It is the beginning of a new school year, which means students are as close to a blank slate as they are going to get. They are still excited about their new classes, inspired by their summer experiences, eager to learn, and they are their most moldable and adaptable. As teachers and parents, there is no better time to set new standards for academic and behavioral expectations. Though that word sounds daunting, it doesn't have to be. With positive reinforcement, even the strictest and most annoying of rules can be learned in the most pleasurable way. The magic tool ... reward charts!
Reward charts, or sticker charts allow you to target clearly defined behavior/academic skill(s) in a fun, and positive way. Instead of "do this," or "do that," good behavior and respect for rules and limitations becomes a family effort; parents don't have to yell and scream, and kids don't have to feel frustrated or inadequate. It really is simple enough, so long as everyone remains focused on the goal at hand. Our suggestion, start small ...
... begin with just a single target skill. In the classroom a good goal might be for a student to quietly raise his hand instead of yelling an answer; at home, parents might want their child to begin his homework right away instead of pushing it off until the evening. Then, decide on a reward together - a new toy, a trip to the movies, whatever works best! This extrinsic motivator, coupled with the star chart, will give the child a defined goal to work towards and a tangible measure of their progress. No matter what the behavior, the most important thing is that as a parent or teacher you reward it EVERYTIME you see it. So each time Jimmy comes home and begins his work immediately, he gets a sticker. In time that chart will fill up, Jimmy will earn his reward, and he will have focused on practicing a new, positive, productive behavior. Sometimes it will become automatic and natural after a single chart, other times it will take longer, but I promise with diligence Jimmy will learn to love starting his homework early.
And, of course, there is an app for this! iRewardChart allows parents and teachers to identify behaviors, skills, and rewards for multiple kids, all of which can be tracked through the app. There is also an option for multiple rewards - large and small - so that kids can opt for a small prize, or holdout for something more special. If you are at all tech-savvy, the app is a great option for implementing reward charts in the home or school because you'll never find yourself without a star to give, and it's way more simple to stay organized!