Which Behavior System Do YOU Use?

The Question:
I am trying to revamp the behavior system in my classroom.
As a kindergarten team we already use a stoplight system daily to communicate with parents.  But I think I need additional rewards and consequences to motivate better behavior.
There are a million ideas to work with, but what are some that have worked for others?
The Answers:
Tandy Lynn Braid 
A week full of green warrrants a trip to the treaure box!!
Michelle Roscoe Spatafora 
Have them color the box, don’t do it for them! At the beginning of the year place that color x in the box and they color over it…
Robin A’Ree Rutherford 
I use the color stamps for individual behavior and also have a class reward (positive only) chart. I have a zebra without any stripes on a poster and they can earn stripes for good behaviors. I steer them into choosing a reward to write at the bottom of the poster so they know what they are working towards. The most popular ones are to eat lunch at the picnic tables outside and have some sidewalk chalk time, wear no shoes for the day, or a cooking activity or an extra science activity. For those,  I use fun things like the soda pop geysers, exploding sandwich baggies and such. I can control how fast I give out the stripes so that I can plan cooking activities that fit in with a lesson or extra recesses and things to fall on Fridays.
Lizzy Ann
 I give clothespins (clips) to colored signs hanging above their tables…table with the most clothespins at the end of the week gets to pick a prize first out of the prize box…anyone else who had “green” behavior all week can pick next. Even though almost everyone gets to pick every week…they all want to be first, so this works really well. Once I get a clothespin in my hand I can hear them start to excitedly tell each other “Clip…let’s get a clip!”and I see all these little folded hands and silent voices. It works so well! If someone at the table is misbehaving, or a whole table isn’t following directions, I take a clip away.
Betsy Walton Munn 
Since I was asked to change from Kindie to first grade next year, I have been reading teacher books in order to revamp the way I do things. Right now I am reading, “The Daily Five”. It is meant to be a resource for your literacy block. However, check it out…it has all kinds of good ideas for behavior.
Robin A’Ree Rutherford 
I used to do the treasure boxes but I got tired of spending my money on the items that were lost or left unwanted in the classroom the same day. It just seemed like my money wasted. I worked in a private school before and had parents clean out toy boxes and send me all the fast food toys but now I am in title 1 and they don’t donate and I can’t justify buying the junk when the class needs other stuff more.
Misty White Snow
 I started a modified ‘rainbow’ behavior thanks to pinterest last January. The stop light was not working and I wanted to motivate good behavior. I used a pocket chart for the colors and they moved their pictures up or down. They start at green every morning. The children could move up or down throughout the day depending on behavior, so once on yellow, they could go back to green or once on blue, they could go back to green. Purple: Super Student (gets to choose from treasure chest). Blue: Excellent Effort (sticker). Green: Ready to Learn (no reward), Yellow: Think About It (codes in folder to let parents know why). Red: Consequences (Phone call or note to parents, possible office visit depending on offenses). Hope that makes sense
Dawn Spurr 
I have done the stoplight too. This year, I am going to try something different. I am going to vistaprint and buy 500 business cards. I am going to have 10 circles on each. When I catch them doing something good, I am going to punch a circle. IF they stay on green the entire day, I will punch a circle. When they get to 10 circles, they will get to go to the box. They need to be rewarded for good behavior as well. Often we don’t recognize this. I am going to place a plastic piece on their desk and slide the card into it. That way I can just walk around and punch.
Leslie Hernandez
 I don’t like the idea of prizes or treasure boxes, it’s just not for me. Doesn’t seem intrinsic enough. I think the “marbles in a jar” group reward is an oldie but a goodie. Fill the jar with a couple of marbles when the whole class does something well or fully participate in the lesson. (At the beginning, you should inform them about the criteria for getting marbles.) When the jar is filled to a predetermined line, we get a class reward (crazy hair day, pajama day, pizza party, extra recess, etc). You can count the marbles together for practising numbers. Just rustling the bag of marbles gets their attention!
Daisy Noble Robledo
 Have you heard of Whole Brain Teaching? I changed from the light system to this system. I really love it. You can youtube it and watch how it is taught to kindergarten also the website has some great ideas.
Ginger Di Paola Kleypas 
I saw this thing on Pinterest and I am a Kindergarten teacher and am going to try it out. I will send you a link. It sounds really positive and so different. I am not doing the treasure box thing. It does not work for me at all.
Stacy Meisch Sampson
 I have 3 cups that if I catch a student doing something good or even a whole group of kids doing their work or something good they can go and get 1 thing out of the cups. something from the dollar spot pencils and the last cup has something sweet! Kids love it.
Diane DiCarlo Glatts
 I use the stop light & the kids color their own calendar. Because we are a Catholic school & wear uniforms, we give the kids merit awards at the end of the month if they gave a perfect calendar. This entitles them to a dress down day. The kids love that. I don’t like the treasure box.
Mary Corr Decker
 Children earn a tally mark each a.m. and p.m. for making good choices . Ten tallies = a trip to the treasure box. (Teaches number concepts to 10).
Ginger Di Paola Kleypas
Kate Paradee Roberts
I used the system Misty spoke of. It was great. The problem with the stop light method was that the good kids just stayed on green and nothing ever happened. With the rainbow clip system the kids can move up or down and start each day on the middle color which is green. I tell the kids if they stay on the top (outstanding) for the remainder of the day they get a trip to the treasure box.
Sarah Hudson 
I use the Good Behavior Game in our class and it’s AMAZING (you should google it–it’s changed my life after 20 years of teaching K!!). So I modified my stop light system with that in mind. Each child has 6 boxes. If they break a rule, I cross out one of the boxes. If at the end of the day they have no X’s, they are on purple. 1,2, 0r 3 X’s is green, 4 or 5 x’s, yellow, 6 x’s, red. Also we check off what rule(s) they broke on the little card they take home. I know it sounds negative but it works really well because it puts the responsibility on the kid, and cuts down on the little problems that don’t seem to warrant a yellow but over the course of the day can add up. Every time a kid gets 8 purples/greens, they get a prize from the box. It might take 8 days, or it might take longer if they get a yellow here or there, but they are still working toward the 8. IT IS WORKING REALLY WELL and helps cut down on the kid who does 25 little problems each day, but ends up on green because each problem never seemed big enough to change the card.
Yvette Snell Kennedy 
Every time I tried individual rewards, it never really worked. The kids who stay on green all week will almost always do that, despite a treasure box. And the kids who can’t ever seem to manage that end up on a sour note for the week-frustrated and sad they didn’t get the reward. I would stick with the class earning rewards-a separate system in conjunction with your individual behavior chart.
Christine Roberts
 I did the stoplight too for overall behavior but then i added individual sticker charts. The can earn a sticker depending on the color they end up at the end of the day (green = 2 stickers ; yellow = 1 sticker; orange = 0 stickers; red = 1 sticker taken away) the also could earn stickers for participation and transitions. When they would fill their sticker chart (20 stickers) they could chose from the prize box. And instead of spending my own money on cheap toys, I made up coupons to bring in a special toy for 1 day.
Brenda Smith Browning
 We also use the stoplight. The children take responsibility to moving their clips. When they enter the classroom, each day, they move clips from our clip can to the green light signifying their goal to make smart choices. If they make poor choices, resulting in clip movement, the student has to do this. Twice a day: about half way through the day and at the end of the day, we take the time to color in behavior chart boxes. The students know that if they make a poor choice in the a.m., they start fresh in the afternoon (back on green). These are weekly charts that go home on Fridays, due back on Monday, signed by a parent. This earns the student something from Mrs. Browning’s awesome “Treasure Box”.
If all children were inwardly motivated and obedient… wouldn’t that be awesome?! Unfortunately… we do the best with what we are given. How about a sticker that says, “My Teacher is Proud of Me” when a child stays on GREEN each day or any sticker for that matter? Sometimes just being able to pick out a sticker is like magic. When a childmakes poor choices, a thinking spot works for us as well as a ReFocus activity. Near the end of the school year, the child can actually fill out our ReFocus form independently. In the beginning of the year, I just “talk” them through it. What did I do? What would have been a better response? I will make smarter choices. (a smiley) or (a frown). Something simple like this.
Marie Lucas
 Omg I never knew so many teachers used the treasure box. How about some Love and Logic?
Melissa Mank McDow
 We do the traffic light system also but we just started using the bucket filler method the last two years. It is a great motivational tool for positive reinforcement. Look at bucketfillers.com and do a little research to see if it’s for you.
Stephanie Gault Albarez 
We use a system similar to the stop light system but with four colors. I like to reward children with verbal praise at various times during the day. Also, children on the best color get to choose first during free choice centers. Children who are on the lowest color have a few minutes of time out based on the severity of their behavior (we discuss this before they sit in time out). At the end of the week, if they stayed on the best color most of the week, they get to wear the “Great Job” necklace to lunch and for the rest of the day. Our principals look for the necklaces and give each child praise for earning the right to wear it.
Tina Rapp Adamson 
We are past stop lights in my building, using Responsive Classroom, logical consequences, and Bucket-Filling. All of these celebrate teamwork, where everyone benefits – I have a class bucket that earns pennies – when there are 10, we earn a class celebration. It works well… And there’s no more stoplight to deal with…
Ann Spencer
 I used the stoplight/treasure box for many years, but last year switched to the Clip Chart. It is SO MUCH easier and better in many ways. Here;s my blog post about it. Click on “Clip Chart” http://annspencer-annspencer.blogspot.com/search/label/Clip%20Chart
Patti Rosenquist
 I tried the same system this past spring that Misty White Snow is referring to. If you google “clip chart,” you will get a link to a free downloadable resource explaining the system and images showing different ways teachers have used it to go along with their themes. I’m anxious to start it at the beginning of the year this year. Be sure to have students move the clips instead of you doing it for them!! Here’s the link: http://www.newmanagement.com/ebooks/clip_chart.html
Teresa Nordstrom Sanchez
 I have bonus bucks that say my name on them. I print them out and laminate them. When I catch students behaving well, they get a bonus buck. At the beginning of the year they need five to buy a prize, then I double it. They have to count the buck out to me.
Dolores O’Malley
 Ginger, those coupons are great! Can they be printed? I couldn’t figure that out.
Dee DiCarlo Montgomery 
Checkout “Responsive Classroom”, building a learning community, using achor charts and well practiced procedures, which promote intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.
Ginger Dominy 
I use ” lottery tickets”. They are laminated tickets and I paint over the words with white out so it’s like a scratch off. The tickets say things like “stinky feet” ( no shoes), “be lazy” (don’t have to do an assignment) Extra computer time, etc. They get tickets for staying on green all week. Or sometimes I just randomly hand them out if I spot good behavior.
Colleen Russell Guertin
 I’ve used the stop light for years. It usually works with one group and not the other. I’m going to try the clip chart and hope that gets better results. I’m also going to Responsive Classroom’s “responding to misbehavior” workshop in hopes of doing a better job on my side when addressing behavior.
Kathrene Beasley 
One system is not enough nor will it be effective all year. Switch things up. Do whole group and individualized contracts and plans. Last conference I went to I learned a cute idea that worked great (but not all year – nothing does). Get a delicious smelling chap stick. As the kids are doing something cooperative, helpful, walking in the hall nicely etc. you have them put their hands on their heads and rub a little chap stick on their hand and say “smell and be glad you walked so nicely” (or whatever). Acutally all I ever said was “smell and be glad” but describing the behavior solidifies the behavior even more.
Kim Williams Heumann
 I’m with Patty. Last year several of us used it in my school, this coming year everyone across the grades will use it for continuity. Works great. I decided to do something crazy when they were “Off the Chart” and put their clips in my hair. Not a great look for me, but the kids and parents loved it!!
Terrie Taylor Jordan 
Check out Class DOJO. WE love it at our school.
Teresa Brown
 We use a virtual marble jar as a class, but I had the kids come up with our rewards–none of which require an expenditure of money on my part! Things like pajama day, movies at lunch, “work where you wanna” day and things like that.
Megan Carney 
I use a behavior chart for each student. I also have a card system. If they end the day on green they get 1 star, if they end it on purple they get two. When they fill a row of five squares with stars they can go to the prize box. I have had grade partners only give a star for a purple card. I also have a grade partner that only does prizes on Fridays. Good luck! I hope you find something that works! Everyday is crazy!
Matt Halpern
Not to throw a wrench in the discussion, but… this article really changed the way I viewed whole class behavior systems.
Sher Shelton Neel 
There are coupons on Pinterest that i use. I don’t reward my students daily. We don’t want them to just work for a reward. We want them to have honorable character and work nice because it makes them a better person.
Anemarie Stanczak Hall 
I use a star chart that when the children earn 4 stars they can go to the prize box. That means about once a month. I also use a chain of good deeds for general class behavior and once they get all the links in their chain we can have a whole class treat of their choice. Try asking for donations for your prize box. Last year my parents voluntarily brought me in the stuff left over from birthday and other parties to put in my prize box.
Heather Grimes DiAngelo
I am Megan’s grade partner and in addition to the regular green, yellow, and red card system we added a purple card. If you are caught doing something amazing you can get a purple card. At the end of the day I give out purple card stamps on the hand. It’s amazing how special a stamp can be to a 5 year old. They love the stamps and work hard for them.
Dale Blaess 
I use a ten frame and they receive a stamp each day their behavior is good. I also give extra when things are brought back for added incentive (like report cards, fieldtrip forms…) I do give prizes when the 10 frame is filled but I don’t buy anything. Parents bring in old fast food restaurant toys. Now i’m going to read that article!
Amy Vogel Hart
 I know someone who uses Happy Meal toys and prizes from cereal boxes in her treasure chest…
Karen Hollowell Gaduyon 
I take a simple index card and put their name on it. When they are “caught” doing the right thing, they get a punch in it. Some will fill their card in 2 days, others will take a week or more. Once they fill it, they get Treasure box. I buy things at thrift stores, yard sales and accept parent donations. Also, as I go through the day and see them doing well, sometimes I give stickers, smellies(scented chapstick ) or stamps on their hands,sometimes they earn extra time to do something they like. All those options together keep it interesting and keep costs down.
Stephanie Taylor Smith
I think that Sher is thinking of the same idea I am. I use coupons like- no homework, sit @ teacher’s desk, sit with a buddy @ lunch… simple, FREE things. I reward at end of week. I also send home a superstar award daily. I try to find something good that my toughies had done, just to reinforce that behavior. If not, then I choose someone extremely good. At the beginning we praise everyone & everything.
Gabriela Del Carmen
 I have the children sitting in tables each table working as a team can earn a “warm fuzzy” ( Pom poms) on Fridays I dump the table jar into our big class jar and once the class jar is liked the whole class earns maybe an ice cream party, movie, etc. Helps them first with self control, then working as a team and lastly as a whole class. It’s my first year using this idea.  So far the kids and parents don’t stop talking about warm fuzzier! For individual extraordinary acts etc. they might earn a teacher coupon ( sit at teachers desk for the day, change your center, dibs on iPad, bring a stuffed animal to school, pick your favorite CD for seat work, etc) all to promote the good behaviors, but for those not so good choices I have the spotlight with consequences if they move to yellow or red and that is recorded in their homework binder. . All this I found on pinterest 🙂 good luck!
Sarah Van Tine
 I do use a treasure chest. I get all my prizes donated by parents! I tell them at the beginning of the year, “Another man’s junk is a Kindergartener’s treasure!” I even have former parents bring me things they find at garage sales during the summer!
Sarah Van Tine
I also use a bulletin board at the front of the room to encourage class behavior. Each month the theme is different. This month the children “pick” apples off a tree and put them in a basket. Everytime I catch the whole class being good or working hard they get to take an apple off the tree. When the tree is empty they get a reward. The funny thing is the reward is already something I would do anyway, like their fall party or field trip, but they don’t know it’s been scheduled on the calendar all along!!! So it doesn’t take anything extra out of my wallet!
Karen Burnat
 Always use positive things instead of the very negative public behavior charts. I really feel these are horrifying and just can’t understand how people use those for small children. If you must keep constant track of the behavior for certain children, a private chart works much better and isn’t a constant public stress for a child. This year, we use one of those “Easy” buttons from Staples. Students get to push it when they are making good behavior look “easy”. They love it and keep their behavior in check!
Jennifer Janin Hughes 
I have used a traffic light in the past but not this year. When I catch kids doing the right thing, I verbally praise them and maybe give a stamp or sticker. Sometimes, usually if a bunch of kids are misbehaving, I will find the ones doing the right thing and let them pick out of the prize box! All I say is, you never know when I am going to let you pick a prize!!!
Laurie Leahy 
I am not into rewards for behavior– they are extrinsic motivators and dilute the real power of intrinsic motivation.
Sarah Hudson
 Treasure chest, but you have to earn 8 greens, takes longer and then eventually only a few kids a day are getting to pick a prize.
Nancy Creech
Rebecca Green
 I use specific positive feedback, and I hand out “brain bucks” that kids can turn in to pick from treasure chest. I have a combination of treasures and coupons (line leader, homework pass, choose the read aloud book, read in the beanbag, etc.) in my treasure box. At this age I don’t think that all kids are ready to be intrinsically motivated in all areas. As much as I love my job, I wouldn’t do it for free, so I guess I need extrinsic motivation sometimes too. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some extrinsic rewards to help keep kids going when they might otherwise shut down as long as it’s not done to the point where intrinsic motivation is lost.
Heather Jacenko Gauvey 
I love the ten frame idea. I connects with math learning as well as reward. I go to the dollar section at target. I get things that have 4 in a package so they go farther. My PTA also gives us $ for “incentive items”. That helps.
Heather Leckey 
This year, behavior is earned through the whole class. Yes, I have specifically send individual notes home…….but, as a whole, they have to earn all the pieces to Mr. Potato Head! It’s a fun, new way instead of “10 stars” or marbles in a jar. The kids have responded so well to it this year. Once someone gives them a compliment (me in class, a teacher outside cuz of their straight line, or a special-area teacher), then they earn a piece of him! 🙂 We are 3 weeks into school and are so close to earning an incentive a second time!
Marcia O’Duggan
 Yes, @Laurie Leahy! Responsive Classroom makes so much sense! It also believes in teaching kids to make good decisions based solely on intrinsic motivators. Treasures, stickers, charts etc, work for kids who will make good decisions anyway. Helping kids to be good for goodness sake has lifelong lasting effects and is free! Responsive Classroom really will work for almost all children at any age.
Suzanne Giaimo
 Stickers work pretty well. Like the Mr. Potato Head idea, too. I also like having the children “grade” their own behavior for the day, marking their “grade” on a desk chart or something similar, and taking it home at the end of the week. Parents are pretty good at determining whether the “grades” were accurate or not. 🙂
Ann Annp
 COUPONS! These are considered a reward by the student and saves the teacher money!!! Examples are: Wear your slippers to school, sit at the teacher’s desk, Bring in a Show & Tell, Favorite stuffy for the day, etc.
Mindy Sidor
 Go for the coupons on Seusstastic blog. They are awesome!!!!
Lisa Marie Haboush
 I made up a system that worked great for my class last year, and called it the B.U.G. Jar . Being Unusually Good. Everyone starts the day with 3 “bugs” (beads on a pipe cleaner). The kids know that I can take a bug back if they engage in inappropriate or disruptive behavior, and all I do is walk over quietly and hold out my hand for a bug. All the bugs they have at the end of the day go into a personal bug jar in their cubby. Once a month I bring out Timon and Pumbaa’s Bug Trading Post where they can “buy” things with their bugs. They LOVE this! Some want to save month to month, some spend right away. They learn about saving when their friends have saved to get a better prize! I had one boy save up to 250…that showed self discipline! I also give out small rewards like ONE skittle after a quick floor clean up after art, and don’t have to leave anyone out. I have had very few behavior issues since then!
Jessica Imes I do rewards on Fridays, but use many of the above, free! Ideas like happy meal toys (my own son doesn’t realize there are toys in a happy meal,I always take them out before I hand it over, coupons, 5 minutes extra recess, chew gum in class day, take your shoes off day, slipper day, pajama day, lunch with the teacher, lunch with the principal (which they love!), lunch outside, etc… all are free and most don’t require us to take any time out of our day.
Jennifer LaFeve
 Classdojo.com! Check it out! It works really well for me and many of my colleagues, especially if you have a smartboard!
Deborah Snyder
 I have sticker charts for the students – when they have filled it, they can choose a prize from the Treasure box. It takes them longer to get a prize, but they still get the daily recognition and can watch their chart fill up, count how many more to fill it, etc.
Trella Collins 
This year I have made a behavior chart, something I haven’t done in a long time. I got it from Pinterest. The students start off in the middle of the chart each day and based on their behavior they can move up or down the ladder. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but so far so good. I like the fact that I have not been so focused on the negative behaviors. For once I feel that I have been putting more of the recognition toward the good students…the ones that I feel like I neglect, at times, but not intentionally. If you make it to the top of the ladder by the end of the day you have the chance to go in the surprise box. It usually on ends up being 2 to 4 kids.
Melinda Bachman
 I use marbles in a jar for appropriate rug or line behavior and when the marbles are all moved we have lunch with the teacher in the room as a whole class. I send home specific issues to parents and have a conference to work together.
Elaine Kindl

5 thoughts on “Which Behavior System Do YOU Use?

  1. I have used rewards and found they do not work for me. I have taught in inner city and suburban schools. Rewards don’t do anything except make children expect something in return for behaving. My job is not to control children, but to teach them. We have lots of class talks and my kids know the expectations since they help set them. I will always say if you have to use behavior systems that use rewards/punishment, you will have to keep upping the reward/punishment. Why not trust the kids to know/follow expectations based upon fostering relationships with them instead? It saves so much time and energy. And, it’s worth it!

  2. I’m the author of the article Matt Halpern posted (thanks, Matt!) and I also wanted to share my follow-up post about how I DO (as opposed to how I DON’T) manage behaviour in my classroom. Behaviour doesn’t need a system, it needs relationships. Children don’t need prizes, they need to be seen, heard, and supported in their attempts to “behave” just as we support them in their academic attempts. If you use a “system” to manage your classroom, please consider re-framing how you view children, learning, and behaviour. My whole post is here: Not Systems, But Relationships: http://missnightmutters.com/2012/09/behaviour-management-not-systems-but-relationships.html

  3. Responsive Classroom techniques have worked very very well for almost 10 years. No charts, stickers, treasure boxes which work for “good” kids but does not have lasting effects for kids struggling with behaviors. RC teaches INTRINSIC rewards, helps keep praise very specific, criticism very constructive, and builds community. Check it out, you will not be disappointed….RC is a lifestyle!

    • I agree with Marcia’s comments, above. I am a veteran teacher, and have found that the kids most likely to get few (or no) rewards are the very kids who need them most– the “naughty” ones who already believe they are bad and/or life is unfair. It makes the “naughty” kids resentful and less liked by the “good” kids, and further entrenches their negative self-image. Joy, love, and happy times are meant for all and for everyday in kindergarten! I like class discussions about rules, behavior, how things are going, and when there are problems, I like to have our classroom circle-time spent problem-solving. Including and valuing ALL builds community, and I believe it is more respectful than rewards.

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