Like with teaching philosophies and methodologies, there are many resources and opinions about behavior management systems, especially in early childhood education. While I, myself, have used a variety of behavior management systems throughout my teaching experience, some mandated by the school or district, some created on my own accord, I have recently moved to what I like to call the Super Star Behavior Management System for preschoolers and early elementary.
I cannot claim this idea as completely my own. I got the primary idea from Sally over at Fairy Dust Teaching in her post about ridding the classroom of the traffic light behavior management system. She shares that while the traffic light system, (one that I have used before), is one of the most popular behavior management systems used in the United States, is fails to actually manage behavior as it punishes children for their misdeeds instead of teaching them how to correct their poor behavior and make good choices. She created the Safe Keeper System, which is where I got my idea for this Super Star Behavior Management System.
What the super star behavior management system is about
The super star behavior management system is made up of five primary behavior expectations that I expect my preschoolers to exhibit with modeling and teaching from myself. I teach my students that preschoolers are:
- kind – Preschoolers are friendly and generous to each other.
- helpful – Preschoolers are willing to give help when there is a need.
- caring – Preschoolers are respectful to and act safely with each other, their materials, and environment.
- hard workers – Preschoolers always give something a good try and work hard at a task.
- problem solvers – Preschoolers think about the problem and try to find a solution.
How the super star behavior management system works
I created a star display on a magnetic cookie sheet. The star states the five primary behavior expectations I have for my preschoolers. Each student has their own star magnet. When a student is not following one of the behavior expectations, their star magnet gets moved onto the big star. It is always paired with a reason, where I use the same language as on the star.
“Samantha, you took that marker from another student. That wasn’t kind or caring. We need to move your star.”
The magnet is then moved, but as soon as the student displays that behavior expectation again the student’s star gets removed with praise from me.
“Samantha, that was so kind of you to invite Callie to play kitchen with you when she was missing her mama. I can see how much you care about others.”
Three reasons why this system has been successful for me
There are three primary reason why this system has been far more successful for me than others I have tried throughout the years.
- The expectations and short, simple, and easy to understand! I chose these specific words because they are terms to are easy for young children to understand and words that are already in their vocabulary. Just as importantly, they are words that are naturally used, so my helping a student make better choices by recognizing when he or she exhibits these specific behaviors comes with ease.
- This system allows for opportunities for the child to redeem him or herself. Students are not punished. As their teacher, I point out the specific behavior that is not ok when the star magnet gets moved, and then look for the great things that student does, and I give praise for it, allowing the magnet to be moved back. Praise is such a strong motivator in behavior management! With the right amount of sincere praise, most poor behaviors are virtually eliminated before they can even become a problem.
- Because of the terms used, this system teaches students how to make good choices. Students are given praise for the good choices they make and encouragement for when they are still struggling.
Star cards and stickers for exceptional behavior
The real purpose of any behavior management system is to teach and motivate students to make good choices. There are two kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is when motivation comes from within. This kind of motivation works on the basis that the performer is gaining something on their own. A child be motivated to practice the piano because it makes him a better pianist, for example. Extrinsic motivation is when the motivation to do something comes from something outside the performer. A child be motivated to practice the piano because she will receive a sticker for each practice.
For students whose behavior is exceptional, I offer star cards and star stickers. When a student consistently makes good choices and goes out of their way to magnify some of the behaviors listed on our star, that student gets rewarded with a star card.
This star card has no value except that it is given in recognition of exemplary behavior. If this best behavior continues throughout our preschool session, the student may be rewarded a second time by receiving a star sticker on their card. At the end of the preschool day, the star cards is taken home and kept.
Keeping in line with the rest of the super star behavior management system, star cards and stickers are not taken away as punishment. Once a child receives a star card it does not get taken away, regardless of the offense. If anything, I use that star card as way to encourage the student to make better choices. Imagine Samantha is refusing to pick up her share at the end of free choice centers:
“Samantha, remember how this morning you were so helpful when you picked up the spilled snacks from the floor? You got a star card for helping without being asked. Can you show me again how helpful you can be by putting away the blocks you dumped out during center time?”
It works every time.
How the super star system works when a student consistently makes the same poor choices
The big idea with this behavior management system is that students are taught how to modify their own behavior and recognized for making good choices. But, sometimes students (especially preschoolers) can have “off” days where they consistently struggle to make good choices. In that case, the day calls for a redo button.
I will invite the child to sit out for a bit to calm down and relax. This is a good time to offer one of those relaxation glitter jars that are all over Pinterest. After a few minutes I invite the student to return to our class activities and the star magnet is automatically returned to the blue background, no longer being on the star for any misbehavior. The child gets a clean slate. However, I do report the problem behavior to the parent as a means of problem solving.
The Super Star System has been the most successful behavior management system I have ever used. Instead of dolling out consequences and punishments for poor behavior choices, students are given opportunities to self correct and change their behavior.