Thanks so much for all of your questions on how I use my clip chart in my classroom. Those of you who have been following me know that I am very wordy... so strap in for a long post! :)
Ok. Before I begin, I will let you know that when I started using a clip chart last year, I first read this e-book by New Management which answered a lot of my questions. I am by no means THE authority on clip charts, but I do think it's super cool that so many of you are interested in how it works for me!
Establishing your expectations...
One of the first things you need to do as a teacher is decide what is going to constitute a "clip down" and start thinking about which student choices will allow a "clip up". My "clip down" is much more defined than when students "clip up". I like this for two reasons- 1.) they know exactly which choices will earn them a movement down on the clip chart and 2.) they have an idea of what they need to do to clip up, but because it is more loosely defined, they are constantly aware of their choices and I'm not locked in to a situation where every time they do one thing, they will automatically get to move their clips up. I hope that makes sense.
In the beginning...In the beginning of the year, kids got to move their clips up like crazy. I even let one or two get all the way to the coveted "pink" on the first day of school! I am very lengthy and descriptive about why I let kids "clip up". I might say, "Wow! John, you heard me ask you to push your chair in before you lined up and I noticed that several kids forgot, but you followed directions right away! It really helps us move safely in our classroom when kids push their chairs in. Please go move your clip up," and as he goes to move his clip up, the 10 kids who forgot to push their chairs in immediately go back and follow directions... without me having to say one word to them. For the first month or so of school, it goes like this- me giving very specific feedback about positive choices so that they can vicariously learn exactly what types of behavior I expect in my classroom. In the beginning of the year, lots of kids get to move up but few actually get to the top. I used "the top" very sparingly. All of my kiddos had gotten there at least once by the end of the year, most twice, and some three or four times.
Maintaining in the middle...After your clip chart routines are established, it is really important to continue the intermittent rewards during the middle of the year. I say things like, "Tony, I appreciate how you raised your hand before you gave your answer. That helps things move smoothly when we take turns speaking" and I might let him clip up, but I might not. Intermittent rewards are so important for the clip chart. My kiddos learn that we don't always get a reward and sometimes we just do things because they are the right thing to do.
The power of the clip chart when things are crazy!...Wow did this clip chart save my sanity at times this past year! My kids LOVED the opportunity to move up on the clip chart and, because they knew that I might notice them at any time doing the right thing and I MIGHT ask them to clip up, I could usually see them consciously trying to exhibit the expected behaviors in the classroom. However, when they were not, the clip chart was an easy way to corral them back in. I would just say, "Oh no! I was just about to ask someone to move their clip up, but when I turned around, they weren't making that great choice anymore! I'll keep watching them to see if they have made a better choice". Sneaky right? Or I would say, "I'm looking for someone who wants to move their clip up by making good choices right now".
Why I LOOOOOVE the clip chart...In the past when I used a red-yellow-green system, the only incentive at all to behave had to be intrinsic. They had to want to stay on green and, let's face it, we all know who our high-flyer kids are and they usually have been so burned by behavior systems like red-yellow-green that they believe they can't behave and so they don't try. Or, more likely, there haven't been sufficient opportunities for them to figure out what it means to behave because they aren't even getting to see other kids recognized for making good choices! I know some people are very anti-extrinsic motivators, but the clip chart serves both purposes. It is an extrinsic visual motivator that gives such feelings of pride when they succeed at moving up. Kids learn how to make good choices and what it feels like to be proud of their own actions- especially when given specific feedback about their choices... not just "good job" or "good choice", but taking the time to explain what they did so that they understand it was their CHOICE that was good, not them as a person. The clip chart takes the focus off of students as who they are, but what their choices are. On a red-yellow-green system, only the "naughty" kids ever hear their names. This makes it so that those kids have a chance to be recognized for good choices too.
Here is a powerful testament to the clip chart. Mid-way through this past year I got a new student. This student came with a 10-page long behavior plan from his old school. I had to have a behavior meeting about him before he even started in my class! Now, I'm a very competent classroom manager, but I'll admit that I was nervous! He came in and responded extremely well to the positive environment in my classroom... and when he realized that he wasn't only going to be penalized for his choices (via a red-yellow-green only system) and that he was capable of making good choices that could earn him praise and happy feelings about himself, his behavior was GREAT! Not to say that he didn't have a bad day here or there, but I honestly saw none of the behaviors outlined in the behavior plan that came from the old school. I truly believe it is because the clip chart focuses on good choices rather than just consistently zeroing in on poor ones.
Making "clip ups" special...
In my classroom, when you make it to the top, you get a special sticker to wear home, a happy note, and you get to add a jewel to your clip. The class will also clap and cheer and share in the "clip upper's" excitement! Click here to go to my class website to download some happy notes for your classroom!
Making "clip downs" painless...The point of the clip chart is for kids to learn how they can be responsible for their own choices. When I used a red-yellow-green system, my high-flyers had a very difficult time accepting the fact that they had to move down a color. Not only that, but I didn't allow you to move up if you changed your choices later in the day when I used that system. Now as a more seasoned teacher, I understand that I was completely and unfairly sabotaging those students and setting them up to fail. If a kid gets on "yellow" 10-minutes into the day, what incentive do they have to change their choices? None. By then, they'd already be feeling crummy and, if they don't feel their best they aren't going to be their best.
My students know that poor choices will earn you a consequence, but you have the opportunity to learn from your poor choices and change your behavior. I have found that, even when having to make a move to orange or (insert terrifying sound here) RED, my kids accept it on this system because they get it. They understand why they are having to do it...it isn't just because Mrs. Bainbridge is mean, it's because the choice that got made was not acceptable.
In my class, moving to yellow is just a warning. Orange means a loss of 5-minutes of recess so we can have a chat about making good choices on a students' own time... NOT my class time. Red is a loss of an entire recess (15-minutes), the student has to write a behavior reflection, and I will make a parent contact either by phone (which the student will participate in) or note/e-mail.
Why it works for me...
In my pre-clip chart era as a teacher, I would leave feeling like I had griped at my kids all day and that, no matter how hard I tried to "get them to behave", it didn't work. The clip chart puts it on them. No longer am I just recognizing the bad behavior! And we all have kiddos who will get our attention any way they can get it- good or bad- and, as long as they are getting our attention, they don't even care that it is negative. This system allows me to get the behavior I want on my terms. Kids have to earn their behavior level in my classroom, I don't just give it to them based on how I am feeling at any certain moment. If a kid is having a bad day when they walk in my door, I can change it immediately by finding them doing one good thing and asking them to move their clip up for it. Instantly the chances of them having a meltdown or a horrible behavior day are greatly reduced. This system helps kids be responsible for their own choices. I love that!
Clip chart questions...So, here are the answers to some questions I've gotten in the past regarding the clip chart...
Q-But what if a student moves to red? Can they really move back up on the clip chart?
A-Yes. They will still receive their consequence which, for my students, is a loss of an entire recess, behavior reflection to go home and be signed, and a parent contact. It has never happened that a student has moved to red and then had such wonderful choices that they have moved too far back up the clip chart... so for those worried about that, I don't see it happening. The beauty of it is that you control when they move up. So you can allow a student to move back up at your own discretion, particularly if you leave the parameters for moving up more open ended as I suggested. I will add that if a student moves to red and later makes a good choice and gets to be on yellow they would not then get the yellow level consequence (-5 min. of recess). They would still owe me the whole recess.
Q-But what if a student gets to outstanding and then their behavior spirals out of control? Do they still get to keep their goodies for getting to the top?
A-Any kid who would have such extreme behavior should probably be on their own individual behavior plan. This has never happened in my classroom so I can't speak to my own experiences on this matter, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. I keep my high-flyers waiting to get to the top throughout the day... so if I can tell one of my kiddos is going to have a rough day, I set them up to be successful by allowing them to clip up a level early in the day. This keeps them on their toes, aware of their choices, and eliminates the "I'll never clip up" feeling that those kiddos sometimes feel.
Q-Does it take a lot of time to use a clip chart?
A-Not at all! The kids clip up and down themselves and all you have to do as the teacher is be aware of the choices being made in your classroom and then ask kids to clip up or down because of them. I would highly recommend being wordy with your explanations when you ask them to clip up. It truly helps the other kids learn what they need to do in a more internal way than just you telling them. I promise that when you say to one kid, "Wow! That piece of paper has been on the floor all day and everyone else has ignored it, but you picked it up even though it isn't yours. You really showed a lot of responsibility by doing that. Thanks for keeping our classroom beautiful. Please move your clip up!"... I promise that the other kids in your room will immediately look on the floor for trash and will be more aware of picking it up tomorrow!
Q-I'm a little concerned about posting the clip chart for everyone to see. Won't it bother the kids who are below green?
A-I haven't had any issues with this. My clip chart is posted in the back of my classroom and I know some teachers don't have student names written on clips- instead they have numbers. I think the kids would still know which number went with each student, but parents or visitors to the room wouldn't be able to see who was where on the clip chart. I think that it is a good visual reminder of choices made and a perfect visual for kids to see what they are striving for.
Q-Your colors on the clip chart are reversed from what they show in the e-book... how come?
A-I prefer having the "cooler" colors at the top. Red has a more threatening connotation, so I have that at the bottom of my chart and then it goes up in a kind of "reverse rainbow order"- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink.
Q-Would you please share your words on your clip chart?
A-Sure! You can find my clip chart files on my class website in the "c" section of my Teacher Files page. Ms. Fiorini is also working on themed clip chart sayings. You can visit her blog to see some. Soon more will be for sale at The Teaching Oasis!
Ok! I think that's it! If you have other questions, feel free to post them in the comments and I'll be sure to address them.