Focus on Five: Giving Students Feedback

Sometimes, towards the end of the school year, student behaviors can increase. Maybe bad habits have formed, students know the end of the year is close or maybe even they are just developing age-appropriate rebellious behaviors as they are getting older. Whatever the case may be, giving students feedback to help shape behaviors is always a good idea, but can especially be helpful at the end of the year. Here are five ways I am giving students feedback in my classroom…

1. Star Chart

This one is a classic, especially for students who are developing independent work skills and learning behaviors. These students may benefit from seeing the visual of the stars, plus, a star chart  is simple enough to individualize. For example, you can use a chart with 3 or 5 stars, depending on how long the student can work for or attend to a task or lesson. You can also customize by giving a star per response, per task or per assignment. Utilizing a star chart also offers fading opportunities. Perhaps a student is earning a star for each response and as the student increases their responses, you can start to give a star every 2 responses and so on. Check out The Autism Helper’s Ultimate Packet of Behavior Management Visuals for Children with Autism.

2. Points

Finally after two years, I am back implementing (physical) points in my classroom. Points are strips of paper I give to students when engaging in expected behaviors and take away for any inappropriate or unexpected behaviors. Students use points to “pay” for a break time. Benefits of points are that they are so simple, there are many ways to customize points for the needs of your students. It can also be individualized- one student may not need to receive points for raising their hand to speak because it is a previously mastered skill, however, another student developing that skill may receive a point paired with specific verbal praise.

3. Rubrics

Using rubrics are a great way to teach students expected behaviors for a skill set. Since rubrics can include multiple skills, using a rubric to assess students can help determine which skills they have and which skills they need to develop. Using a rubric also helps you to give students specific feedback. Depending on your student’s level, rubrics can also be used to teach students about the expectations. Going over the rubric with students before the activity or skill can help them to know what is exactly expected of them. Students who are able to read can use the written rubrics, while students who are still developing reading skills can use a picture rubric. The more feedback and practice opportunities you give students, the more likely they will be able to be taught to self-monitor using a rubric.

4. Check-In/Check-Out

The Check-In/Check-Out system is a great way for a student to receive feedback throughout the day, and be held accountable, especially if they are receiving services in settings other than the self-contained classroom. This Check-In/Check-Out resource from The Responsive Counselor is a great resource for getting started with this system.  I currently have a student who was performing at grade level and we wanted to offer him more opportunities in the general education setting. Since this student benefits from being given consistent feedback and accountability, the Check-In/Check-Out system worked well for him. Since he was seeing other teachers for his instruction, it was also an effective communication tool so I could see how he was doing throughout the school day, even when he wasn’t in the cluster classroom. If there is a student in your class who you think would benefit from the Check-In/Check-Out system, it is always a great idea to collaborate with your school’s counselor or social worker.

5. Group Contingencies

Using group contingencies can be a little controversial, however, I have experienced success when I have implemented them with my students.  I like to use group contingencies when I am trying to get students to be less competitive with each other,  trying to build a sense of community or to promote teamwork. Like any strategy or practice, it needs to be used correctly, thoughtfully and with fidelity. For example, when I use points or stars,I may take away points or stars to help shape an individual’s behavior (they of course have opportunities to earn them back). When using a group contingency, I only give points, I do not take points away.

One simple group contingency I like to use in a small group is “Beat the Teacher”. In Beat the Teacher, I set up a simple t-chart on a whiteboard and created two teams- the students in the small group and the teacher. The students in the small group are a team and they need to earn more points than me. I like to think about the desired behavior (e.g. focusing on their own work) and give students points for that. I like to pair giving points with specific verbal praise and mention how an  individual student got points “for their team”. For example, I might say, “Wow, Angel just earned points for the whole team by keeping his eyes on his paper and working at a just right speed”. 

Another group contingency I have used is a whole class reward of a star chart. I developed this with my student teacher and had the students choose a whole class reward (e.g. indoor snowball fight, special art activity, extra recess) and they earned stars as a team. It is kind of a large scale “Beat the Teacher”, except the teacher wasn’t earning stars. While using a hundreds number chart may seem like a lot, it is adjustable, like the smaller star charts. The teacher can control the speed at which students get stars, so it would be possible for students to get the reward by the end of the school day. Alternatively, you could use a smaller number of stars for students who would need to earn the reward at a faster rate to maintain the effectiveness.

I hope this gives you some ideas for getting through the rest of the school year! For more on giving students feedback and behavior strategies, check out Creating a Token Economy, Benefits to Using a Token Economy and Keeping Your Token Economy Changing.  Stay healthy and safe!

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