Goal Setting: A Management Tool to improve Classroom Routines and Behaviors

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You’re an amazing chaos coordinator and I’m confident your management strategies are too legit to quit. But throw in a little student accountability and some incentives into the mix, and ohmygawd! Someone give you a trophy. And not the “congratulations you arrived” kind of trophy. Like a real one. Because managing 20+ miniature humans IS EXACTLY like herding cats.

Behavior goals transformed our learning environment by helping support my expectations and reinforcing positive behaviors in my classroom. It reduced (and sometimes eliminated) the amount of times I lost my mind provided whole group redirection because it placed much more accountability on my kids. Using positive goal setting became a tool to provide immediate and consistent feedback related to my students’ behaviors. Think of it as a comparison between the Britney Spears albums “Oops I did it Again” and “Blackout.” Both were incredible examples of poppy harmonic bliss, but I think we can all agree that 2000 Pop Queen Britney was a little bit more put together than 2007 Hot Mess Britney. So, what I’m basically saying is that a classroom with good management strategies in place, coupled with some good ol’ fashion goal setting is just like a well-groomed, well-choreographed dancing Britney Spears.

SETTING OUR CLASS GOAL:

When establishing new class goals, the mini humans are heavily involved. As a class, we meet to discuss behaviors or routines we feel need the most improvement. For example, when entering or exiting any door or transitioning around the classrooms, miniature humans seem to have an undeniable resemblance to elephants. Let’s transition like elephants with marshmallow toes instead. Insert tangent in 3, 2, 1—> One year, my kids were so heavy footed, I spontaneously created a chant so they would move to the carpet quietly. They would tip-toe and chant: “Marshmallow toes, so nobody knows. We’re going to the rug. We’re going to the rug.” They hated loved it. Anyway, providing students with a voice in this process improves student engagement and increases student accountability. My students were more likely to work towards our goals and take it seriously when we brainstormed and wrote the goal together. Would I sometimes strongly encourage a particular goal for my own good? Yes! Please refer to aforementioned tangent.

We always target behaviors or expectations that students should be performing in the classroom. The goal is written with specific and positive language so students know the desired behavior, rather than the undesired behavior. For example, if you have a crew of Chatty-McChattersons, the goal would be written as: “We will raise our hands for permission to share/speak” rather than “We will not blurt or interrupt.” The idea is to promote the action of the positive behavior instead of focusing on the unwanted behavior.

Would we discuss the unwanted behaviors so students knew what to avoid? Yes! At times, we create an anchor chart and discuss the actions needed to be successful. The goal is written on the top of the chart next to the arrow with two columns underneath reading: “looks like” and “doesn’t look like.” Here’s an example of a chart before students and I filled it in. So the chart is reusable during each goal period, I laminated it and used Expo markers to fill in the information. The chart is displayed temporarily and serves as a reminder of the goal expectations.

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I utilize a small space on the dry erase board to display the goal through the duration of the goal period. It is in a central location of our classroom and is easily visible to everyone.

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SELECTING A CLASS WIDE INCENTIVE:

The next thing we do is select our incentive. During our very first goal setting meeting, we create a master list of possible incentives. Here’s how we create that list. We gather in our meeting area and I give students 30 seconds to independently brainstorm class rewards they want to earn. My only rule is that the incentive has to be school appropriate and permitted within school policy. Sorry people! I cannot declare an early release day, though if that power was vested in me by the state of Texas, I would probably be all like: “Oh my word, look at this straight line in the hallway. Let’s go home early to celebrate.” Once the 30 second brainstorming session expires, I invite students to share their ideas. I record their responses on the board and then we vote for our top choices. Those top choices are written on our spinning wheel. When the time comes to select a reward, a student spins the wheel and randomly selects an incentive. Once we have earned all the incentives, we meet again to create a new list of rewards.

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When an incentive is chosen, we decide how many days out of the week we must meet the goal in order to earn the incentive. If students are working towards a brand new goal, we may decide that our goal must be met 3 out of 5 days. As the weeks go on, we will make the challenge more difficult and decide that we must meet the goal 5 out of 5 days. I fill out the incentive plan on the Class Reward poster. Then, students sign the “promise” section on the bottom of the incentive plan and the poster is displayed on our Goal Getters board throughout the duration of the goal period.

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DAILY GOAL SCOREBOARD:

To track our class progress, I use a Whole Brain Teaching strategy. If you are familiar with WBT, the scoreboard is a classroom management strategy that provides students with feedback about their behavior and/or the quality of their participation and engagement. I tweaked this approach and use the scoreboard method to provide students feedback regarding their progress. The scoreboard is divided into two sections: “Oh Yeah” and “Oops.”

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OH YEAH TALLIES: PROVIDES POSITIVE FEEDBACK FOR DESIRED BEHAVIORS
“Oh Yeah” tallies reinforce wanted behaviors and are intended to encourage students to continue working towards meeting their goal. When individual students, several students, or the entire class demonstrate the desired behavior, I provide immediate, positive feedback. I’m dramatic, so it usually goes something like this: (melodramatically motioning hand to chest) “I can’t even! This class is so amazing. Everyone was ready in less than minute! Give me an ‘OH YEAH!’” Then I record one tally mark under the “Oh Yeah” column and students shout, “Oh yeah!” while clapping their hands once and raising their arms in the air to celebrate. The cheer occurs every time the mini humans earn an “oh yeah” tally. The immediate feedback and celebration often redirects unwanted behaviors and encourages students to continue demonstrating targeted behaviors.

OOPS TALLIES: PROVIDES CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK, NOT USED AS A PENALTY
“Oops” tallies serve as reminders to follow through with expectations and are intended to help the class track the need for improvement. During goal setting discussions, we talk about “oops moments,” which are opportunities for improvement. Since students are working towards improving a behavior or routine class wide, a quick fix is not expected. My motto is: practice makes better. Notice I didn’t say perfect, because in my opinion “perfection” is unreachable.  Therefore, we discuss that “oops moments” allow us to experience the effects of not following through with expectations so that we are better prepared in the future and can become more aware of our behavior. When establishing our class goal, students decide on the number of oops tallies they can receive in one day. Since our class usually works on a goal for at least 2-3 weeks, we typically set a higher number of oops tallies in the beginning, and as the weeks go on, we begin to reduce the number of oops tallies allowed. Oops tallies DO NOT serve as a penalty and if the class exceeds the targeted number of oops tallies, NO punishment is enforced and points previously earned are NEVER deducted.

If several students do not demonstrate the targeted behavior, the class receives one oops tally. Remember when I said I was dramatic? We have a chant for “oops tallies” as well. It’s my way of maintaining a positive vibe and letting the mini humans know there are no hard feelings. The feedback goes something like this: “Uh oh! Let’s try that again. But fiiiiiiirst…give me an ‘Ugh!’” Then I record one tally mark under the “Oops” column and students groan, “Ugh!” while shrugging their shoulders. The groan occurs every time the mini humans earn an “oops” tally. The immediate feedback and silly redirection often encourages students to continue demonstrating targeted behaviors.

To avoid discouragement or feeling singled out, I do not give the class an oops tally if a single student is non-compliant. Instead, I use those opportunities to review our goal and expectations. If the same student is frequently non-compliant, further action is taken on an individual basis.

TRACKING DAILY AND WEEKLY PROGRESS:

At the end of the day, the class has met their goal if they have earned more “Oh Yeah” tallies and/or if they have not exceeded the targeted number of oops tallies. If the class has more ”Oops” tallies than “Oh Yeah” tallies, they have not met the goal for the day. We reflect and discuss how we can improve the next day. The purpose of our goal setting is positive reinforcement, so consequences never take place when a goal is not met for the day/week/month. Both “Oh Yeah” and “Oops” tallies start over each day.

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When the class has met the goal for the day, a check mark is placed next to the day of the week.

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I assign a class helper to help record our progress. This student counts the number of “Oh Yeah!” tallies and fills in the bar graph each day.

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If you use data binders in your classroom, you can have your kids track the class’ progress on individual graphs.

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At some point during the first few days, we fill out a Plus/Delta Chart. This chart helps students identity what is going well throughout the goal period, as well as brainstorm ways to improve in the future. On the side labeled “Plus”, students describe what went well. On the side labeled “Delta” (means “change”), students describe what could be done differently. Depending on the duration of the goal period, I have students complete one or two Plus/Delta Charts.

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If you’re ready to try something new, or just want to revamp what you’re already doing, I highly recommend implementing a goal setting system. The scoreboard was a game changer for me and my students and is now my go to secret weapon. So, be a 2000 Pop Queen Britney Spears and set those goals!

Find all of my class goal setting resources HERE2

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