17 Comments

  1. Chris Wejr

    Hey buddy – thanks for writing this. I have the same concerns, especially when it is promoted as a way to “solve behaviour problems” rather than working with kids to teach them the needed skills. I have used similar programs that I regret too and, in the end, the worked for the kids who didn’t need them and made it worse for the ones whom I thought needed it.

    Sticker charts, on the wall or on a screen, do not teach the needed skills. Instead of spending our time plugging in data, we need to spend it teaching the needed skills.

    • Guest

      I have always loathed sticker charts mainly because it simply shifts the discussion to being about stickers rather than behaviour. I was appalled, when as a new parent, reading as many parenting books that my local library stocked and so many of them maintained that sticker charts were the way to go. Finally I found a book by Barbara Coloroso “Kids are worth it” where the focus is on logical consequences.

  2. John Spencer

    So true. I feel this way every time people talk about Class Dojo. It’s not supposed to be a sticker chart, because you can make cute monsters, but it’s still the same premise: bribes and punishments dolled out in a tidy, quantified format without ever asking students to think ethically about their behavior.

  3. Elisa Waingort

    One year, despite my better judgement, I used stickers as prizes for a game we were playing in the classroom. Very quickly the whole thing got out of control as some kids got stickers and others didn’t get any. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to stop the madness before things got worse. The kids never mentioned the incident and never asked for stickers again for anything. This, of course, after a conversation about why I don’t use external rewards in the classroom. Thanks for sharing!
    Elisa

  4. Morgan

    I agree wholeheartedly regarding carrot and the stick.

    Thwacking people with a stick isn’t a very effective way of making them want to try harder – as Martin Seligman’s ‘Learned helplessness’ experiments so aptly demonstrated. Nor are the carrots particularly constructive – they are often presented as future bribes and often have a focus on the ‘YOU’ not the ‘WHAT you did’.

    I do, however, believe that some people are motivated when they see visual signs of progress/achievement. Rather than being a carrot dangling, visual signposts show what you have achieved, thus showing your progress. The focus is not on good or bad but rather on celebrating your successes. Visual signposts, rather than just saying “YOU did good, here’s a sticker/badge” say “this is what you have achieved” or “this is how you have progressed” – and have a clear message about how you have progressed’. Further, some individuals have a high Need for Achievement (N-Ach) and seeing visual signposts of the fact they are achieving can fulfill this need.

  5. Joe Teft

    I fully agree with this as well.

    I don’t think stickers or anything else extrinsic should be the way we “manage” students.

    I’ve seen apps like that as well, and wondered what kind of teaching other people were doing. Why would anyone need an electronic sticker chart?

  6. Joel

    Not to mention the parents who tie in home life rewards and punishments to classroom sticker charts, behavior logs, etc. I’m still scarred from having students burst into tears and upset parents lining up after class for discussions while I was student teaching.

  7. Alexandra Francesconi

    I remember my very first year teaching, I came up with a similar idea of an incentive chart! However experience has shown me the importance of building strong relationships in a safe learning environment! I haven’t used star charts or any other type of “reward” chart since then! I feel I’m a different kind of teacher because I listen to my students and value their problems instead of rewarding them like you would reward a dog when having “good” behaviour or punishing them for “bad” behaviour! Than you!

  8. Rhoni McFarlane

    I have made my fair share of mistakes when trying to figure out whether I was “managing” the classroom or creating a safe learning space. One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my teaching was that there is always a reason/purpose for behaviour. Working with some challenging behaviour on a daily basis, I always attempt to approach it the same as any other learning. If a student shows me in their work that they cannot do something, we work towards filling that gap and connecting their understanding. When a student behaves poorly, I try to identify what understanding they are lacking and work on developing that skill. Whether it be how to be a friend or get along, through to how to manage stress and anxiety. This has meant that bribery is never a strategy to change/manage behaviour.

  9. Jacob Wilson

    Like you, I learned pretty quickly that the sticker chart (in all its many forms) was a proverbial bandaid slapped onto the oozing wound that is bad behavior. I also agree completely that relationships are key.

    I also feel like sending that “bad kid” out of the room every time they royally mess up completely negates the power you have as a teacher to correct their behavior. Obviously, sending them out to someone else has not worked yet. What makes us think it will work when we do it?

  10. […] “In my first year teaching, I remember having one of the BEST ideas (in my head). What I was going to do with the kids was really encourage them to be “good” in the classroom, and I was going to reward them by having a “sticker chart” in the classroom. Everyday that they went through my class without incident or behavioural issues, they would get a sticker, but if they did something bad, the sticker would be replaced with an “x”. If they lost three stickers at the end of the month, they would miss out on the class party where we would bring junk food in and watch movies. As I write this, I can’t believe I used to do that.” To read further please click this link: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3949 […]

  11. Laurie

    When I was a school leader, one of the best all school focuses was on moral intelligence. Michele Borba’s work is instrumental. Worth the read by parents and teachers.

  12. Catherine Smith

    I have always loathed sticker charts mainly because it simply shifts the discussion to being about stickers rather than behaviour. I was appalled, when as a new parent, reading as many parenting books that my local library stocked and so many of them maintained that sticker charts were the way to go. Finally I found a book by Barbara Coloroso “Kids are worth it” where the focus is on logical consequences. Sticker charts do not allow you to acknowledge that kids are coming from different places and that it is reasonable for them to be treated differently while still being fair and consistent.

  13. Lyne Flett

    I don’t think sticker charts should be used to stop poor behaviour. I would be surprised if it worked on anyone. But giving stickers to kids who show good behaviour is like acknowledging something positive about what they are doing and I don’t see any negatives to acknowledging good behaviour and rewarding it. Kids like to know what they are doing right.
    So even that kid who acts up 5 times a day might do something nice at some point and needs to know.

  14. Jennifer

    In 3rd grade, my teacher gave us 5 discs (laminated circles with our names on them) every Monday. The desks were arranged in a giant U-shape, with a cut-open bleach bottle center stage. If you committed the slightest infraction, she would say, “Tsk, tsk, you lose a disc,” and then you would have to walk to the center of the room with everyone staring and put your disc into the bleach bottle.

    I hated the power to humiliate and the way she held it over us. I have never been a behavior problem a day in my life.

    I made sure I lost all five discs every Monday. For the rest of the week, she couldn’t humiliate me with that. So Mondays were terrible, but my stomach hurt less the rest of the week.

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