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Safe & Civil Schools Newsletter

Fall 2008

Table of Contents: Classwide MotivationSummer Survey ResultsUpcoming Events


Kick Motivation into High Gear!

By Randy Sprick

When you implement classwide motivation systems appropriate to the collective needs of your students, you can enhance student motivation to behave responsibly and strive for success.

It’s October and you’ve had a month or so to get to know your students well. How are things going in your classroom with respect to student behavior and your classroom management plan?

Are many students in your class exhibiting challenging behaviors—not following directions, wasting class time, acting disrespectfully toward you or other students?

Or, are your students, for the most part, behaving responsibly, but you have quite a few who have a problem with one specific behavior?

Or perhaps your class behaves responsibly enough, but students have grown somewhat apathetic?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you might consider implementing a classwide motivation system—an organized and systematic set of procedures designed to have an impact on all the students in your classroom.

Before you can put such a system in place, you’ll need to think about a few things:

  • Will you use a nonreward-based or reward-based system?
  • What do you need to consider in choosing, designing, and implementing a reward-based system?
  • How will you maintain and fade a reward-based system?

Nonreward-Based vs. Reward-Based

Nonreward-based systems improve student desire to behave responsibly by enhancing intrinsic motivation. Reward-based systems rely on extrinsic motivators to improve student behavior.

If your students are, for the most part, behaving responsibly and respectfully, completing most of their work, and exhibiting cooperation, they will not need extrinsic rewards. They are already demonstrating that they are intrinsically motivated to meet classroom expectations. In this case, if a few students are having difficulty with one specific behavior, or students have grown apathetic overall, you might implement a nonreward-based system, such as goal setting.

Goal setting involves helping students learn to strive for positive goals they can achieve. Goals can be academic, behavioral, or a mix of both. Use of goal setting in a classroom where students are demonstrating intrinsic motivation can often extend and channel that motivation in productive directions.

Using a goal setting system in which the teacher sets goals for each student and discusses those goals with the students individually represents a “first layer” of implementation. More sophisticated versions would involve having the students themselves set goals for the class as a whole and eventually teaching them to set their own individual goals.

If however, you are frustrated by the amount of student misbehavior or the lack of student productivity occurring in your classroom, your students are telling you that they are not intrinsically motivated to behave responsibly. In this case, implementing a system in which students can earn extrinsic rewards for responsible behavior may get them moving in a more positive and productive direction.

Once you decide that a reward-based system would be appropriate, it’s important to choose, implement, maintain, and eventually fade the system.

Choosing and Implementing a Rewards-Based System

Decide whether your system will be regular (e.g., “If you do ____, you’ll earn ____.”) or intermittent (e.g., “Some of the time that you do ____, you might earn ____.”). Regular systems are more appropriate for classes requiring high levels of structure, but they can also be harder to fade. Intermittent systems are sufficient for medium structure classes. You want to select the least complex system that seems likely to “grab” the interest of your students and get them to exert gentle peer pressure (“Allan, quit talking or you’ll make us lose a point.”)

Some tips on how to effectively choose and implement a reward-based system include:

  • Make sure the system you choose is appropriate for and interesting to your students.
  • Make sure the rewards students will be working for are highly motivating.
  • Set the system up in ways that make student success likely.
  • Avoid systems with arbitrary time limits.
  • Carefully organize the entire system before you begin implementation.
  • Make sure your expectations for student behavior are clear and that you have adequate procedures for monitoring student behavior in place.
  • Teach the students how the entire system works.
  • Make sure that you believe the system will help improve student behavior.

Maintaining and Fading a Rewards-Based System

Reward-based systems require maintenance, even after they are up and running. To do this, you’ll want to:

  • Keep your energy and enthusiasm for the system high.
  • Keep your focus on the students’ behavior rather than on the rewards they earn.
  • Continue using other motivational strategies at a high level.
  • When a system has been successful for a period of time, start making it more challenging.

In most cases, using a reward-based system should be a temporary measure that you use to get the class into a pattern of successful behavior. Your eventual goal should be to gradually fade it so that it is your student’s intrinsic motivation that is maintaining their responsible behavior.

When students are demonstrating highly responsible behavior for relatively small extrinsic rewards (i.e., you’ve made the system more challenging and students are meeting the challenge) it’s time to fade. These are some tips you can follow to fade your system:

  • Change your system from regular to intermittent.
  • Once a class is working successfully for intermittent rewards, add (or switch to) one of the goal setting techniques discussed above.
  • When the class seems ready (i.e., most students seem to take pride in behaving responsibly), have a class discussion about abandoning the use of the reward-based system.

Classwide Motivation Systems

Motivating students to achieve academically and behaviorally is one of the most difficult tasks that a teacher faces. By using effective instructional practices and giving students meaningful and relevant positive feedback on their behavioral and academic progress, it is possible to motivate individual students. But, when you are dealing with an overall unruly classroom, a widespread particular misbehavior, or a large group of apathetic students, a classwide motivation system (or systems) can be just the ticket to getting all of your students moving in a responsible, productive direction.

More information about classwide motivation systems, including tips for choosing, implementing, maintaining, and fading, as well as suggested procedures for low structure, medium structure, and high structure classrooms, is available in CHAMPs: A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Management.

You can find more creative rewards-based techniques, like Mystery Motivator, in the Revised Tough Kid Book, soon to be released (summer 2009) by Pacific Northwest Publishing.

Return to Table of Contents


Summer Survey Results

Thanks to those of you who took our survey on stress in education. Here are the results.

Eighty percent of our respondents indicated that they thought that teaching was exceptionally stressful. Here's why...

Sources of Stress

People listed a variety of sources for their stress. Top contenders were:

  • student misbehavior (25%)
  • time management (25%)
  • administrative demands (12.5%)
  • paperwork (8.3%)
  • uncooperative parents (8.3%)

Remaining respondents identified sources that ranged from motivating students to meeting the curriculum.

Relieving Stress

People use a variety of techniques to relieve stress:

  • Quiet time (reading, meditation, journal writing, taking breaks) ranked highest at 41 percent.
  • Some form of physical activity (walking, running, gardening, working out) came next at 18 percent.
  • There were the more traditional activities that we think of as relaxation (hot tubs, massages), also at 18 percent.
  • Several people said they like to reach out to other teachers when they are stressed about a problem (9 percent).
  • Other respondents identified such methods as eating chocolate, making lists, and simply shrugging it off.

This response sums it up nicely:

The things I have used to help me relieve stress are:
1. Ask experienced teachers for help and ideas
2. Plan ahead
3. Use a calendar and "To Do" list
4. E-mail parents when possible
5. Use my lunch break as a lunch break
6. Make sure I have tomorrow's boardwork up before leaving for the day
7. Say a quick prayer before the first class comes in and after the last class leaves
8. When my last class leaves I close my door, turn on soft music, put my feet up, close my eyes, and relax for 10 minutes before I do anything else
9. I have a family rule. When we get home the first 10 minutes are for relaxing and decompressing
10. If all else fails, I read or work crossword puzzles.

Winner's Tip

The winner of our survey drawing this quarter is Jeffrey Jernberg. Dealing with students that have repeated discipline problems adds stress to Jeffrey's life. To deal with it, he "takes a deep breath."

As promised, we'll send Jeffrey a copy of CHAMPs: A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Management. The suggestions in this book can help deal with stress by mitigating some of the factors you identified as causes of stress in the classroom. There are guidelines for dealing with student misbehavior, managing your time more efficiently, working collegially with colleagues, motivating students, and involving parents in the educational process.

Thanks to Jeffrey and to all of you who took the time to answer our survey on stress in education.

Return to Table of Contents

Thought you'd like to know...

Next summer (July 12-16), our annual conference will be held in Eugene instead of Portland. Come visit us in our hometown and discover a different side of Oregon!


SCS Fall Conferences

There's still time to register for CHAMPs and Interventions workshops with Randy Sprick in Humble and San Antonio, Texas—but not much time!

Deadline for registration is Thursday, October 23 at 12pm PST!

Call us at 1-800-323-8819 to register.



Releases from Pacific Northwest Publishing

Available Now

The Tough Kid Bully Blockers Book: 15-Minute Lessons for Preventing and Reducing Bullying, by Julie Bowen, Paula Ashcraft, William Jenson, and Ginger Rhode.

Discipline in the Secondary Classroom DVD Inservice Series, by Randy Sprick.

When Every Second Counts: Mini-Inservices for Handling Common Classroom Behavior Problems, by Randy Sprick.

Coming Soon

Teach Smart with TGIF (working title), by Susan Mulkey and Karen Kemp. Designed for K-8 general education teachers, this book is about effective lesson design and delivery supplying teaching techniques to promote student achievement.

Behavioral Response to Intervention (B-RTI), by Randy Sprick, Mike Booher, and Mickey Garrison. A companion to Interventions, B-RTI proposes a model for the efficient organization and delivery of services to individual students with challenging behavior.

Visit the Pacific Northwest Publishing website to order.


Upcoming Events

Randy Sprick and Safe & Civil Schools consultants continue to provide presentations across the country. Some of these include open registration. Registration may be limited and/or may involve a fee. Contact information is provided for each on our website.


With the holidays fast approaching, all of us at Safe & Civil Schools hope you are enjoying a productive school year!

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