I truly love my class this year. Honestly, I do. For the first month of the school year I told everyone who would listen how wonderful my third graders were. These amazing kids listened, they were kind to each other, and they were taking charge of their own learning. Well, enter week six and I have to admit, the honeymoon is over.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still wonderful. It’s just that after the first six weeks I have really learned who needs more structure, guidance, and support to be successful students and classmates. The first phone calls of the year have been made and the first parent meetings had. Usually these meetings are to let parents know what I’m seeing in the classroom and to discuss what we can do at school and at home to help their child be the best they can be. Part of these early meetings sometimes includes letting parents know about a behavior contract or checklist I would like to use with their child. This week I’m happy to share with you a few of the behavior contracts and check-off forms that have worked to modify behaviors in our school in a positive way.
What's the Difference Between a Behavior Contract and a Behavior Checklist?
In my own classroom, I tend to use the terms interchangeably. Both a behavior contract and a behavior checklist are simple interventions meant to change some aspect of a child's behavior in the classroom or on the playground. A behavior contract usually details specific minimum expectations that are understood by the child and the parents. If those expectations are met over a specified period of time, a predetermined reward is earned. A checklist is a tool I use to help students self-monitor their behavior throughout the day. I've listed expected behaviors and the student is responsible for checking or crossing-off each item after they complete it. The checklist helps guide behavior while the more formal behavior contract attempts to change certain behaviors.
When Is a Behavior Contract Needed?
A formal behavior modification form is used in my classroom only when a student does not respond to repeated reminders and prompts and routines designed to change their behavior. When a student's actions, or failure to act, are interfering with learning and/or my obligation to provide a safe environment for all students, I will create a behavior contract or checklist for him or her. These contracts can also be useful in documenting behaviors should a student need interventions from a source outside of your classroom. Below is a checklist first grade teacher Nancy Haboush created for teachers to make sure appropriate interventions were being tried with students.
Get Parents Involved
Before starting any sort of contract or checklist, I always get parent approval. Once I've decided some sort of behavior modification is necessary, I contact the parents to schedule a meeting. During this meeting, I discuss what I'm observing in the classroom. Frequently, I discover parents are observing these same behaviors at home and are also looking for a solution. I let parents know I would like to implement a tool to help their child, and then I introduce the prepared contract or checklist I would like to use with their child. I also ask them for suggestions and feedback as to the contents of the contract. If possible, I like the student to be present at this meeting as well to look at the contract and give feedback along with suggestions for a reward they feel will motivate them.
Rewards for Expected Behavior?
I'm not a big believer in giving out extrinsic rewards for expected behaviors under normal circumstances. With that being said, if a child's behavior warrants a contract in my class, what's normal isn't working. Working closely with the parent is crucial to me when deciding what the reward should be. In order to reinforce the home-school partnership to the student, I actually prefer the reward be given at home by the parents rather than in school. If rewards are to given in school at the request of the parent, I prefer to give a privilege rather than a toy or prize of some sort. This privilege might include preferential seating, lunch with the teacher, extra time on the iPad, etc.
Below are some coupons you can use to reward students:
See fellow blogger, Lindsey Petlack's post, "3 Free Super Secret Student Rewards" for even more options to reward students who successfully complete their contract.
Daily Checklist for Work Habits
I created this chart for a student in my class a few years ago after I was inspired by one that middle school Top Teaching blogger Addie Aldano shared in her post, "Motivating the Unmotivated: Tough Kid Tools That Really Work." It clearly spells out what is expected for excellent behavior.
Keep it Simple for Lower Elementary Students
My colleague Nancy, uses this simple form with her first graders. Behavior is noted twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. This also gives parents of young students a window into their child's day.
For Only One Targeted Behavior
If a student is working on a single behavior, Nancy uses the form below:
There is No One-Size-Fits-All Form
Because no two children have the same behaviors, no two contracts or checklists that I've done look alike. Below you will see variations from one contract that I have customized to address the specific needs of different students over the years. They have all been created in a Word document so you may click on each image to download and edit them to fit your needs. The student fills out the form each day, and I check it before they take it home for a signature. If a child does not follow an expected behavior, they need to explain why on the back of the sheet in the comment section.
For Students Who Are Not Using Time Wisely in Class
For Students With Inappropriate Behaviors
For Students Who Need Help With Organization and Time Management
To Support Students Who Need Help With Behavior, Organization and Self-Control
Asking students to reflect on their behavior can have a powerful impact. Knowing they will have to explain anything that got in the way of having a great day often results in students making better choices. Nancy created the form below using our school mascot, the Leonard Leopard, but you can easily customize it to fit your school.
Checklists for Personal Organization
Every now and then I have a student who simply cannot manage to organize themselves or their belongings. By now morning routines should be down: unpack, turn in homework, sign up for lunch, and sit down for morning work. Everyone knows how desks should be organized, everything in a color-coded folder with no loose papers in the desks. For the students who can't successfully complete the morning tasks independently or whose desks are so disorganized they often can't find what they need, I start using the checklist below. Each time I use it, the behaviors are customized to the targeted behaviors I want the student to display. Tip: I laminate checklists so students can cross things off with a dry erase marker, then erase for the next day.
Nancy adds images to help her first graders with organization.
When a student is consistently failing to turn in assignments, I use the form below. The consequence of leaving their school iPad with me came after I discovered one student in particular was spending so much time Web surfing on his iPad at home, that he was neglecting homework. Customize your consequence to fit your students.
Homework Contracts From Scholastic Teachables
Behavior Helpers Aren't Forever
The goal of a contract or checklist is to make students aware of the behavior so they can modify it. When I start contracts early in the year, I find that after a month or so, the contract or checklist can be discontinued. When behaviors do not change, it may be necessary to involve members of your school's child assistance team to help determine what further interventions may be needed.
While I don't use behavior contracts often, it is nice to have a few that I can adapt to use when I need to. If you find your honeymoon is also over and the time has come in your classroom for a little intervention, I hope you'll be able to use one of these templates to help your students succeed.
Post in a prominent place.
THE FAMILY HOMEWORK CONTRACT
__________________ and _________________ have mutually agreed to the terms of the
following homework contract to take effect on__________________________________.
Homework Study Schedule
Monday __________ to __________ Student will study at least _____minutes
Tuesday __________ to __________ on the indicated days. If the student does
Wednesday __________ to __________ not have assignments, he/she will review
Thursday __________ to __________ for tests, work ahead, redo past assignments,
Friday __________ to __________ or read material related to classes. Students
Saturday __________ to __________ will need to increase their study time when
Sunday __________ to __________ faced with long and/or difficult assignments.
Special Contract Terms (optional)
Both student and parent will initial the terms that are to be followed.
__________All homework is to be done in the __________________________room.
__________No phone calls will be allowed during homework time.
__________Homework will not be done in front of the TV. Loud music will not be played.
__________The computer will only be used to work directly on assignments. No Web surfing!
__________Parent will not remind students when it is time to start homework.
__________Parent will not offer homework help or advice unless it is requested.
__________All homework and school materials are to be placed in a backpack at the end of each
__________Contract will be reviewed on __________to decide if any terms need to be changed.
_________Failure by the student or parent to follow all contract terms will result in a penalty of
__________Following terms of the contract for a period of __________will result in an award of
Additional Information on Homework Contracts
The major purpose of a homework contract is to eliminate all the daily hassles that arise from family conflicts over when, where, and how homework is to be done. A contract places the responsibility for getting homework done on the student which is where it should be. It also helps many students establish a homework routine. Even young students will benefit from having a homework contract.
The best contracts are simple ones with few terms.
You definitely should not have your family’s first homework contract use all the terms of the sample contract.
Contracts need to be individualized to suit the needs of each family.
For a homework contract to be effective, all terms must be negotiated and completely agreed upon by both parents and students.
After a trial period of two weeks, the contract should be looked at again by the parent and student to see if any terms should be changed. Provision also needs to be made to look at the contract periodically (monthly, every grading period) to see if it needs to be revised as conditions change.
Remember all children are different. Some will need to do their nightly homework in two or more time periods. Others may need timed breaks to release energy or to get a snack.
How Much Time Should Students Spend on Homework
The rough rule of thumb that most educators use is that students should work on homework approximately 10 minutes for each year in school. Following this rule, a second grader would spend 20 minutes on homework while a fifth grader would spend 50 minutes. At the high school level, it may be necessary for students to do as much as two hours a night depending on the courses that they are taking and whether or not they have a study period at school.
Students do not have to work on homework every day. Weekends can be free of homework for many students depending on their typical assignment load. Older students can choose specific times on the weekend to review the week’s work or do projects. Poor students will profit from spending some weekend time on review or skill-building work. Redoing assignments can be helpful for these students.
It is not necessary for all students to have assigned homework times in a contract. Instead, the agreement can be for students to get all homework done by a specified time. With this type of agreement, no homework for any reason can be done after this time. Instead, the students can get up early to complete any unfinished work.
Why Should Students Have Homework?
In the early grades, there is only a very small relationship between the amount of homework children do and their achievement in school. It is not until sixth grade that a solid relationship can be shown between doing homework and higher achievement. The reason for doing homework earlier is to develop the homework habit as well as independent study skills.
©Compass Syndicate Corporation, 2009