Our primary goal in Whole Brain Teaching is to reward students for improvement, rather than ability. We praise better work more often than excellent work.
In traditional education, rewards for ability result in the same students winning recognition, year after year. Too often our most gifted kids skate by with minimum effort while less talented students bail out of a race the system has taught them they can’t win.
For example, you’ve decided to focus on rewarding for Rule 1 improvement, “Follow directions quickly". Hector, a bit of a slowpoke, shows increases in speed when getting out his study materials.Praise him. If he continues for a few days, becoming the new Speedy Hector, give him a Super Improver star on his name. Daphne, naturally quick, peps it up even more than normal when cleaning up her desk. Praise her new talents for several days.Then, give Daphne her star.
Our yearlong strategy begins with lots of praise at the start of the year and few stars. This makes improvement stars valuable. Mid-year, less praise and more stars. In the spring, when you really need student energy, it’s raining stars!
- praise of classmates
- use of language identified as “good manners"
- good sportsmanship
- considerate leadership
- mentoring lower grade students.
Your natural tendency with challenging kids is to ask them to improve their most aggravating behavior. But this is not immediately possible. Sammy’s crying is aggravating because it is so frequent. It’s so frequent because his outbursts are a natural reaction to a frustrating world … a natural reaction that is deeply wired into his brain’s dendrites. Give your challenging kids improvement goals that are easiest for them to achieve. If you tell Sammy that his one goal is to stop crying, then he’ll learn, before long, that an improvement star is beyond his reach.
A strategy we’ve found effective with our Beloved Rascals is to give them a list of behaviors and let them choose the one they think would be the simplest to improve. For students who have a difficult time with self control, set up the list so the behaviors are isolated to a time period: keeping your hands to yourself in line before first recess, keeping your hands to yourself when walking to the library in the afternoon, etc. You could include crying on Sammy’s list, but within time periods or parameters: no crying if you lose at tether ball, no crying about crayons during morning drawing.