Need a new strategy to get your students to stay quiet and focus on their work? Try Secret Workers. Secretly pick two people and write their names down. Announce to the class that the teacher has picked two Secret Workers. If the two Secret Workers are quiet, follow the directions, and stay on task, they will earn a reward for the entire class. If the two do not behave properly, the class will not receive the reward. Since no one knows who the Secret Workers are, everyone is forced to behave as the teacher has asked. This behavior system works well for shorter lengths of time—about half-hour to 40-minute time frames.
Rewards can be anything the teacher chooses, such as five extra minutes of recess, free time, stickers, etc. Extra recess is a logical reward. The teacher can always say, “Since you used the class time so well and stayed on task, we will have extra time to get in more recess.” Or the teacher might say, “Since you have worked so hard, you have earned an extra five minutes of break time.”
There can be variations to the Secret Workers. One variation is to tell the class that the teacher will be picking one boy and one girl. Another variation is to divide the class in half, and tell the class that one person will be picked from the left side of the room and one from the right side. After using this technique several times, the teacher can then have a competition between the two groups.
Tips: If the Secret Workers are successful, be sure to announce their names and have the class thank them. If the Secret Workers are unsuccessful, talk to them personally and do not reveal the names to the class.
It is a good idea to announce aloud how the Secret Workers are doing. For example, a teacher might say, “Wow, the Secret Workers are doing really well” or “Uh-oh, our Secret Workers need to be careful.”
If a student forgets his or her homework, a teacher may have the student stay in at recess or during study hall, do the missing work, and fill out a behavior reflection form. This form is designed to have students think about what they did, why it was inappropriate, and how to avoid this behavior next time. They need to answer in complete sentences and thoughtfully. This form is then taken home that evening, signed by the student’s parents, and brought back to school the next day. It is a great way to keep parents informed of late work and a great way to keep the student on track of his or her responsibilities.
This form is only effective for those students who forget occasionally. For the repeat offender, other measures will have to be taken to better help him or her remember. Also, the reflection form is general enough that it can also be used for other situations, such as a social problem that occurred that day in school. Filling out a sample reflection form together, as a whole class, would be a good way to model what is expected of the students.
If the teacher does not have a study hall, consider getting some teachers in the same grade level to give up one lunch period to sit for study hall. Study hall duty would be on a rotating basis. The more teachers involved, the fewer lunches missed per teacher. If this is not possible, the student should stay in from recess to fill out the reflection form and do the missing work.
Tip: The teacher may want to have a spot on a bulletin board or whiteboard for those students who are to go to study hall that day. This will also serve as a reminder to the teacher and the students that they have a reflection form that needs to be signed. It is recommended that student numbers rather than names are used on this board to avoid embarrassment.
As children grow older, we often assume that small rewards won’t suffice, especially during the middle school years. Contrary to that belief, however, middle school-aged kids sill love being rewarded for their ability to behave and stay on task—although the type of rewards change just a bit. What follows is a list of some incentives that middle school teachers can use to encourage these behavioral expectations.
Using some down time after instruction and assignments have been completed can be a wonderful incentive to keep students behaving and on task. Whether you choose to use educational board games linked to your curriculum or other strategic games, the skills used and educational value are quite beneficial to students’ cognitive and reasoning abilities. Playing quality games to develop skills is a great use of time for students of all ages.
Structured Computer Time
Computer time is something students will always work for, regardless of what they are allowed to do once they log on. Put together a list of appropriate sites that are relevant to your particular content area that includes informational sites as well as sites that feature curriculum-based games. This is one treat they will certainly look forward to if they have been on their best behavior and completed all of their work.
Once the work is done, allow students to visit the school library. When they are allowed to change the scenery for even a few minutes to get a new book to read, students will appreciate the respite. Encouraging them to read or browse the library is beneficial to students in many ways and keeps them going back outside of structured class library visits. Make sure this reward is okay with your school librarian and work out the details ahead of time.
Alternate Seating Choices
Middle schoolers like to be able to move about from time to time, as any middle school teacher will tell you. That said, allow well-behaved students to find their own place to sit during silent reading time or journaling. Whether it’s on the floor, a special couch in your classroom, or a simple area rug, your students will appreciate being able to change things up from time to time. As long as they stay on task, it doesn’t really matter where or how they sit as long as it’s safe.
This post was contributed by Courtney Phillips, who writes about the online BA degree. She welcomes your feedback at CourtneyPhillips80 at gmail.com.
Red Pen Reversal
Teachers often use a red pen to mark answers that are incorrect. Instead of using a red pen to check all wrong answers, use a red pen to check all right answers! Write “okay” on all correct answers. Leave answers that are wrong untouched. This is another silent message to students to go back and correct the wrong answers. They know, without you saying, that the problems are wrong, and they know which problems to correct. Be sure to use a red pen or pencil. Students have learned to associate red marks with the word, “wrong.” Using a red mark for the right answers is a way of using reverse psychology on them.
Tattling can be a big problem in a classroom. This type of behavior usually occurs when a student is trying to gain teacher attention. Students can tattle for the following reasons:
- to get others in trouble
- to hopefully get an award
- to gain attention
- to feel superior over others
Try using a tattle box. Cover a shoebox with paper. Label it, “The Tattle Box.” When a student tries to tattle, have the students write the problem down on paper and drop it in the box. Be sure to keep paper and pencil handy beside the box and be sure to read the papers!
Another tactic to curb tattling is when a student comes to tattle, ask a question: “Is it in or out?” In other words, you are asking the student “Are you tattling to get someone in trouble or out of trouble?” Only listen to those who say “out of trouble.” Students catch on quickly that you are not going to listen to their negative tattling.
Mark extra good work with a smiley sticker and watch the smiles on students’ faces. It is simple, but it works. Stickers with words of encouragement are also great for rewarding and motivating good work.