After about 2 weeks of noticing the scoreboard becoming less and less effective, I finally took the time to remind myself of the other scoreboard levels. I had been kicking myself for not being consistent enough in using the scoreboard to enforce the classroom rules. I had convinced myself it was my fault my classes were getting chatty and quite lazy with the rules. Even the “CLASS! YES!” is not what it used to be. I had a few days of pitying myself saying things like, “This is what always happens… I get too lax and am not consistent in enforcing the rules… The scoreboard can’t fix my shortcomings in classroom management….” And it goes on, but you get the idea.
So last night I looked over the adaptation that involves giving “The independents” their own scoreboard. I had convinced myself earlier that this wouldn’t work because I don’t have any truly “challenging” kids who have an outward poor attitude. I just have kids who are chatty! They want to do well but are talking all the time and causing disruptions. I realized this might work for them because the point of the independent scoreboard is to take kids that are causing the whole class to have negative points (more homework, in my case) and give them their own section of the scoreboard.
So today I added “The Independents” at the bottom of my scoreboard. I noted to myself who my independents were. As students entered for each class, I let independents know who they were and said I’d explain what it meant later. The suspense built as students noticed the new scoreboard and wondered what it meant to be an independent.
In my advanced class, the group of 6 or 7 chatty independents took it upon themselves to try and earn LESS homework than the rest of the class once I had explained how it worked. This made me chuckle to myself. They have no idea how much they get off task and have side-conversations. It only took 2 “more HW” points to quiet them way down and give me that glorious learning environment I covet. We had a very effective lesson today.
In my class of 30, I think I almost derailed. I had 4 independents in that class. They are constantly looking at each other, laughing, talking, etc. Again, these are kids who are nice, and even respectful, but just have some very bad habits developing in my room. I explained that one independent’s bad behavior hurts the whole independent group (This is always a big deal to them when I explain it. They think it’s SO unfair. Yet it’s the same thing they have been doing to the rest of the class all along. When they start to realize this — it is a really effective lesson for them.) Well, while I did reward the independents one or two times, I had lots of opportunities to dish out negative points. I ended up doing 2 negatives in a row — one for some bad behavior and then another one immediately following when one of the independents complained about it, bringing them to 3 total extra homework problems. The student who had complained then got really aggravated. Out of anger, he threatened to not do his homework at all tonight. He is a student with ODD who I have had a great rapport with up to this point. I’ve been SO happy with the work ethic I have been getting from him so far. I stopped right after his comment and gave a stern reality check to the “whole class” (but really to the independents) about how many times the class was given extra HW at the hand of just a few rule-breakers. And then I went on to say how many times I DIDN’T punish the class when it was just a few rule breakers because I didn’t want to keep making the whole group suffer — but now that the independents are in their own group, they are feeling the heat as they are being called out for more of their bad behavior than they are used to.
To that I got a very quiet room. I don’t know if it was the best way to handle the moment, but time will tell. I feel like I’ve been walking on eggshells around my ODD kiddo as to not make him “mad” at me and stop working for me. At the same time, I know this was an impacting lesson he was learning as he felt the anger of suffering due to others bad behavior.
All in all, I’m happy with the independents scoreboard. The whole class had a fresh momentum and seemed re-enthused with something new and unexpected going on in the room. I could see the relief on many faces that I had noticed it was just a few students who often were the ones misbehaving. They were quietly appreciative that I was doing something about. I also like that students must leave the independent group by their own choice. They simply come to me and explain they no longer want to be a part of the group. I think I will have many of those requests tomorrow.