens when you allow the students to be the spokesperson for a specific quality of a happy classroom. I personally allow my students to write up on the board what they want to see happen. Then, I leave these comments up on the board as reminders to them throughout the first week or two.
- Add a chain when the class goes well; I tell my classes that if I can continue teaching or helping groups or working one-on-one with students and spend much less time correcting behavior or giving reminders, they win. If I have to remind them, they won’t get a chain. I tell them that reminding each other is the key.
- Watch the magic happen!
The above pictures are comments that my students wrote on the board this year when prompted, “What should we continue doing well OR what should we improve to make our classroom better and earn a chain everyday?”
The magic comes whenever the students can be responsible for their own behavior. I’ve seen this all-class behavior management program work really well for students who tend to behave poorly because they don’t want to be the reason the whole class misses the chain. On the other hand, many students take on leadership roles during this time because they remind students around them to get out their materials, complete their homework, stay on task, etc. It’s amazing seeing them work together as a team to build this up!
Another one of my favorite aspects of the chain competition is that if they didn’t earn a chain, I ask them what they need to improve for the next day. This part is great because I can stop lecturing them, and the kids can hear from their peers what aspects of the class want to improve.
By the end of the competition, my classes’ behavior has improved dramatically, we’ve gotten much more time to be productive, and the classroom culture has become a place where students are taking ownership for their own environment. I also don’t have a problem losing a class period (or a half of a class) as a reward for the winning class because they would have worked so much harder and saved so many minutes during the weeks of the competition that we actually have the time to do this!
You might think that your kids want to act up or want to avoid their work, but I’d argue that they actually much prefer a classroom where everyone is respectful of each other, trying their hardest, and having a positive attitude. Whenever you give them this opportunity, most of the kids truly run with it in the best way possible.
What behavior management has worked well in your classroom? I’d love if you would comment below!
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