Why I Took My Behavior Chart Off My Wall!

Mar 6, 2015 | August, Back To School, Freebies, June/July, Management, Teacher Wisdom, TpT in Action | 40 comments

I shared with everyone the other day about the struggles I had with my own son and his ability to learn.  As you can imagine, this really began to shape the way I approach teaching and learning for all students in my class.  With this came some pretty big changed in my class and so I wanted to start sharing this with you and challenging you to do some of the same.
The first change I made was pretty major and a whole lot of little scary.

That’s right.. I removed my behavior chart!Let’s start by saying my son was never a behavior problem.    That actually worked against us I think because if he had not been so mellow and easy going in class  that he may just have got services a little quicker.That being said, I really started to think about what happens when kids don’t understand.  What behaviors and mannerisms come out during this time.  What are the root causes to the issues that happen and what am I REALLY doing to help?So with that… my behavior chart came off the wall this last school year!  It felt a little crazy; a little bit like what on earth am I doing but I am so glad I did it!

So why did I make this move?

I really felt as if I was quick to just call people out and have them go pull their card.  Someone was talking while I was talking… I gave a warning and then they had to pull their card.  They had to do the walk of shame over to the wall and their card had to be on my yellow pocket chart for the rest of the day.  But did I really give that child a fair chance to explain why they were talking.  Simply stated – no.  I would have a conversation with them after but the emotional damage and embarrassment was done and that really started killing ME inside.  And then to post it on the wall for everyone to see just seemed unfair.

So we started focusing on rules more!  I made these great rules to use in my room and we began to make that the focus.   Every day we would stand behind our chairs and my handy helper would point while the entire class recited the rules.  Every day… we never missed.  I started referring to my rules in my instruction…. I would say remember the rule and they all would repeat it.

I have posted these rules on my blog a couple times and I honestly just made them for me so this summer I cleaned them up and made them editable so you can change the words on them if you want.    These are the rules that I use for my own specific classroom that I have found to be effective but the file is completely editable so you can change the pictures to say whatever you want!  They also come with an emergent reader, graphic organizers, and writing pages that are all editable so you can make them match what you choose to do in your classroom!

One of the best pieces of the download above I went ahead an included in the FREE PREVIEW.  It’s the parent note home.  I always did the calendar where I colored what color they were so my parents always knew what the day looked like but rarely wrote notes or explained what rules we had talked about that day. That’s where this form came from.  So if I speak with a child about a rule, at the end of the day (or when we talk) they have to circle what rules we talked about.   I stressed to my families and kids it did not mean they were ‘in trouble’ but that we just talked.  This was hard for them at first but they eventually got it… we were just informing family what we talked about.  Parents were required to sign and send back the next day.  It was not a punitive thing but a learning thing.

Again the above form is part of the freebie of my rules program in the preview option but you can really get rid of your wall clip chart with any rules program you use!

So what exactly did my behavior program look like?

At the end of every day each child got a card and there were 3 options.

– a orange card – they had a perfect & expected day
– a purple car – I picked a couple a day to get purple
– or a yellow – a rule reminder card (which is the form above)

3 options – that’s it!  This came from a conversation I had with my friend  friend Callie at Teach-A-Roo.  She is the Clip Chart Queen and has a whole program that will help you be successful at it if you are not willing to take the leap with me.  The cards are a part of her program where at the end of every day she gives kids a card – like an award to take home.

At my school we had a school store and students traded those cards in for money to use in the school store (10 cards good cards (orange) or 5 excellent (purple) cards for $1.)  If you don’t have a school store, you could easily trade in 10 for a treasure chest pick.  Kids just store their reward cards in a pencil pouch in their desk.  Kids then colored their calendar the color of their card for the day.

Next natural question is… did you have consequences?  YES, of course!  Consequences were always teacher choice which was most of the time 5 minutes lost of recess.  Felt crazy at first, but if the goal is AMAZING behavior, why do we post loss recess and call home on the wall?  I shifted my focus towards the positive and the kids knew it was my choice if need be.  We did a lot of talking how consequences would be fair and sometimes I let kids pick the consequences.  Those were WAY worse than anything I could come up with.  These were always done after I shifted focus in the lesson or after the lesson.  (As you become more positive – your kids do too and the need for this is less and less.)

I really began reflecting on what I was doing and where I was putting my focus when those behaviors happened. I goal was to make the need for consequence way less than it had been in previous years!

So what exactly would it look like when I have that situation?  Our lessons are filled with many different components.  Say little Johny was being disruptive during a story – I would go sit on the other side of my carpet closer to him (student were trained to just move their eyes with me.)  I would become more engaging by acting crazy as a character in the story.  We would stop and remind ourselves of a rule as a class – never calling out that student but reciting as a full class.  Children generally want to please you and so it began to be the tone that I expect you to sit and be respectful!

One trick I used I posted about a few months ago called passing the positive.  Here I just took an object and the  kids passed it to the person I saw doing something good.  So if there was a student with an undesired behavior – I would say oh thanks Johny for sitting quietly, please pass the fish to Amy who is sitting on her bottom.  You want to see all of your kids fix themselves to sit on their bottoms super quick… definitely try this strategy! The kid with the fish at the end of the day got a treasure chest pick. This NEVER got old and the kids would be so excited to have a chance to hold the fish each day even if they did not have it last!

Now what about when a student is being defiant or out of control.  We all know that planning and management is KEY in your classroom – whatever works for you works for you!  Reflection again – is this part of my lesson too long, is that student not engaged, is the partnering off?  Don’t be afraid to change your lesson in mid stream – things don’t go as planned all the time and tell kids that so they become empathetic towards you and a part of the experience.    This strategy can also be used to divert the other kids attention if there is an issue so you can deal with what you need to without causing any embarrassment.

And that’s ultimately the thing for me… we don’t want children to feel embarrassed for things that are out of their control or call attention to poor choices in front of others.  Often times these types of behaviors are a coping mechanism for being uncomfortable for many reasons like not understanding or being afraid.  .We should never want them to learn anything from that negative or embarrassing experience but learn through the positive experiences.  Some will probably argue with me over that statement I am sure but when it’s your own child acting a certain way because factors are not ideal for them to be successful it may be a little different (home life, academic understanding, hunger or whatever it may be,).  We want them to learn from the positive not the negative experiences that happen in our care!  And by no means am I saying students don’t make poor choices but I want my modeling to be of positive interactions.

Now – did I have the students who would have outbursts and need to go sit at their seats.  Yes – but those students often had bigger issues we needed to address.  As a matter of fact, two of those students this last year were eventually placed in self contained classrooms.  The key here to think about is the misbehaviors could be indicators something is off!  This is so important especially in the early years as we are often told to wait for testing – there is no magic age a learning difference kicks on so if they have an IEP or not if they are showing indicators of certain issues we should provide those accommodations as a part of our differentiation!    To not give kids the benefit of the doubt that something else is going on is so not worth the cost of losing years of interventions and I think that’s where I ultimately am coming from!   Can I get an AMEN?!

I know this all sounds crazy and very Mary Poppins to you… but I swear it’s not.
Take the leap.  Pull that public statement off the wall!  It will all work itself out!

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  1. Laura Maar

    I got rid of my behavior chart this year and never missed it! The funny thing is some parents asked me about it because they thought it was strange that there wasn’t one and thought kids would act worse. I know just send a message on Class Dojo if I need to tell a parent about behavior. Much better!

  2. J Jennings

    I haven’t used a clip chart in years, BUT this is my first year in kindergarten and I really have to model the rules for them..every day…every 30 minutes! I have one defiant student, but I think I’m going to try out an individual star chart for him where he can earn some computer time or something he likes. I’ll see how that works this week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get him on track.

  3. Leah

    Thank you so much for this resource and your insight! I too had limited success changing behaviors with a visible color clip chart. I do have a quick question regarding the ‘colors’ on their take home calendar… if a student gets a ‘talked to’ note… do they automatically know to color their calendar to yellow for that day? Just checking… Thank you again!

  4. linda

    You should look into Responsive Classroom. It is all about positive reinforcement, engagement, logical consequences and accountability. NO embarrassing behavior charts!!

  5. Beth

    Love this, and similar to what I did daily, when I taught K (reiterating rules every, single. day.). I wonder about the “Keep your teachers happy” one, though. It’s very general and open to interpretation. What did this include, in your class, and how did you explain to your kidlets? Thanks.

  6. Katie

    The less “public” I’ve made my behavior system, the better success I’ve had. My school uses class dojo, but I don’t keep it up all the time, I just tell kids when they are going to get a point, or pull them aside and explain when and why they are losing one.

    I’ve also ditched the “treasure box” in favor of privileges. I have different kinds of cards with specific priveleges the kids can “trade” their points for at different levels. They love them!
    They can trade for things like “sit by the friend you choose for the day” or “jump your place in line” or “use a sparkly pen on an assignment instead of a pencil” or borrow the teacher chair for the day” and “bring a stuffed animal to school”. They trade them, and I post them on the wall and they let me know when during the week they want to use them. Then on Friday, I take down anything left and we start over. It’s been a big hit this year.

  7. Mrs. Kinder-hearted

    I love this post! I read it two years ago and reluctantly did what I already knew I needed to do. The charts may work for some, but it was a big waste of my time. I’m revisiting now to grab the link to this post so I can mention in an upcoming blog post of my own. Hope you don’t mind. <3

    Thanks for this tried and true advice. I needed it back then as many still do now. 🙂


  8. Christine Walker

    Yes! I took this leap of faith in my first grade classroom 3 years ago and it was the best teaching decision I’ve made thus far. I decided to remove the behavior chart for the same reasons: the walk of shame and what was I really teaching them? I found that the chart was the focus of the day, even for the parents, but I wanted academics to be the focus. So, goodbye chart, hello learning! Thank you for writing this!!!

  9. Lisa moreno

    I completly agree with you. More teachers need to think this way.

  10. Natalie

    I love your article and I am excited to try these ideas this year!! Can you help me find how to download the “free preview” for the reflection sheet?
    Thank you!

  11. Ronett

    I really like the idea of no clip chart and I really like the notes to parents, that they talked about a rule. Do some kiddos have to circle more than one rule or do you try to keep it to just one each day?

    I DO NOT like the idea of treasure box, students should be behaving because it is the right thing to do and because it feels good inside, not because they will get a tangible reward. What do you suggest, if we do not do treasure box?

    My current clip chart that I am planning on trying to get rid of: everyone starts on “Ready to Learn.” When I see positive role models, those students clip up to “Great Day” or a second clip up to “Super Day.” We really try to focus on the positive to get others to make good choices. However, if students don’t make good choices after a warning, then they clip down and refocus. What other ideas can you share for getting rid of this clip system?

    • Samantha

      While I completely understand your point about kids behaving because it’s the right thing to do (I haven’t used a behavior chart in many years and DO have a prize box) I have found that Kinder students developmentally still need the tangible. It gives them something to show for their hard work and take home to show their families. They seem to enjoy that they earned this on their own and didn’t get it because someone bought them a toy at the store, etc. I have also found that it’s the status of being able to choose from the prize box that they enjoy as much as the prize itself- usually items from the dollar store.

  12. Gayle

    I am a preschool teacher and have always been told making kids feel bad doesn’t teach them how to be good. But no one has ever told me how to keep my classroom under control in a positive way that works. I would love to know more about this. Thanks for the great idea!

  13. Lara

    I love this. I started my year without muly clip chart but brought it back because some of my students needed a visual. However, I don’t feel like I have parental support from some and some kids don’t take responsibility\ownership for their actions. How do you initially keep track of who you talk to about and about what rule so you can send home the parent note? Also what if they don’t bring it back signed?

  14. Jennifer

    Amazing stuff! Took mine down two years ago. #Nevergoingback!!
    Kids are much more well behaved.

  15. Arah

    This sounds like a mix of WBT and Conscious Discipline (Becky Bailey). If you haven’t read any of Becky’s books you should check them out (Or check out her website). I think you would love them!

  16. Julie

    I love this article. I have never used a behavior chart for so many of reasons that you listed above. I like the note home part.

  17. Kim

    Thanks Jennifer for this inspiring idea! I am always looking for new ways to improve my classroom management. I can’t wait to try this out after break. The parent note is a great way to communicate with parents in a positive way. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Monika

    I wonder… Would you recommend ditching the clip chart in the middle of the year. Also ” earning ” a trip to the treasure box is sending me to the poor house. I’ m sick of buying dollar store plastic junk! Any suggestions? Special needs class, high functioning, 5 th grade.

    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      I say ditch the chart when you are ready. There is no rule saying that you have to follow the same plan all year! As far as the treasure box goes… I never buy treasure chest items. I have kids though so there is plenty of McDonald’s toys and left over Halloween candy to get me through the year. I would maybe do a FB post and ask your friends for small toys or trinkets or candy. Now is a good time for that because Halloween candy might still be laying around.

      • Kris

        Monica, Just read about your treasure box. I had the same problem with it getting too expensive. What I did with my 3rd graders is at the end of the month they would use their class dollars that they earned and bought ‘treasures’ from what their classmates brought in to sell at a class auction. I have been doing this for 3 years now and it doesn’t cost me a thing. The class brings in one item they would sell at a yard sale, with their parents permission of course, and sell it to the highest bidder. This also encourages the class to earn that money. Hope this helps.

    • fauzia

      For the reward, I mostly use hand cut-outs( made of either construction paper or craft-foam) and give to the child who earned it as a high five award to take home. I also write a small note on it. They love it and its not a burden on my cute little pay check.

    • Anne

      One of my son’s teachers asked parents to contribute small items for her treasures/prizes, and lots of people were happy to donate. She sent a list of suggestions, and I think that helped focus the items appropriately. I thought- what a genius! How much have I spent on treasure boxes when I could have just asked for a little help!

  19. Luz

    This article is fantastic! I absolutely agree with you! In my experience as a teacher, the students who constantly misbehaved had something else going on at home. This is noy nonsense being positive works! One of these students (who was very smart by the way) loved when I praised the class or we went through the rules everyday before starting school. Thanks for this article. I agree with it 100% ?

    • Concerned Mom

      My concern is that I don’t think we have anything going on at home and she is having trouble listening and not getting distracted in her kinder class. She is on yellow everyday and no I got an email from her teacher about her not listening when being talked to. I really don’t know what to do. 🙁

  20. DeAnna

    I really love this. I’m a preservice teacher getting ready to go into student teaching and figuring out what my management style will be. I love this alternative approach, focus on the positive, and lack of embarrassment and shaming. It sounds like your students are learning to self monitor. Thanks!

  21. Lee Ann Rasey

    I have been reviewing the WBT rules everyday and explaining what they mean, but my kindergartners just don’t get it. They can repeat the rules, but they don’t follow them. My class cannot stop talking, especially when I am teaching/talking. I have one student who makes disrespectful comments towards me like he might talk to his friends. Any suggestions on how I can get my class to be less chatty? I do an individual reward and a whole class reward, but that doesn’t seem to be an incentive. I didn’t want to do a clip chart this year; however, my school has adopted a school wide behavior system that includes having some kind of “change your color” system. We also reward exceptional behavior with “bucks” and now when the children do something kind, they tell me what they did and expect the reward. I don’t give them out as much as the other teachers do.

  22. Candace Roberts

    You really put a lot of thought into your reasoning behind taking down your chart. As a Responsive Classroom teacher and consultant, I would encourage you to look into the approach. It seems like it would square with your thinking? There are also a ton of strategies and tools for academic engagement, community building and effective management. I hope you decide to check it out!

  23. Luv My Kinders

    Amen to no clip chart! I don’t use one either. My rules are pretty similar to yours and my kids can recite them. They know my expectations and we rarely have a problem. I do love the parent note to send home just in case their is a problem. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Luv My Kinders

  24. Mrs. Landry

    This has got me thinking and I know that’s what you wanted. Lol! I do use a clip chart as my team does and we try to be consistent on things as requested by admin. But for all that I try not to single students out (I keep my clip chart in a corner, not in general public view), it ends up happening. While I’m not sure I’m ready to give mine up just yet, I definitely want to incorporate your thoughts and strategies in my routines. I’m also going to be looking at more WBT as well as Conscious Discipline. Thanks for taking the plunge and the encouragement!!
    Mrs. Landry’s Land of Learning

  25. Laura Schachter

    This is awesome! I love everything about it. My son is such a rule follower and has never had to change his card, but he FEARS the day that he changes to yellow. I’ve tried to explain to him that everyone makes mistakes, but he says that he CAN”T change his card. He just can’t get up in front of everyone and change his card. The fear of embarrassment is so present that this would take a lot of stress off of him.
    Also, there have been a few kids in his classes that have been on red many days in a row. I believe that the chart starts to lose it’s effectiveness. I really like the idea of “We Talked About A Rule Today”. You came up with a real alternative to behavior charts. When I first read about getting rid of them, I couldn’t figure out an alternative. You did!!! Thanks so much!

  26. Olivia King

    I love this post of yours! Last year I took my behavior chart off the wall mid year. I had 3 behavior-challenging little chaps. Having them move their card did nothing to change their behavior. I then noticed that other students started saying “John had to move his card TWO times today!” How sad! 🙁 I love this post. I have a couple of questions for you. I am planning on using similar behavior management in my classroom. I am going to send home a daily card for my students like you mentioned. You mentioned that you are going to use orange, yellow, and purple papers for each of the different areas. I had thought about this too. Would the children notice who is getting what color? Also, how are you going to send home the note? Are you going to hand a note to each child? Are you going to talk about the note, and then later stick it in the child’s cubby/folder/backpack? Any suggestions are super helpful! Thank you for your blog. It is a great resource to better my teaching! Thanks!


    • Katie Vick

      I’ve always told my kids that if they ask, they don’t get one…even if I saw them doing the right thing. I’m with you on the chatty class though! Some days it just wears me out. Any tips would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  27. Jessica Fredrickson

    Amen Jennifer! What a great post, thanks for sharing. I love the parent note idea, thanks so much for sharing your alternative ideas. You rock! Personally I have found Conscious Discipline strategies from Becky Bailey to be really helpful when managing behavior “issues” with kiddos. It was all about changing my mindset from looking at conflicts as problems to now viewing them as opportunities to teach.

    Fun in PreK-1 & Kinder

  28. Donna

    I’ve never used a behavior chart … although I do think they look adorable & I love all the colors!
    From what I’ve seen in some classrooms that use a behavior chart, the “good” kids were going to behave no matter what so they were always on the right color & then those who were going to misbehave no matter what had little incentive. They didn’t care what color they were on anyway.

    Your alternative ideas are awesome! I love how your son/family have made you an even better, even more compassionate teacher…if that was even possible!

    Personally, I’ve found success in classroom management by stating my expectations clearly & being consistent. It works.

    Learning at the Teacher Table

  29. Fran Kramer

    I love this Jennifer. This reminds me of WBT strategies. I just wrote about this on my FB page to see what other people do. Look at Katie Knight’s solution too. I hate embarrassing children but I love having them follow rules that keep us all safe. I might need to make the language a little easier for my ELL’s but I think you are spot on with your thinking and we all need to reflect on this. I adore your parent component because that gets them on board and kids have to own their behavior. You are just the best!

  30. Haley

    This has been on my mind ALL summer! Thank you for sharing! I absolutely love the rulers discussed sheet!

    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      This was a life saver for me. Kids eventually even circled what rule we talked about before we chatted. It worked well for me. =)

  31. Sandy Welch

    I love this! I have often worried about the embarrassment caused by making kids move their clips down. My chart came down mid year, too. I was a very quiet child and getting in trouble in front of everyone was devastating. Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      I am so glad to hear that Sandy! was always in trouble as a little girl so that embarrassment is very real for me. I always feared that feeling for my son too!


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