The ultimate goal of any classroom behavior management strategy is to help children develop self-mastery. When implementing an on-task checklist system, identify the main problem behaviors in your classroom. Choose three or four specific behaviors to work on. Make a poster or visual of the check-list and frequently refer to it. Eventually, the children will begin to regulate themselves and each other. Point out the times when children are on-task at least as often as you correct children, using specific language, such as "I love the way you are all sitting ready to listen."
Use on-task checklists for the entire class or for a specific child. If you have a checklist for one child, use it discreetly to avoid embarrassing him. Make a checklist for a specific activity or time, or for the entire day. For example, staying on-task during story and calendar time is often a challenge for kindergarten children. Make a simple poster describing the behaviors you want to see during group time, such as "listening ears, quiet mouths, watching eyes." Include pictures of eyes, ears and mouths. Show the visual at the beginning of group time as a reminder and refer back to it if necessary until children understand the expectations. Older children can handle a more detailed checklist that describes behavior expectations for the entire day. Make a poster that lists the behaviors you expect throughout the day, such as listening, walking feet or working quietly.
Decide ahead of time when and how you will use the checklist throughout the day. If you refer to it too much, the children will begin to resent it. If you refer to it infrequently, the children will forget. Two or three times during the day is usually adequate. Choose a method to monitor your progress, such as using stickers or marks. Occasionally offer a reward for good behavior, such as an extra recess or extra time at centers to motivate the children, but use rewards cautiously. When rewards are used excessively, children don't develop internal self-control.
Consider the reasons for misbehavior and eliminate them if possible. For example, young students may not line up quietly because they don't understand the directions. Place a piece of tape on the floor and show the children how to line up, one after another, on the tape. Break up long chunks of quiet learning times with recess, a snack, an art project or movement activity to reduce chatter and noise. Try direct teaching methods and making minor changes to the schedule to eliminate problem behaviors before instituting an on-task checklist.
Consult the children when developing a checklist for on-task behaviors. Emphasize that your goal in setting expectations is to establish a classroom that is a fun, safe place to learn -- not because you are the teacher and you say so. Ask the children to help you develop reasonable, fair expectations and enlist their help in enforcing the expectations. When using an on-task checklist, refer to it frequently initially, but slowly phase it out as children learn to govern themselves.
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