In one of my favorite TV shows, Dr. Gaius Baltar is called in to help with questioning a prisoner. He says, “You’ve tried the stick; it’s time to try the carrot.”
That was me two months ago.
Not just sick of detentions, tardies, phone calls, and discipline, I was sick of the time and energy I was giving to the students who earned it the least.
It took my wife to point it out. The conversation went like this:
Vaudrey: I have six students that are consistent behavior problems. If each one gets a warning, a conference outside, and a detention, that’s 18 things.
Hot Wife: Why just send them out right away?
Vaudrey: Well, that’s not fair to those kids. I have to go through my steps.
Hot Wife: Well, it’s not exactly fair to the rest of your students that their education is interrupted by distractors. Also, those rotten kids are getting all of your attention.
So I went to observe another teacher in the district who has SDC students for math support all day. These are students who ALL struggle with math, and a myriad of behavior issues come with it.
She awards her students with poker chips when they are on task.
Let’s just stop there–that’s the change that I made.
Yes, I know that Alfie Kohn wouldn’t be a big fan of a rewards-based system for discipline. Sorry, Alfie–this worked.
A roll of tickets is cheaper for me than poker chips, so I went with that. I prepped each class on how the tickets would be awarded and jumped in.
- The bell rings, I do a round of tickets for those already on the warm-up.
- I play the Notes Song, I do a round of tickets right when it ends to students already noting.
- During classwork, I do a round of tickets to those focused.
I started noticing signs of on-task-ness that I hadn’t before: A pencil in hand is the best example.
Fast forward four weeks to today, a minimum day before winter break. Auction Day.
I printed a list of auction items, brought in a cowboy hat (don’t all auctioneers wear those?), and displayed the items attractively on the wall.
I laid down a fairness rule: One item per student.
Then we went to town. This was the highlight:
- Ryan (yes, that Ryan) proclaiming, “I’m finna git that Gatorade!” Then, after a student bid four tickets, Ryan screamed, “Thirty-nine!” Then he drank the entire 32 ounces in about 3 minutes. Pointing to his distended stomach, he boasts, “Look! I’m all pregnant!”
Improvements for the next Auction (which will probably be in six weeks):
- Use Poker Chips instead.
- Which means: Buy individual student bags and one bin per period for those bags to be stored.
- Assign a Banker to collect and pass out the bags at the beginning and end of class.
- Multiple auction items per student? Maybe.
- No poker chips changing hands during the auction. Savvy students who wanted two items gave their tickets to another student and said, “Get those glowsticks for me!”
- Kick out students that disrupt. I wanted so badly for this to be fun for everyone that I just spoke louder and louder. I know–I realize how silly it is. But it’s the day before winter break; they were probably going to be difficult anyway.
- Some kind of activity to keep those busy who already bought an item. (See previous bullet)
In case anyone is interested, here are the coupons I used.
And, because data matters, here’s the cost dispersion:
|Item||Pd. 1||Pd. 3||Pd. 4|
|Coupon – Pick your Seat||17||3|
|32 oz Gatorade||23||16||39|
|Two (2) Homework Passes||20||2||8|
|Coupon – Positive Phone Call from Mr. Vaudrey||16||1|
|$5 Gift card to Starbucks||34||24||40|
|X-presso Monster Energy Drink||36||23||5|
|Coupon – Eat In Class||15||13||1|
|Three fancy mechanical pencils||18||19||38|
|Coupon – Excuse a Detention||9||10|
|Reese’s or Skittles Candy Cane||9||20||65|
|Vitamin Water-flavored Lip Balm (like chapstick)||6||17||3|
|Coupon – Pick Your Group||1||6|
|Flamin’ Hot Chee-tos||25||24||70|
|Three Bathroom Passes||1||3|
|Surprise Item: Ring Pop!||16||23||7|