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Positive discipline in Early Years/KS1

81 replies

rubytwokids · 26/01/2009 23:23

In dd's school they use the 'sun and cloud' thing: picture of a cloud, a rainbow and a sunshine on the wall. So far as I can work out, all the children have their names stuck onto the rainbow. If they do something worthy of praise, they get to move their name onto the sunshine, if they do something undesirable, they get to move their name onto the cloud. If they get onto the cloud several times in one day, they miss a play time. Seems to be popular in schools at the moment.

I acknowldege that I don't fully understand the system (as evidenced by my poor explanation of it, above!) but I'm not overly keen on it. Seems to me that the children missing their playtimes are the ones most in need of a good run about out in the fresh air, so no one really gains there. Plus it seems to be the same old names on the cloud, time and time again, which makes me think it's maybe not working as the incentive it was planned to be!

Does anyone know of any systems that strike them as better? I'm not about to go into school and suggest a change of approach - I'm just genuinely interested! I'm particularly interested in systems which use a 'positive discipline' approach and which seem to work.


OP posts:
scrooged · 26/01/2009 23:26

ds's teacher does this (he's 9). They have the sad and happy face board. Three sad= no play, however, if he gets one a week for three weeks he looses a play time which is mean IMO to drag it out this long. It works on some of them, not all. Each child is different and they respond to different things.

cory · 27/01/2009 08:03

In ds's school you miss playtime for things like hurting other children- the boy who knocked ds down several times was kept in for quite a while.

May seem counterproductive, and in fact I'm in two minds about it, but then it did mean that the other child (ie ds) got a chance to feel safe at playtime.

Now that he's in Yr 4 you get lunchtime detention for not doing homework- but then they are 8 or 9, so IMO old enough to take some responsibility.

Littlefish · 27/01/2009 08:32

I work in a school with very challenging children. The only reason that children would miss a play time is if they are hurting other children, or are a danger to themselves. Even under these circumstances it is done in a positive way. They are given time to calm down with an adult (Lunch time superviser, TA, teacher, headteacher - whoever is around...). Then, the adult spends some time talking to them and the child they've hurt so that the injured child has a chance to talk about how it feels. At no point is it done as a "punishment". We use a restorative justice model and speak warmly to the children at all times.

Public naming and shaming is most definitely not our thing. All it does is reinforces in the child's mind, and the minds of the rest of the class that so-and-so is a "naughty child".

Positive behaviour in the classroom is supported by children earning points towards a shared treat which happens at least twice a week (quick gratification is important to our children). Negative behaviour is modified by positive ignoring, giving children the chance to choose if they want to be on their own, and by spending lots and lots of time listening to them.

This system does work for us. It's very time consuming and labour intensive, and results can take years to be seen. However, we have found it to be the only way that builds self-esteem in our children, many of whom come from chaotic, challenging backgrounds.

Littlefish · 27/01/2009 08:33

I should stress that my school is a mainstream school, but just has lots of challenging children. My post above makes is sound like I'm in a special school, but I'm not.

redskyatnight · 27/01/2009 09:17

DS is in Reception. He has a Mr Happy/Mr Grumpy scheme along with the concept of Golden Rules (which are what you would expect about playing nicely, listening to the teacher, sharing etc).

Every child starts the day on Mr Happy. If child persistently breaks Golden Rules they are given a warning and their name is written on the board. If they keep breaking they move onto Mr Grumpy. At the end of the day children get a few minutes of "Golden" time where they get to do something fun. Being on Mr Grumpy means you lose some of your Golden time. I'm not clear if you can move off Mr Grumpy by being incredibly well behaved for the rest of the day.

I think it works well as it does reward the children that "just get on with it" who can be overlooked. Also the warning stage seems to act as a good deterrent (whenever DS is on a warning he is persuaded into behaving like a little angel).

sarararararah · 27/01/2009 10:59

Yes, this rewards and sanctions system is a technique that has been used historically in schools. Some, such as mine (and Littlefish's it seems) question whether this approach really works. As the OP says it is nearly always the same children who get the sanctions every time - so clearly the message isn't getting through to them.

Like Littlefish we do a version of restorative justice where we talk to the children about how their behaviour affects others but we actually have no rewards or sanctions whatsoever. Controversial I know! This isn't to say we don't acknowledge positive behaviour/work - we do. We just talk about the positive effects positive behaviour/work has. So - for example - child a hurts themselves - child b goes over, checks they're ok and puts their arm round them. We might say, "Oh child b, look at child a's face, don't they look happier since you did that?"

All this is because we believe the only long lasting motivation for good behaviour / working hard is intrinsic motivation. It's no good if you're doing it to please a teacher or to avoid getting in to trouble with a teacher - not as long lasting or effective. But like Littlefish's approach it is not a quick fix and can take years to see big changes with the most challenging children. Works quickly with "normal"children though cos they see they get results for behaving well and you get none of this feeling that the well behaved children are always well behaved and never get the certificate/trophy/most stickers. Again this is a main stream state school, not a special school.

sarararararah · 27/01/2009 11:01

Should have said I agree with much of Littlefish's post - particularly about preserving self esteem in children and not reinforcing the message that x is a naughty child.

Littlefish · 27/01/2009 11:17

Hi Sarararararah (no idea whether I've got the right number of ra's! Sounds like our schools have very similar models. Have you investigated the "High/Scope" model which is used in some nursery schools. Your approach sounds very similar. It's an interesting model - one of the strong themes running through it is that you don't actively praise children as it leads to an over-reliance on validation from others. Instead, you spend time talking to the child about the positive thing they've done, and the affect it has on themselves and others. This then builds a sense of self-esteem internally rather than externally. I tried to do it for a couple of days, but found it really hard to do! I think I'm just a praise-junkie at heart .

Do you have a nurture group in your school? We've got funding for the next 3 years from our LEA. 8 children at a time (4 out of my Y2 class and 4 from Y1). Again, no quick fix, but a very positive way of looking at children's behaviour and development.

I'm interested that you don't have any reward system at all. We have a few - the class points reward, "catch me" net where any adult can reward any child, weekly certificates with one for work and one for positive contribution to the class or school. How long have you been working there? Did you find it hard to switch to a "no reward, no sanctions" system. I love the "no sanctions" bit, but think I would find the "no reward" bit really challenging.

muppetgirl · 27/01/2009 11:31


GOOD GOD do I agree with you!!!

I worked in a challenging school -children tying other children to trees with skipping ropes, yr 6's lining up the reception children and throwing stones at them was typical) and I really fought hard not to get a sticker system implemented in a 'well done jonny, you didn;t hit someone toady, here, have a sticker' when littel freddy never hit and alsways did as was told and never got a sticker. I firmly belive (and have experienced) children then look for the insentive rather than the idea that some things we actually have to do.

We worked on working together as a team, supporting each other, letting others make mistakes and supporting them when they found something hard, talking about how we feel etc etc. Of course there was praise but for hard work, trying, helping others ect.

sarararararah · 27/01/2009 11:34

Ah don't worry about the number of rarara not sure I know how many! I think we might be the same person! I was just reading another thread you were on and saw you run a choir at school - that's me too!

Well... The school I am currently in is brand new - we only opened Sept 08 so it is early days. An advantage of all staff being new, no precidents set, was that we had the time to explore what we really believed and didn't just have to follow what was already in place IYSWIM. I admit I did find it massively challenging the no praise bit to start with as had never really questioned it before. Like you, I was a bit of a praise junkie, and have had to wean myself off it! Still occasionally do it, as like the restorative justice thing it takes longer than simply saying "well done", "good girl/boy" or whatever! The High/Scope model does sound similar but isn't one we looked at. Alfie Kohn was. But we didn't agree with all of it, so have kind of ended up with our own version! Our big thing is about the school and classes being a community and everyone working for that community - so all behaviour impacts on that community (either positive or negative).

Interestingly the class I had last year was a mixed Y1/2. They had all been to other schools before we opened (a total of 6 different schools) and had all experienced some sort of reward/sanctions system. I never explained to them that we would be doing things differently - just thought I would explain it as and when it came up. I never did! Because they never once asked where the stickers were (or certificates or whatever).

We would LOVE a nurture group, but no LEA funding. I agree it's a really positive ideal.

Hmmm, not sure i've explained this too well. Am trying to write whilst looking after 2 babies! It is an interesting topic though

Littlefish · 27/01/2009 11:45

No, you've explained it really well.

We are a relatively new school too (opened in Sept 06) Old school closed down due to 4 years in special measures etc. etc. School was re-built and new school opened with entirely new staff and new head. The school went through the same process as you - having lots of time to really think about a shared understanding and a really strongly agreed way of working with children.

I'm in Y2 as a job share with the most challenging class in the school. I started there in Sept 08. Half the staff were new in September so we are currently re-visiting the behaviour policy to see whether it is all still valid or whether parts of it need to be reviewed and amended.

2 babies as in twins? Or just close together? Are you on maternity leave? Do you work full or part time?

Sorry for the hijacks Rubytwokids - it's just lovely when you find someone who works in a similar way (as it's quite unusal).

LowSlungAndOverhung · 27/01/2009 11:49

What a great thread. I'm going to come back and ask you two lots of questions when I do my Social and Emotional Learning module at Uni.

sarararararah · 27/01/2009 12:55

sorry muppetgirl - crossed posts as it took me so long to write! Did you win your battle?! hope so...! It's rare to find people who agree with me on this so this is a very nice change!

sarararararah · 27/01/2009 12:59

Dammit - did it again (cross post I mean)
Yes, sorry for hijack - reiterate it IS lovely to find someone who works in similar way.

No 2 babies as in my job share partner's and mine! Not on mat leave any more - went back in Sept. My DD is 9 months, my job share partner's is 3 weeks younger. Couldn't be better if we had planned it. (She has my DD on a Wed so has the 2 babies deal then!)

Oh and LowSlungandOverhung feel free to ask questions any time!

muppetgirl · 27/01/2009 13:32

Hi Sararararh
slowly the dinner ladies were adament the sticker way would work. I pointed out that school is a mini society and that there are many things that are just expected behaviour and that we just need to do what is asked without reward. We have to pay our car tax but we don;t get a thank you when we do (yes we get a thing to stick in the windscreen but ykwim!) we just have to do it.

I had 17 children a mixture of yr3/4 +4 year 5's. The school has been shut after all the teachers left, it was put into sepcial measures and I though 'I fancy a challenge!' all my children had educational difficulties from sn, social problems, behavioural problems and they were absolutely nuts to work with at first. I had children under tables, in cloakrooms, children that were 10 that couldn't read and most very scared to write. They were very snappy with each other they 'I'll get you before you get me' sort of thing and it did take a while for them to not only trust me but trust each other. We celebrated effort over and above that necessary, we celebrated caring for each other (many of them had parents with needs also) they loved talking to an adult that would be honest and actually have fun with them (one of the previous teachers left the profession after he hit a child...)
I am a firm beliver in not having sticker charts and insentives, my children were happy when they knew they'd tried hard, (one child said 'it feels good') why would they need a sticker from me?

sarararararah · 27/01/2009 13:44

Sounds VERY similar to my class last year! The rest of the school is pretty normal - just that class! We think they had all left their previous schools as they either weren't coping academically or socially! So it was CRAAAAZZZYY! But GREAT! We've had the "it feels good" comments too - from Y1and 2 kids. You're absolutely right about the sticker thing!

Littlefish · 27/01/2009 14:11

Sounds just like my class now Muppet girl. I absolutely love working with them, but we do have days when they are just completely nuts .

The times when I have found our reward system really works is when we introduce new behaviour strategies for individual children. It gives them an initial tangible recognition for a change in their behaviour. Rewards are given for effort, for making good choices, but very very rarely for academic achievement. Like Muppet girl, the children are very snappy with each other, and the group reward thing is another way of making the connections between "what I do" and "how we feel".

I can absolutely see what you and Muppet girl are both saying though and need to give it some more thought.

muppetgirl · 27/01/2009 14:22

Have to say that school was my inspiriation for me wanting to be an ed psych. I am on my introductory unit of my conversion course and can't wait!

It's a huge leap of faith as our system is really set up for rewards, contrary to how our actual society is. Yes, we have awards but in everyday life we just have to get on with things. The last school I worked in the children were at the opposite ends of the scale in that they were socially and economically very lucky yet they, intersetingly enough, spoke to each other in exactly the same way which goes to show it's not a class/social/economical problem it's a problem with our own society and how we get on with each other, expectations and all that. They were very conscious of the rewads system and asked 'what do I get if I....?' which I said, 'Me to be proud of you, you to feel you've achieved something' and they looked at me like I was stupid!! These are the children promised all sorts if they get certain levels in their sats.

Today I found out I'd passed my 2nd OU assignment and I was overjoyed, I didn't need a badge, I have an inner feeling of pride (sad but true!) and won't get anything for it but the knowledge that I am will start another one, then another, then another which will eventually lead me to apply for a place on a training course. I wonder if today's children will have the stamina to keep going for no immedaite gain?

Or am I just getting a little deep over a few stickers?

Littlefish · 27/01/2009 14:38

Well done with your OU assignment.

It's really interesting what you say about your last school re. "what do I get if I".

As a child, I attended a private school. My parents were very much of the "we expect you to do well and we will be very proud of you when you do" camp. However, most of my classmates were being rewarded in some way for O'level results, or good reports (as much as £100 per O'level, and this was 25 years ago!).

I remember feeling that it was really unfair that they were being rewarded financially and I wasn't. That said, my parents weren't very good at showing me they were proud of me, so I probably got the worst of all worlds .

I trained to be a teacher as a mature student, and found the inner resolve to keep going in the face of some pretty difficult placements, so something about my upbringing must have worked.

ladycornyofsilke · 27/01/2009 14:42

They used a similar policy at the last school I worked in. The children missed golden time if their name was on a cloud. I really didn't like it, as the children who had their names on the cloud were always the ones that could not sit still.
On a course I was on recently the secondary teachers were saying that chn arrive at secondary school expecting rewards etc for working hard, as they have been conditioned to do so by primary teachers. Food for thought anyway.

muppetgirl · 27/01/2009 16:35

...that's exactly what my secondary school teacher friend says!

Is this a reason for the deterioration of behaviour in secondary schools, or one of them anyway. The way we encourage children to behave (or the way we control their behaviour) is artifical and not real life. They arrive at secondary school being asked to be more independent and they are still very much reliant on 'What do I get..?' and the need for validation of their work or achievement by the teacher.

I was told that at the end of a lesson to go through the learning outcomes with the children and get them to think of whether they have achieved what we set out in the 'we are learning...' aims at the begining. The children are then able to know themselves whether thay are achieving rather than finding out after a piece has been marked or feedback given.

Thanks on the OU assignment!

rubytwokids · 27/01/2009 20:32

Thanks for your replies, everyone. This is sooo interesting and I really enjoyed the 'hijacks' so keep them coming too! I am fascinated by how other schools work (used to be a teacher myself).

Littlefish, what is 'positive ignoring'?

Muppetgirl, congrats on the OU results!!!

Interestingly, dd has never been motivated by charts or stickers. We tried them, but they were a huge waste of time with her! We never bothered with ds and he doesn't seem to have suffered.

Ladycornyofsilke, I couldn't agree more: if you can't sit still for 'work' time, you're not going to suddenly do so because you're not allowed to 'play' either, are you? Plus, what a pants system, to make our children earn playtime. Play is what they do! (Or would do, if allowed.) I wish it was more integrated into their learning and not an 'add on' if they've been 'good'. (DD is in Y1, btw.)

Muppetgirl, that sounds very similar to the High/Scope 'plan, do, review' system. They used that at dd's nursery, to great effect.

Right, I'm off to Google High/Scope and Alfie Kohn now!

OP posts:
Littlefish · 27/01/2009 21:00

Positive ignoring is simply teaching the children that if they see behaviour in others e.g. hiding under tables, running out the room, blowing raspberries, swearing etc. then they should continue with their work/listening/discussing etc. Not saying "Mrs x, so-and-so is swearing/jumping/hiding etc. It takes away the element of an audience which is what so much of this behaviour is designed to create.

As a teacher, it means picking your times! If a child runs out of the room, I don't automatically go after them. We have so many children in the class who opt out that if I went after each one of them, I would never be in the classroom. Instead, we check that they are still in the library area outside the door, and then go out to them at the first convenient moment to discuss their behaviour in a calm and supportive manor.

Difficult though it is, a lot of the techniques talked about on this thread mean that as a teacher you have to give up control. I never thought I would teach through children blowing raspberries, hiding under tables, sitting at the back of the room etc. It's taken a while to get used to. It means I rely heavily on my exception TA to manage children's behaviour at times, while I continue teaching the rest of the children.

sarararararah · 27/01/2009 21:14

No problem Ruby - that is the other part of our approach. Making 'work' like play. So we have a play based, active curriculum right through the school, not just in the foundation stage. The foundation stage is the model the rest of our curriculum is based upon. This means that we are not asking children to do things that children just aren't designed to do - e.g. sit for long periods of time etc. This also helps with the management of behaviour.

Interesting that you say stickers don't work with your own dd. Mine is only 9 months old but I hope I never use them. WIll be interesting as she grows up!

Littlefish · 27/01/2009 21:20

We have a creative curriculum built on an EY model too Sararararah! Whereabouts in the country are you? I'm in Worcestershire.

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