Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Update on Our Behavior Tree

Right before school began we proudly presented to you our Behavior Tree (Behavior Tree Post). We wanted to update you on what has happened now that we've implemented the system because we know you've been just dying from curiosity ;).

First we'd like to report that the children were very excited about the system and that excitement has maintained even a few months into school. The system is clear and we are now to the point where we can tell a child to move their bird for themselves and they know what to do. We even have some children who are already on their fourth bird!!!

We've also had some parent push-back about the behavior bird system. There have been parent concerns that it's competitive, that the children are reporting at home that they are being "good" so why aren't their birds being moved, and that the children are unclear why their birds are moving up and down the tree. While parent push-back can always be a little scary, it's also served to help us clarify our purpose behind our system and improve the way we are using the system in the classroom. Here's where our thinking is at now:

The purpose of the behavior tree/behavior birds is to provide a concrete visual for the children as they define, practice, and internalize the behaviors of successful learners and of caring community members.

Defining "Good" and "Excellent" Behavior - Moving from the Abstract to the Concrete
In order to help our children understand what it means to have "good" behavior in the classroom, we turned to old trusty - Pinterest. We found these lessons inspired by No, David!  (Peacemakers/Peacebreakers Lesson). After reading the books and discussing David's behaviors, the children defined appropriate and inappropriate behavior for the classroom. This behavior was added to either a "Peacemaker" or a "Peacebreaker" poster. We constantly reference these charts when we're discussing the children's behavior and choices with them.

Additionally, we take advantage of the fact that there are two of us to model and role play through behavior situations that arise in the classroom. We might model how we would work together and share materials, or how we would solve the problem of partner readers wanting to read two different books. We magically turn the students into teachers and ourselves into students. Then we have the students observe us while we work through a scenario. Finally, we call on the students to tell us what they observed us doing as we were role playing.

Weekly Behavior Goal Setting
We have been setting a weekly class behavior goal focused around the Character Counts pillars for the month. For the last month, the pillar has been Responsibility. On Monday, we choose an example of a behavior that responsible students engage in and we define it with the students. We have used the following goals:

1. Choosing a good spot on the rug during instruction
2. Choosing a good spot to work in the classroom during independent work time
3. Choosing a good partner

We spend time defining each of these goals on Mondays. We then reinforce them continuously throughout the week, reminding the children about the goals and having children move their birds up when they are showing the goal behavior. In order to help the parents stay on the same page, the children fill out a special paper on Mondays as part of their daily reflection journal in their H.A.W.K. binders that state the focus for the week and the weekly behavior goal.

Some of the benefits of this addition to our program is that we discuss a specific behavior and define it in the language of the children, we give the children one specific behavior to focus on and practice all week, and it provides the parents with a concrete behavior to discuss with their children. Eventually, we would like to have the children set their own weekly behavior goal and reflect on their progress throughout the week, but ... baby steps ... baby steps.

Providing Explicit Feedback
Every time we have a child move their bird up or down the behavior tree, we make a concerted effort to inform them of exactly why their bird moved. We stated the behavior and make a connection to why that behavior is important to engage it. This honors the child and also provides a teachable moment for the other children as they are able to connect an actual action or behavior to the movement of a bird.

In order to keep on top of the behaviors we're observing, we each carry a pack of post-its and a pencil both during lessons and independent work time. We don't like to interrupt lessons with a lot of bird moving so we record our observations and have the children move their birds at the closure of the lesson during the transition to the next lesson.

Teaching appropriate behavior is one of the most challenging parts of our job, in our opinion, because it's sort of an invisible curriculum and it seems to get parents' back up more than anything. We have really stuck to our guns with what we're doing though, while of course refining and improving where it makes sense and matches our objectives, because we firmly believe that appropriate behavior needs to be defined for children, practiced, and reinforced continously until it is internalized. This is not a quick or easy process. In our opinion taking short cuts in behavior instruction results in children who don't see themselves as active participants in their own education, who don't make the connections between their choices and the outcomes of their learning, and who need an adult to tell them what to do in every situation.

And now we will climb down from our soap box and slowly back away :).

P.S. The FLY AWAY is "teach appropriate behavior, y'all!"

P.P.S. We have been learning from some of our parents that their children have made their own behavior trees at home with a behavior bird for each member of their family. They then proceed to move their family members up and down the tree at their discretion. Hilarious!

From the limb,

No comments:

Post a Comment