I'm trying out a new behaviour system: three strikes and you get a detention. If you are goodwell-behaved you get a credit - the standard school reward. However, at parents' evening, I talked to a girl in Year 9 and her parents about this and she suggested that credit rewards were unappealing because the students in this class are seen as the "cool kids". I asked her "What would be a better reward, sweets?" My subject (MFL) is optional at key stage 4, so 98 per cent of my students in Year 9 will not be carrying on, but my dilemma is, do I really have to resort to sweets in order for my Year 9s to behave for the next seven months? I've seen it work for another teacher, but with a smaller, low-ability class. Help!
What you said
She didn't say sweets, you did. There are lots of things you could do: good behaviour equals a raffle entry for an end-of-term draw (better behaved equals more tickets and more chances to win). Praise postcards home can work wonders for children who are constantly being told off. Oddly, stickers work really well too, in my experience.
I divide my board into positive and negative. I put the students' initials under each heading depending on their behaviour. They can't be on both boards at same time (if they are on the negative they can work themselves on to the positive and vice versa). Positive behaviour means a merit circle around the initials and a positive referral. A tick on the board means their name goes into the raffle box. Negative behaviour means a warning circle around the initials and a negative referral. Crossing through a name means removal from the lesson and detention. Students don't like seeing their name on the board for the wrong reasons and generally try to get on the positive side.
The expert view
Stay away from the sweets, and not just for dental reasons. Rewards like that will have little impact and will ultimately undermine your authority. If you create a link between extrinsic rewards and classwork then it teaches them that sweets are the only reason to behave. And eventually the sweets will lose their value. Keep form with boundaries and sanctions - the fast track to behaviour modification. The best rewards are verbal, and sincere and proportionate to the achievement. If you praise with precision, children learn to appreciate it. The best way to get this class in shape is to focus on making sure they know that non-compliance will result in something they do not want, such as detention. Good luck.
Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his TES blog, or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum
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