Happy Monday! Any teacher knows that there comes a moment in the first weeks of school where the “honeymoon period” starts to wear off… you know, when students begin to show their true colors and you get a feel for the dynamic of a particular class or group of students.
When it comes to managing student behaviors, we know the importance of emphasizing the positive. However, sometimes students really need some extrinsic motivation and a visual to help work on a skill.
- Identify a behavior that you want to work on with a group of students. It could be blurting/ interrupting instructional time, time on task, transitions, the length of time it takes to complete a particular procedure, etc. It could even be something that the students self-identify as an area that needs work, perhaps during a morning meeting or other class discussion.
- Introduce your students to the Great Behavior Chain. Tell them what the criteria is for earning a link on the chain — for example, making a transition between math workshop and science time in 2 minutes or less or having fewer than 5 off-task interruptions during a whole-group lesson. Let them know that each time they accomplish their goal, they will earn a link for their Great Behavior Chain.
- Show them where the Great Behavior Chain will be displayed. It should be a prominent place in the classroom, perhaps next to the door where students enter and exit, on a bulletin board, or near an interactive whiteboard, dry erase board, or chalkboard. I found that a push pin (if you have a bulletin board) or small 3M Command Hooks are perfect for this. You should also make (or have a student create) a header to display next to the Great Behavior Chain.
- Establish the criteria for reaching the reward goal. Initially, you want to make the goal easily attainable (for example, 10 links). Have students vote on a reward for when they reach their goal. One of my students’ favorite (free!) rewards was extra recess time; they also enjoyed pajama day and “total talking lunch (where they could talk the entire lunch period instead of having a designated “eating only” period of silence for the first 5-10 minutes).
- As you work on your chain, remember that earned links should never be taken away.
- Once students finish one chain, celebrate! Then, start another and up the ante! You may change the goals for your chain down the road; don’t be afraid to add additional chains for different behaviors you want to work on with students as well!
This strategy worked wonders with both my third and fourth grade students. It was amazing to see how hard they worked when they realized they were close to their goal, how they worked to keep each other accountable, and how much they celebrated with each addition to the chain. It also gave me an easy way to focus on looking for and emphasizing positive behaviors rather than constantly redirecting the negative ones.
For our behavior chain links, I used a set of plastic “Link ‘n’ Learn” links from Learning Resources in primary colors. They worked well because they were a standard size, easy to add, and the colors also coordinated with my table groups. I assigned a class job as a “Link Captain” who was responsible for adding links to the chain each time I verbally acknowledged that the students had earned them.
How can you use the Great Behavior Chain strategy in your classroom? We’d love to hear what behaviors you’re working on with your students! Share with us in the comments below, or hop on over and share on our Facebook page!