Friday, August 31, 2012

Homeschooling: Positive Reinforcement

I've been a teacher in a traditional classroom, and now I teach my own children at home. The one thing that is always a "downer" for me is classroom discipline. I love to decorate the room, make the lesson plans, and teach. I despise having to halt everything to discipline.

I thought and thought on a way to make discipline as simple and easy as possible, both for me and the kids this year.

When I first came upon the idea of a classroom store, and tying it to behavior, I resisted. After all, I don't want to bribe my kids to behave.

However, I was able to read one teacher's rationale, and it made a lot of sense. In a nutshell, she says that you can use this as a preparation for adulthood. If an adult chooses to break rules, they either get fined or sent to prison. While I'm not going to make a jail in my classroom, I can certainly employ the same idea as fines. What adult do you know that doesn't slow down a little after getting a speeding ticket? It works!

With that in mind, I started reading up on how other teachers set up their classroom stores. Some of them had long lists of ways students could earn classroom money. I knew that wasn't going to work for me because I don't have the time or energy to devote to that. This is supposed to save me time and energy. So I came up with my own system, gleaning what I liked from several different people.

My system is based on good behavior. Some teachers gave classroom money for good grades (especially perfect papers or A's), but at least one of my children has perfectionist tendencies already. I didn't want to exacerbate the problem by offering an incentive for only perfect papers. I was a "hundreds-only" student growing up (i.e. only perfect papers were acceptable in my book), and I know how that can cripple a student's learning.

So my children each get ten (fake) dimes a day. If they disobey a classroom rule, I take a coin. Whenever they have all ten coins remaining at the end of the day, I exchange it for a (fake) $1 bill. It's as simple as that, and it has worked marvelously these past two weeks.

The fun part was setting up the prize store. I pulled out all the little kid gifts I had sitting around that I had picked up for great prices. Then I grouped things by their perceived value to the kids. I wanted them to have to work for the really nice prizes, so my highest price point was $9. They will be able to "buy" one of these every two weeks if they're relatively well-behaved and save their money. (Bonus: This teaches saving money and delayed gratification.)

These are the $2 prizes. These prices are obviously not the same prices you would see at the regular store, but I wanted them to reflect the effort put forth. Most of these came in packs of at least four for a dollar.

These are the $4 prizes. I regularly scour Michaels clearance bins for kid-friendly things like these robot paint pads. (I'm pretty sure this was around $0.20, but the perceived value is much higher.)

These $7 prizes might not look like much to other people, but I know what my kids like. They are crazy about notebooks and "fancy" pens. I have since added two more battery-operated fans that I picked up at Hobby Lobby's end-of-season clearance for $0.20 each. They're much fancier than this blue handheld fan.

I had quite a few $9 prizes, so I separated them by child. These are the ones I knew my daughter would be interested in - knitting needle sets and American Girl books. The needles came from Tuesday Morning (something like $3 for a pack of 3 sets). The books all came from thrift stores, mostly $0.33-0.50 each. I recently added a Fisher Price dollhouse family camping tent that we found at a thrift store for $1.

These are the $9 items I knew my son would like. Believe it or not, a lot of these are Dollar Tree finds. I have an awesome Dollar Tree near me, and I regularly browse their toy aisles for buy-outs of name brands. The off-brand "lego"-type sets came from Hobby Lobby's Christmas clearance. The police bear uniform came from a thrift store, still with the $14.99 tags on it. (It's the same brand of clothing we saw at the store where we let them make their own stuffed animals this past vacation.)

You may notice that I didn't go all out and make it look identical to a real store. I simply grouped several chairs together and put a different price point on a different chair. I have them all lined up in price order so they can easily decide what they can afford.

Well, that's about it for my classroom store. I'm hoping to share pictures of my classroom soon!


Shoregirl said...

Great idea Christa -- hope it works to help you maintain good behavior and produce good workers who do their best in school! I'm with you in positive reinforcement -- I've found it works a lot better than always harping, scolding, and disciplining. (Though we both know discipline has it's place.) BUT if I can motivate good behavior with something like this - I'm all for it!