There are a large variety of alternatives to clip charts but today I’m discussing my top 3 favorites. Why should you look for a clip chart alternative? Read on to find out.
The Downside of Traditional Clip Charts
Before we get into my favorite alternatives to clip charts, let’s talk about some problems with clip charts. In case you are not familiar, clip charts are a public display of levels of behavior consequences. These are usually divided between positive and negative with a neutral starting point in the middle of the chart. Students then clip up for “good” behavior and clip down for “bad” behavior or warnings.
Clip Charts Publicly Shame Students
The first problem is that clip charts can be seen as publicly shaming students that have difficulty following the classroom rules. These are often students that need a lot of redirection and end up not responding favorably to a clip chart style of behavior management.
Clip Charts Don’t Change Behaviors
The second problem with traditional clip charts is that they are not effective for changing unwanted behaviors. Instead, they signal out the negative behaviors but often do not go beyond why the behaviors are happening.
Clip Charts Target Bad Students
Last, clip charts can divide your class by targeting the students in the red. This can make students feel anxious during lessons and be even more unfocused thinking about the next time they will be called out to move their clip. These targeted students often feel divided from their peers and are often labeled as the bad student no one wants to be around.
Alternatives to Clip Charts
A Positive-Only Focused Clip Chart
Sometimes we are told we have to use something that we know goes against what we feel is right for our students. Using a positive focused chart is still a clip chart that your admin may be okay with if you explain the research behind discontinuing traditional clip charts.
I started my first year of teaching with a traditional clip chart because it seemed to be what everyone else did. Quickly I figured out it wasn’t my style of management and I turned it into a PBIS friendly system instead that worked with my school’s behavior plan.
This new style of clip chart worked really well for my students because it was a system they were used to but also it focused on what they were doing correctly. Students that were always in the red started working to achieve earning their colors.
How the Positive Chart Worked:
I used the schoolwide 5 positive traits (called PAWS-itive traits as our school mascot was a tiger). Each trait was part of the acronym TIGER and were timely, involved, gracious, enthusiastic, and responsible. These traits were assigned a color. Because I taught first grade during this time, I used rainbow color order to make it easy for students.
Each student had a spot in a large pocket chart and were given a blank monthly behavior chart with a pawprint to color in each day. Above the pocket chart I had popsicle sticks in 5 colors. As students showed one of the traits they were given the corresponding stick to place in their pocket chart. The goal for each student was to earn all the colors by the end of the week.
While this system had a few flaws it was a good first step away from the traditional clip chart.
Character Traits Behavior System
Another option that focuses on positive traits is a system I created last year called the Character Traits Behavior System. This is a more refined version of the PAWS-itive traits I used many years ago.
Students are introduced to each trait through a variety of read alouds and discussions. Then, one trait is chosen for the weekly focus and class goal. As a class we choose the incentive we are working towards and our exact goal. Our goal may be centered on a number or a mini challenge the class sets.
When a student exhibits one of the traits they write their name on the poster and mark a tally on their weekly recording sheet. The recording sheets are sent home to satisfy the parents that like to get a report on their child’s behavior.
Each week a new class goal and trait are chosen. As the weeks progress the traits will be repeated. This gives students many chances to learn your expectations for these traits and helps students to improve their behavior to help earn the class reward.
You may read or listen more about this system in Episode 38: Revising Your Classroom Management Plan After Break.
Whole Class Reward Systems
When looking for alternatives to clip charts, you might want to consider shifting the focus from individual behavior to the whole class. Often when there are whole class incentives students work together to support and encourage each other to earn the reward.
One of my favorite class reward systems is teacher versus students. This is an idea from Whole Brain Teaching called the Scoreboard. As the teacher you simply collect tallies based on a desired behavior you are tracking for a period of time. The winner then gets bragging rights but you could also offer a small, inexpensive tangible reward.
Another class reward system I like to use is an anchor chart. I hold a discussion with students to vote on the class reward. I then created an anchor chart with our incentive in the center of the chart. I chose a number they must reach as a class to earn the reward. As students individually earned it, they signed their name in a square on the chart. I used this idea for my class to increase iReady minutes and they really worked to motivate each other.
Confused over where to start figuring out a behavior system that works for you? Sign up for my course the CLASSroom Management Adventure which helps elementary teachers design a classroom management plan tailored to them. Click the picture to purchase.