By Aaron Blevins, 8/30/2012
In hopes of putting a more positive spin on his school’s behavior chart, a local child and his family have developed what they think is a more supportive way to document and reward the behavior of elementary school students.
In his kindergarten year, Jordan O’Kelley’s teacher judged students’ behavior and performance using a scale: “happy-gram”, “good day”, “caution”, “no recess” and “note home”. Jordan was saddened by the fact that some of his classmates did not do well on the chart, but it wasn’t until the day he received a “caution” that he sprang into action.
“He really wanted to do well,” his mother, Harri O’Kelley, said. “It was very upsetting for Jordan.”
Jordan, who was five years old at the time, began developing his own chart, drawing rows of boxes with keys on them that opened a lock at the top of each column. For each example of good behavior, the student would get one point. After the student received 10 points, he or she could open the lock and receive a prize. At 100 points, the prizes get bigger.
“It was pretty profound,” O’Kelley said, adding that children tend to respond better to rewards than punishments. “You want a chart that’s all positive. [Other charts] can really affect a child in a negative way.”
Jordan transferred to Laurel Span School last year, and his teacher Mary Gandara, agreed to use the chart at the O’Kelleys’ request. Then, the kindergarten and first-grade teachers adopted it, as did the school’s resource specialist, William Powell.
“It provides a visual,” he said. “You need a lot of visual representation and goal setting.”
Kindergarten teacher Lillian Delgadillo agreed. She used the chart for her students last year, and said a visual is especially helpful for younger students.
“They need something to reach goals, and it works. …They get really into it,” Delgadillo said, adding that Jordan’s display of initiative was impressive, though he likely received guidance from his parents. “He’s taking an interest in his own education, and that’s always a great thing.”
O’Kelley said Jordan, who has high-functioning autism, has benefitted from the school’s use of his chart. However, the chart has helped other students as well, she said, referencing an older student who was getting into trouble frequently. O’Kelley said the child had heard about Jordan’s chart and wanted to be involved.
“They tried it with this kid, and it worked very well,” she said.
O’Kelley said children love acknowledgement, and Jordan, now 7, was quick to exclaim that he is nearing 400 points. He said he really likes the big prizes, and that the chart cannot take points away from students.
“I didn’t like the other chart at all,” Jordan said.
Enthusiasm for the chart continues to grow. The O’Kelleys are looking to spread the idea to more schools, and other elementary schools have expressed interest.
“We’re hoping that more schools and classrooms will adopt positive reinforcement over negative,” O’Kelley said.