Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Skipping Student/Teacher Points

For the past six years, I've relied on the trusty "student/teacher" point system.

The premise is simple.  Every time students are collaboratively working or on task, they earn points.  When they aren't, I earn points.  The difference at the end of the week (usually weeks) would be converted into marbles and fill the purple Disneyland yard glass.  Once they reach the top, a reward is earned.

I was pretty proud of my system and though it was working out well.

There are lots of articles about this behavior management system, praising it's ability for highlighting positive choices and "catching students being good." 

However, then I stumbled upon a different article that made me completely shift my mindset (which naturally, I can't find.  Sorry readers.)  

Basically, this is setting students up to fail. Yes, fail.

This statement baffled me at first.  I was rewarding students' collaboration and positive behaviors, so why was this classroom management system being discredited.  I thought I'd have to write another {dissenting opinion post}, but then I realized the author was right. 

Did this system reward students' positive choices? Yes, absolutely.

Does it create a game like atmosphere that stresses cooperation and competition? Yes.  Both of these things are encouraged in my classroom, especially when done correctly.  (Cooperation for example, on a test is frowned upon.  Competition when it belittles another isn't allowed.)

But it also set them up for failure because I, the teacher, was rewarded when they didn't meet my expectations.  I was rewarded when they failed.  

That's no way to run a classroom.  

I don't want to send the message that I'm looking forward to them failing.  I don't want to celebrate their failings.

So instead of displaying my T and S glittery magnets and washi tape "game board" space, I packed those letters away.

Instead, I'm relying solely on class dojo for my behavior system and classroom management this year.  I'll be able to keep better track of the magical 3:1 ratio (three positive interactions for every negative interaction), but I know some students need more than that. 

I'm still debating if I want to do table challenges.  I could look for the tables that are working together and award points, which highlights both cooperation and competition.  I would take myself out of the equation, allowing students to model appropriate, positive choices for one another.  The tables with the highest points after a given amount of time could have additional rewards in terms of extra class dojo points for cooperation or the ever exciting (and free) strategies of going to recess first, reading with pillows, or taking their shoes off during the school day.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the student-teacher points game?

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