Sunday, June 3, 2012

Classroom Management: The Purple Clipboard

I have heard it said that the best way to increase positive behavior to is to reduce the need for negative behaviors to occur...

I have many systems that keep my classroom running smoothly--from classroom jobs to signs and signals that we use in class.  We fill each others buckets, we make commitments during class meetings to improve our decision-making, we celebrate successes big and small, and we examine the "why" behind our behavior choices.

Further, I spend the first month (or two!) of the school year spelling out the positive behaviors that I expect in my classroom. We talk about why certain choices are safe, responsible, respectful, important, etc. I want the students to have as many opportunities as possible to do the right things and a limited need to do the wrong things. I am sure most teachers use all of the same procedures.

If only that were all I had to do! I honestly believe that some students are not aware that their most common social interaction is rolling their eyes. Others aren't cognizant of the fact that they are yelling out answers or comments throughout the day. Some arrive in sixth grade not knowing I really DO expect them to participate, to remain on task, and to NOT throw things (why are those red pencil top erasers so often the choice for airborne expeditions?)

Although our room is housed on an elementary site, I try to offer them the skills to help them transition into middle school. Consequently, most of my management systems are subtle and somewhat inconspicuous. We don't change clips or cards; instead, behavior is managed through a clipboard system.

From the first minute of the first day that clipboard is in my hand. I show it to them. I show them their names. I show them the key at the bottom of the page. I show them how I mark the occurrence of incorrect behavior choices. Originally, I will say, "I'm sorry that I will need to record a 'CO' for those who are calling out. In our room, there are lots of times when it is okay to talk without raising your hand--but if I am talking, or explaining something, or giving directions, it is not respectful to make comments or call out answers." Especially at the beginning of school, I try to explain WHY certain behaviors are not acceptable. And I encourage them to choose to do the right thing--for them and for their classmates.

The clipboard is always covered. The actual marks are not visible, although when I confer with a student, I will sometimes show them their data (keeping the marks for other students covered). In this way, I try to help students make sense of their choices and to "see" what I see from my side of the classroom.

During the first few weeks, I really try not to go to "Phase Two," but sooner or later, it happens. If a student cannot get his behavior under control, I will show him the marks on the clipboard at the end of the day (Likely, I have been providing warnings and opportunities throughout the day). The first time that the student exceeds three reminders in a day, he needs to take home a yellow card for a parent signature. I explain that the first card is a warning. And I tell him that this card will be put in his behavior folder, but the next time, the card will need to be taken home.

Each time a student exceeds three reminders in a day, he takes home a behavior card. It is usually around October when a savvy student asks, "Why don't you just say FOUR reminders? Isn't more than three the same as four?" To which I respond "Three is an adequate number of reminders in a day. More than that is too many." (And, for the record, there are times when those behaviors occur more than three OR four times!)

I have many uninvolved parents. Many sign the cards without caring. Sometimes I have to send duplicate cards home. But some do care and that makes my job easier. And, over the years, I have noticed other things...

1. Some kids really DON'T know how often they demonstrate inappropriate behaviors. This system helps them to know. In fact, for some kids, I pair this with a clip system and ask THEM to keep track of how often they are out of their chair (or any behavior) and I ask them to put a paper clip on an index card every time the behavior occurs. I've had some kids say: I was off task eight times today. Do you think that's too many?" {Yep!} I will then ask the student what I need to do to help her change the behavior that she is working on.

2. I require every parent to come to a conference for the first report card. I have made home visits, met in coffee shops, etc., but that first face-to-face meeting is critical. When I bring out a handful of behavior cards (some with forged signatures!) even my most disinterested parents raise an eyebrow. That little bit of buy-in helps set kids on the right track--at least for a little while.

3. More than anything, kids need to know that I KNOW what they are doing --and that I expect them to get better. I don't expect them to be perfect, but I expect them to improve. I often write a note on the back of the card (okay, it is hastily scribbled because I am usually writing as we are walking out the door at the end of the day).

This is not the only system I use. And the majority of my behavior management is done through routines, plenty of modeling and directions, and clear expectations. However, in an educational system where data collection is critical, this provides me an ongoing record with very little effort. I keep all of the daily behavior records in a binder, so I have the data at my fingertips. Because there is a key at the bottom, it also an easy record-keeping system for substitute teachers, push-in teachers and student teachers to follow. Further, when we are all using the same systems, students don't need to guess which teacher uses which system in our classroom.

After a while, this becomes a system that runs itself. When the kids walk through the door, I am often holding the clipboard. This is a cue to enter quietly and get ready to work. I don't even have to ask any more. When the noise level gets too loud, I will ring the chimes. If the noise continues, I reach for the clipboard... and most students recognize that I am scanning for correct behavior and noting those who have needed too many reminders. Usually, behavior improves before I even find a pencil. And, although it is now June, "good" behavior has persisted. I have only sent home five behavior cards in the last three months!

I have a student who has been working on "self-control" all year. Recently, we were discussing an assignment and she blurted out a comment before I had a chance to finish the explanation. And then she looked at me with a very serious expression and said, "Sorry. I know it's distracting when I interrupt." I'm not sure which of us went home with a bigger smile that day.

I don't want you to think I spend all day looking for infractions and being an inflexible tyrant. We do a lot of laughing in our classroom. And there are many positive elements of my behavior management program as well. We celebrate almost anything! It is important to note that I make "happy calls" and send home "happy notes" too! I am particularly fond of these stickers from SmileMakers (click the image to see the catalog)
I put them on an index card and detail the wonderful behavior, kindness and good choice-making I have observed. I try to recognize the little things--especially when a child has selected a self-management strategy as a goal.

I also use these notes... they were a freebie from my blog during the Bunny Blog Hop. but they are still at Click on the picture below to take you there.

I encourage my students to take responsibility for their own behavior, not because I am watching, but because it makes it easier for them--and everyone else--to learn and have fun.  My students will tell anyone who will listen that in our classroom, we have a commitment to service, to leadership and excellence. On the first day of school I always say, "When I tell people that I teach sixth grade, many people reply, "Oooooh. That must be challenging..." I add that people often expect sixth graders to be unruly and rude and out-of-control. And then I add with a wink, "Our job is to prove them wrong. Let's show them how wonderful sixth graders can be."

I am ready to start my thirtieth year and I haven't given up yet. This is the system that works for me. But I am always looking for new elements to add or to blend in with what I am currently doing. I am interested in learning more about your management systems too.

There are lots more ideas about classroom management linking up so head back to TBA by clicking on the button...


  1. Hi Buddy, Hi, HI, HI!!!!
    (yep, 2 iced coffees).....ok.....

    A) Love your clipboard idea!!

    B) Your handwriting has GOT to be a font that I can download!!!! It has to be!!!!!! I LOVE IT!!! my handwriting is poopy:/

    C)I have got to get those stickers!!! Super stinkin cute!!!!


    4th Grade Frolics

  2. Ditto to EVERYTHING Tara said; I LOVE your handwriting the most!

    I love that you 'confer' with students and parents as that seems to be a thing of the past in a lot of places. In fact, I can only think of one time we actually had a parent/teacher conference in all of my kids' years in school. Maybe that's a good thing? I would have relished the opportunity to know what a teacher thought and I how could help my child grow!!!

    So Rock On! I am in awe from afar and sending warm fuzzies for a few more weeks of awesomeness.


  3. Love it - I want to be in your class!!!!!

  4. Love your system...thanks so much for sharing it! I teach 5th and am going to give it a try! :)

  5. Love the system Kim! :) I'm thinking about how I could use this system in my computer class next year.

    It almost sounds similar to - have you seen that site? It keeps all your behavior electronically, but that would eliminate the power of the purple clipboard. Maybe to record previous weeks/days?

    Life in Middle School

    1. The sad part about all of this are the shear number of behaviors that teachers have to deal with and the fact that a system like this has to be implemented. Years ago parents were much more involved and hence the kids were better behaved. There were a couple of behavior challenged kids here and there, but most of the teachers and the other students, knew they came from dysfunctional families. It seems that the dysfunctional family unit is on the rise, based on the number of kids that we have to serve in the school who exhibit these kind of behaviors. We keep talking about America being behind other countries in academics. Is it any wonder? We spend more time dealing with discipline issues than we do with learning. Then these kids go home to these families and any disciple progress that was made at school, goes right out the windows. Then there are the parents...

  6. I will NOT miss those eye rolls over the summer!

    Class Dojo is pretty similar to your system-AND it collects data AND you can send weekly behavior reports to parents via email. Pretty awesome stuff.

    Will Grade For Coffee

  7. Ok Kim, I have to tell you, "inflexible tyrant" is the LAST thing I or anyone else would think of you!!

    This is simply incredible! I love how everything seems so easy to manage, plus must be so helpful for your students. I am bookmarking this (yes, it's pathetic, but I don't really pin because I can't handle another online addiction!). You are fabulous--can we coteach???

  8. I have done something very similar. And the clipboard in hand is a clear signal! But I like your form and I have a question .... What is the small column for?
    And for those who use you use it on an iPhone or what? Do you walk around with it in your hand?

    1. I use dojo on my galaxy. The students know I am looking for positive or negative behaviors when I have it out. I also use a clipboard when they are not with me. I can then easily add positive or negative points after the fact. You can print reports too. I gibe a special prize for my daily point winner. I also use the random button to call on students so they can add points too.

  9. I use a clipboard, too, but with changing classes next year I was thinking of switching! Not anymore. Your ideas justified the use of the clipboard and how it works!!

    Thanks for such great ideas.

    Oh- and ditto on the love for your handwriting. Beautiful. I wish I had nice handwriting.


    Fun in Room 4B

  10. What a great system you have. Thank you so much for explaining it so well!

    And I have the BEST handwriting!

    Teaching in Room 6

  11. This year I had one clipboard for the whole day which was 3 different classes. I think I'll get 3 different clipboards to use next year. And I agree a cover is essential to keep prying eyes out!!

  12. This year I had one clipboard for the whole day which was 3 different classes. I think I'll get 3 different clipboards to use next year. And I agree a cover is essential to keep prying eyes out!!

  13. Hey Kim!!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love yours! I am now following! Hey, I posted about my interview outfit. Wondering if you could check it out!

    Mallory @ Mrs. Crouse's {K-8} Blog

  14. HI Kim! I have a contest going on for a gift card to starbucks on my blog! I thought of you and how much you love a cup of joe from there. Have a great day! Maria

  15. Kim! Thank you so much for this amazing clipboard management idea! I am moving up to 6th grade next year and although we are still at the elementary level we are departmentalized. I will teaching science and social studies! And I have been trying to wrap my head around a good way to manage behavior! This is a great start!

  16. LOVE this idea!!! My son has Down syndrome & is in a full inclusion gen. ed. setting. His teachers & I are constantly trying to figure out a more effective way to squash bad behavior & reinforce good behavior. We are also constantly looking for an efficient way to communicate all of it between school & home without a full page of explanations sent home daily. Your clipboard idea has so many possibilities, thank you!!!


  17. Love love love the clipboard idea! Have used card flipping for 2 years now and ready for a change - thank you for sharing!!

    5th is Fabulous

  18. I love this way to organize how many times students are unprepared and such! You're the best!

  19. I really like the idea of keeping the students names on a chart and keeping track of the behaviors. I taught 4th and 5th grade and remember seeing a classroom management system like this. I think I am going to try it out this school year. I also teach 6th now.

  20. How is it already (almost) Friday and I`m just getting around to your post ... oh my goodness I need this year to be over!
    Just wanted to say that I LOVE the quick codes you use ... think I`m totally going to give this the ole college try next year - keeping records is definitely NOT my strong point, but is something I`m determined to work on. Thank-you for making this seem much more do-able for me! Hope you have a FABULOUS weekend!!!

    Runde's Room

  21. I love this idea and am looking forward to implementing it in my classroom this fall.

  22. Hi! I just found your blog and I am so excited to see it. I have just been assigned 5th grade after 7 years teaching 1st grade. I LOVE this idea and plan on implementing it in my new classroom. I was worried about how I would monitor behavior in an age appropriate way. Thank you for sharing. I would also love any suggestions you might have on other blogs to follow. I am quite nervous for the change and would appreciate any help! Thanks SO much!

  23. I love this idea and I am working on implementing it for this coming school year. What are the am and r columns for on the behavior record?

  24. I love this. I felt the need to really document behavior this year, and this will work perfectly! I love your blog!

    Teaching With Powers

  25. I have started using the app classdojo. It is an electronic version of your clipboard. I can print reports and is a great way to track both positive and negative behaviors. I also use a clipboard for when they are not with me and I can easily add positive or negative points.

  26. I have used similar systems in the past, and love them. Going to give this one a try this year:) What are your other columns to the left and right of the name and how do you use them? Just curious, do you use any sort of positive reinforcement in the class for positives behaviors? I am always looking for new ideas in sixth grade that are not too "kiddish". Thanks! I just found your blog and I am loving it!

  27. Thank you so much... I have an interview for 6th grade tomorrow and the "classroom management" aspect was my most worrisome. I am definitely going to use this intermingled with Class-Dojo.

  28. I came across this page over the summer (probably from Pinterest) and decided to give this a shot in my 5th grade classroom. It has made my class run SO much smoother this year! All other teachers love the system and the data that it provides. I keep the daily sheets together by month, and we're able to pull them out and look at a student's history for SSTs, IEPs, conferences, etc. In short, thank you SO much for sharing this! I will continue to use this system throughout the year and in the future! :)


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