Sue Hubberstey investigates cost-effective methods of rewarding good pupil behaviour.
There is much debate on how to encourage good classroom behaviour. Each education authority is developing a Behaviour Support Plan, required by the Education Act of 1997 - which must be in place by the end of 1998 - and schools will be focusing on their own policies.
While everyone is aware they should "praise not punish", building a consistent whole-school policy to ensure this happens can be complex. For many teachers, "motivational and affirmation" resources, such as certificates, stickers and badges, are part of the culture.
In many schools, award certificates are used to reinforce good behaviour in every situation. Non-teaching staff often nominate children who display good table manners or are kind in the playground. These certificates are invariably handed out at assemblies and sometimes displayed in the school, but it is good if the children can take them home; parents also enjoy positive feedback. The certificates in LDA's Primary and Special Needs catalogue would certainly take pride of place on the mantelpiece. They are part of the company's Self Esteem Builders materials, which relate to the principles of circle time guru Jenny Mosley. The praises include:
"Congratulations for deciding to improve" and "Congratulations on reaching your chosen target". A pack of 72, A5 certificates with six designs is pound;7.50.
If your taste is for a more formal certificate, Philip amp; Tacey will be introducing Make Your Own Certificates packs in its 1999 catalogue with everything you need to make 50 rather splendid-looking, parchment certificates - sheets of A4 parchment paper, gold seals and 10m of red satin ribbon. Each pack costs pound;19.99.
Young children love stickers and there are plenty of cheap-and-cheerful packs that you can keep in your desk. Hope Education has packs of 90 stickers to suit almost every occasion, including birthdays (pound;2.50 per pack). LDA, which specialises in special needs resources, has useful "Well Done" stickers that reward children for staying calm, being honest or for being "a great classroom member" (360 stickers in 36 different designs cost pound;10). Hope also has a pack of 576 text-free stickers (20 designs for pound;10.99).
For the very youngest children Brighter Vision's stickers include Smiley Stars, Warm Fuzzies, Teddy Bears and Bright Bugs, (pound;1.99 for a pack of 144).
Adhesive Star Badges (80mm by 80mm) from Hands On Educational Resources are a bit more eye-catching. Messages include "Shining Star", "Super Star", "Homework Star" or "Reading Star" (pound;3.39 for 36). Smiling Ribbon Rewards are also available from the same catalogue. These are adhesive rosettes announcing, "Great Classroom Helper", "I did my best" or "I am special". A pack of 36 costs pound;3.39.
Button badges have even more kudos than stickers. Hope has some impressive-looking Incentive Badges (55mm in diameter, pound;5.95 for 20). You might even want to make your own badges. The Hope Badge Maker 7 is pound;340. This sounds expensive but you can go into serious production. It is capable of making 300 badges an hour and can use any kind of material - fabrics, paints, felt-tips, photographs, stencils and wrapping paper.
Teachers often resort to some kind of wall chart to encourage whole-class improvement. A good alternative to the usual star chart are LDA's Class Target Sheets, which come with re-usable stickers. As the stickers are placed on the A2-sized posters they gradually complete a picture. The set features two designs and costs pound;8.50. Also from LDA are PVC Golden Rules Posters, printed appropriately on a gold background. A set of two - one for the classroom and one for playground behaviour - is pound;12.50.
Rubber stamping is a simple way to praise good work and there are many designs and messages available. Wooden, mounted stamps are attractive and pleasant to handle. Hope has a special offer of five for pound;19.95 (or pound;4.95 each). Each stamp bears an illustration and the words: "Big Improvement", or "Great", "Neater Please", "Excellent" and "Your Best Work Yet". More reasonably priced are wood-mounted stamps from Hands On. An LDA Self Esteem Set of six is pound;6.99 (or pound;1.29 each).
A comparatively new idea is stamps, which come with their own ink, eliminating the need for messy ink-pads. Those in the Expressions range from NES Arnold cost pound;2.25 each and should give thousands of clear impressions.
The staff of a primary school, where reward systems are part of the school culture, assessed a selection of the material.
The deputy head questioned whether many schools would purchase such material on a regular basis. With the advent of desktop publishing and "badge makers" some of the products, certificates for example, could be purpose designed for a particular class or group. When teachers' time is at such a premium, however, commercial resources such as certificates, stickers, stamps and badges can do the job reasonably well.
One item that really impressed staff at the school was the set of class target sheets with reusable stickers from LDA. These were used effectively with a class that was having trouble "settling" with a new teacher. When the target sheet was full the class received a treat. But there was a thumbs down for LDA's Golden Rules Pack. "Rules should not be prescribed, but personal to the school or group," said the deputy head. "I'm also not sure about equal numbers of do's and don'ts. Golden rules should be all about positive concepts."
* Contact information
Brighter Vision Education 0181 288 2890.
Hands on Educational Resources 01732 773399.
Hope Education 0161 633 6611.
LDA Primary and Special Needs 01945 463441.
NES Arnold 0115 971 7700.
Philip amp; Tacey 01264 332171.
Prices as quoted before VAT or any carriage charges are added.