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A Rewarding Alternative to Clip Charts

Back in my first years of teaching, like many other teachers during that time, I used a clip chart in my classroom. I teach elementary music, so my clip chart was not a clip per student, but a clip per class. Depending on the behavior of the class, their clip could move up or down a color, and once their class got to the top of my chart they earned a dance party or games for a class.


It didn’t take long to see that some of my classes were easily successful, moving up quickly without issues. But like any specials teachers who teach an entire building, some classes are just tough, or may have a couple students that can derail the rest. Those classes would get stuck on the chart, barely progressing, and it was obvious, not just for them, but for the rest of the school as well.


The thing about clip charts is that they don’t magically inspire those struggling students to behave better. Instead, some students may challenge it or think it’s “funny” to make the clip go down. And now, you’ve punished an entire class for the behavior of really just a couple of students. And if you are a classroom teacher with a clip per student, every student’s behavior is public knowledge to the entire class. If we wouldn’t do that with a student’s grades, should we do that with their behavior?


After a few years of trying different variations of clip charts, I realized that they were more detrimental to my classroom management and did away with them. For a couple years I didn’t use any particular system, but after Covid, I knew that I had to do something different. I stumbled across another music teacher online who had purchased a Stick Together poster for their room, and I loved the community building aspect. Instead of classes inadvertently competing against each other, now the entire school comes together to build the picture.


Classes can earn stickers for the poster in several ways: I do teacher vs. student points where they earn points for working hard, but I earn points if I must “work harder than them.” That way, there is still accountability. How ever many more points they earn transfers into stickers. I also choose a “mystery musician” for each class. They get to put up an extra sticker for themselves if they were a responsible leader. I also award points to students or small groups who show extra leadership or kindness in class. This can be easily adaptable depending on if you are a specials or classroom teacher, elementary, middle, or high school!


What I love most about using Stick Together is that there is no telling which class has earned more points than others, so there is no judging. Instead, the entire school collectively works together to create a picture. I “don’t know” what the picture is, so I can be surprised with them! My focus is to catch the good in my students and build a community instead of competition. It creates a much calmer and welcoming atmosphere!

______


Erin Elliott, K-5 Elementary Music Teacher

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