Quick-Fire Strategies: How To Use Reward Charts Effectively

Quick-Fire Strategies: How To Use Reward Charts Effectively

Listen now:


Do you feel overwhelmed by the complexities of classroom behaviour? Are you looking for a straightforward approach to behaviour management?

Sometimes, applying a simple strategy in the early days when a child is presenting with difficult or challenging behaviour is absolutely the right thing to do.

And reward charts could be the tool you need. Listen in to find out more.

Important links:

Get our FREE SEND Behaviour Handbook: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/send-handbook

Download other FREE behaviour resources for use in school: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/resources.php

Share this podcast with your friends:

Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan

In this quick fire episode, I'm going to share what the principles of a 14th century friar called William of Ockham has to do with kids with their behaviour in modern day schools and how this relates to reward charts, which I know we've been guilty of giving short shrift to in this podcast in the past. This episode is all about knowing which strategy to use to support your students and when to get the best results.

Welcome to the School Behaviour Secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton, and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and, of course, students when classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're gonna share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural special needs, whole school strategy, and more, all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world.

So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the School Behaviour Secrets podcast. Hi there. Simon Currigan here, and welcome to this week's episode of School Behaviour Secrets. This week, I'm back with a quick fire episode. And if you're off work at the moment, I'm hoping you're having a good Easter break, you know, putting the efforts in because those chocolate eggs aren't gonna eat themselves. Anyway, whatever your caloric intake, in these quick fire episodes, I'd like to give you one idea, insight, or strategy that you can use to support the children that you work with in your school.

But before I get to that, if you've been listening to the podcast and you've been finding it useful or helpful, don't forget to subscribe and tell your friends and colleagues about it and throw some good karma back out into the world. Help us get this information out there to the teachers and school leaders and parents who really need it. I really appreciate it, and I know they would too. In this episode, I just wanted to share a quick defence of reward charts or happy face charts or whatever you want to call them and explain why we don't refer to them much in the podcast and to explain why I sometimes glibly dismiss them and do them a disservice maybe in a way that they don't deserve, and I'd like to do that through the prism, through the lens of Ockham's razor. So Ockham's razor is an idea, a way of looking at solving problems that goes back to William of Ockham. He was a 14th century friar in the English county of Surrey, and his approach is really easy to grasp. If you have 2 competing ideas that both explain the same problem or phenomenon or the events that you're seeing, then you should always take the simplest explanation and ignore the more complicated one.

Or to look at it another way, if you've got 2 solutions that both successfully address the same issue, go with the simplest and easiest. For those of you that are interested, Ockham actually said, entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily. Again, basically, don't over complicate stuff when you don't need to. And it's called a razor because when you're attempting to understand a problem, you should shave away anything that's unnecessary, any facts or assumptions that don't help you make progress. Or as the Navy seals would say, keep it simple, stupid. So what's this got to do with classroom behaviour and reward charts? It's this.

Let's imagine we have a student who's, let's say, 6 years old and keeps shouting out during whole class time when the class are on the carpet. Let's call her Chantelle And this behaviour is annoying to the other children because they can't get their point of view across without being interrupted, and it's interfering with your ability as a teacher to communicate information to the rest of your classes, slowing down carpet time. When we're thinking about how to support Chantelle with her behaviour and help her join in with class discussions in a more positive way that's fair to the rest of the class, then in the principle of Ockham's razor, we should start with the basics. Chantelle may have an underlying need around understanding social interaction, but equally, she may not. Kids aren't born into the world knowing how to socialize and I'm gonna go off on a quick tangent here. There's actually this myth in modern society that kids are born pure like angels, and it's the world that corrupts them. This is wrong.

The most violent group of people by some margin, by their demographics are not teenagers or men in their twenties. It's the under fours. If a 2 year old isn't happy with you or upset with you, they'll just wallop you or throw their toys around the room. And they're also extremely egocentric because in order to get their needs met in evolutionary terms, they probably had to be. So they act very selfishly. So it's the job of parents and teachers as the child grows to help them move away from that, to manage their emotions, learn how to give way to other children, and share  adult attention and socialize well. We need to do that work for society to work because if adults behave the way 3 year olds did, it would be chaos out there. It would be like a zombie apocalypse where we're all fighting each other to get the last loaf of bread in the supermarket.

Okay then. So to bring it back to Chantelle, while she may have an underlying need about socialization, equally, she might just need some support to engage in a polite way during whole class time without dominating and cutting over the other children. And a reward chart might be enough on its own to help her do that. So we say to Chantelle, if you can sit on the carpet for 10 minutes without shouting out, you get a happy face sticker to positively reinforce this new behaviour. And we say, if you can build up enough happy faces, say 10, you'll get a certificate or some time with a friend playing outside or whatever your currently favoured form of kickback is. Then if that's successful, over time, we fade out the reward chart because Chantelle has learned to engage in that behaviour independently and automatically without the need for reinforcement, and that's always preferable.

And for Chantelle, that may be enough to help her change her behaviour. That works for her. We didn't actually need a more complex understanding of her need or more complex strategies in order for her to make progress. The happy face chart was enough, and that is absolutely fine. Applying a simple strategy in the early days when a child is presenting some difficult or challenging behaviour, that's absolutely the right thing to do. And that's especially true in a world where resources are scarce. And by resources, see, remember, I don't just mean money and things in the classroom.

I'm including the time of the teaching staff because with 1 or 2 adults in the room, there's always going to be competing pressures on the adult's time. In the podcast and when we do our work in schools with real teachers and real kids and real parents, when we're talking about children's underlying needs and digging into the complexity of what's driving their behaviour, We're kind of baking in the assumption that the easy, simple stuff has been done, and the adults have done that well and consistently for enough time to prove already to stop Chantelle shouting out. And so now we need to explore alternative explanations and strategies. Now we need to think deeper about how we help Chantelle make progress. So this episode really is in defence of happy face charts. And if you're a teacher or a parent listening to this and you're working with or living with a child whose behaviour is in some form of barrier to their success, then absolutely, please start with a simple reward chart.

Ockham was right. You might not need a complex approach, and a straightforward one will get you the results that you're looking for. But if they don't, then we need to dig deeper and look at how we support that child in a more thoughtful needs led fashion. Hope you found the episode useful, maybe even a relief, and that's everything I've got for you today. If you're on your holidays for Easter, do enjoy them. But even if you're not, I hope you have a great week. I can't wait to see you next time on School Behaviour Secrets.


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)