My Happy Face System

My Happy Face System

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Hello and happy Saturday. I want to take today’s post with a grain of salt, I want you to really think about your situation in terms of the students you currently have and the way they respond to your classroom management strategies.

By the title of this post you maybe thought that I’ll be talking about something I do with kindergarten, but no. Today I will tell you how I applied behaviorism at its finest with my 9th graders. I learned about behaviorism in university and I have to admit that I’ve always been fascinated by it. I think sometimes we have to appeal to the most basic stimulus-response-reward procedures in order to shape or model behavior.

I used a more sophisticated way of behaviorism with my first graders using a Loki pop funko. You can click here to read about that. The system I’l explain is way more basic but strangely, it was super effective.

When I got to the school where I had to teach high school I noticed my students refused to work unless the assignment was graded. They had no motivation other than the grade, and they didn’t even expect to do well, they just expected to pass. I needed them to work, though, I needed them to write stuff in their notebooks, to practice, I didn’t need to grade every single thing. So I started giving happy faces to students who finished their classwork and would show it to me, just like I used to do with first grade.

Now first graders were happy enough with a happy face. That was their reward. Ninth graders weren’t so nice. They even thought the idea of getting a happy face in their notebook was ridiculous, and let me tell you, it was, but it started being something to look forward to when I told them that every time they got five happy faces, I would give them an extra tenth of a point.

Let me explain that better. Our grading system was from zero to five, but you could get tenths, so you could get a 3.5, which actually was the minimum passing grade. For every five happy faces, I’d give my students 0.1 points. That’s nothing, and I was very aware that I was nothing, but I wasn’t going to give them more because I wasn’t going to reward them for doing what they were supposed to. I was giving them the illusion of a reward, though.

What started happening was that students would do their work and show it to me so that I could give them a happy face. After they got the five happy faces, they would approach me and we’d count them together. It became a thing! At the end of the year, when we were counting the final happy faces, some students asked me whether they could transfer their happy faces to someone else because they had only three and couldn’t do anything with them. I said no, obviously, but I thought it was cute.

Would I try this system again? No. I think it was an emergency situation and it required a quick fix. I only taught those students for three months, and I basically needed them to pass English at the end of the year. Something about behaviorism you have to keep in mind is that the strategies used rarely last a prolonged amount of time, so you either have to modify your plan or replace it altogether. My students responded to this strategy because it was a short-term thing, but I doubt that the hype would’ve stayed alive after a semester, even less after a full year.

What are some strategies you’ve tried to get your students to work? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

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