Behaviour charts for the classroom: when to use them and what they mean

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What are behaviour charts for the classroom?

Behaviour charts form part of a classroom management system that utilises positive reinforcement to maximum effect. They involve visually tracking the actions of pupils in a class over a period of time, with incentives for good behaviour and penalties for poor behaviour.

Behaviour charts for the classroom are widely used in schools for many reasons. Firstly, they enable you to see at a glance who has behaved poorly not only that day but also possibly on a longer-term basis.

Another advantage of using behaviour charts is that your pupils will have an increased awareness of their behaviour and the possible consequences of their actions if they can physically see them in chart form.

Behaviour charts for the classroom: different types

There are many different forms and layouts to consider when designing behaviour charts for the classroom.

More visual charts are useful for pupils in younger age groups, whereas more abstract ones suit older pupils.

Behaviour charts are usually physical but they can also be digital; there are many applications to support this if it would suit your classroom needs.

Many behaviour charts are colour-based, with children being assigned colours that reflect their behaviour – beginning in a neutral yellow and being assigned green or red for good and unwanted actions in the classroom respectively.

It is also useful – particularly with younger children – to use pictorial symbols to represent their behaviour, such as a sun for good and a storm cloud for poor. You could also use pictures of faces, with children beginning with an expressionless face and moving up or down to smiling and scowling faces depending on how they behave.

If you don’t want to track each child’s behaviour individually, it is also easy to adapt behaviour charts to cater for an entire group of children and reward them collectively. This provides a good incentive to behave well, as it directly impacts pupils’ peers.

Bring in a large jar and plenty of marbles, then let your pupils earn team points as a class by putting a marble in the jar whenever a child demonstrates particularly good behaviour, such as generosity, leadership or maturity, or when they excel at their work.

Once the jar is full, reward the children by giving them a treat such as watching a film. You can make this process more nuanced by offering children progressively bigger rewards the further up they fill the jar, with lines drawn on the outside to mark when different rewards are owed.

Reserve a special reward for the very top of the jar – such as a class party. If you’d like to make the process even more individualised, hold a class discussion about the treat they want to receive. Not only will this enable communication between all of you, but by giving your pupils the chance to have an input shows that you value them.

When not to use behaviour charts for the classroom

Although the use of behaviour charts as a form of behaviour management within the classroom has many positive effects, there are some situations in which they can cause more harm than good.

It is not uncommon to find that behaviour charts for the classroom cause tension and animosity when collective punishment enters into the equation.

If well-behaved children always have marbles added to the jar, but are constantly seeing their efforts undermined by others, they may lose motivation and become resentful. This is not productive for you or your pupils.

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