Practical tips around positive support of youth, program structures that work, behavior management, and incentives
December 15, 2011 3:02 AM   Subscribe

My wife is the director of an after school program that serves low income minority youth in grades 3 through 12. She is looking for practical tips to share with direct service staff around positive support of youth, program structures that work, behavior management, and incentives. What resources might you recommend (web or print)? What suggestions do you have as to what's successful or ways to assist in training and supporting staff within programming. Thanks.
posted by mathmatters to Education (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We use a program called PBIS- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports at the middle school I work at- it includes all that you asked for above- it basically asks staff to come up with a behavior plan outlining what is unacceptable behavior and how that behavior will be handled and who will handle it, but it also stresses rewarding positive behavior with recognition and rewards. In a school setting it is all about helping a school develop a culture.
posted by momochan at 3:37 AM on December 15, 2011

Free resources and tools for after school professionals recently launched by Dept. Of Ed.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:43 AM on December 15, 2011

I know this might be more hands-on practical than you want, but this is what I do in my urban low-income largely-minority high school for behaviour management.

I use little cards that say "This" on them in different colours. They are each for something different or worth a different amount. They can redeem them for locker/water/bathroom passes, homework vouchers, a seat change, moving up on the highly-visible rewards chart in the room, etc.

Whenever there is a behaviour I want them to be conditioned into, I start this way. I'll use my start of class routine as an example. The objective is that they walk in the room, sit down, and by the time the bell rings, they have their notebook and agenda calendar out, and begin writing the warm-up. This is not a natural behaviour for them, so here's how I achieved it.

First day:
Stand at door before bell and say to each student: "Please sit down and get out your notebook."
When the bell rings: walk around and give each student who has done that a ticket. Announce REALLY loudly this phrase for each student who does it: "Wow! Good job ANTHONY for SITTING IN YOUR SEAT and HAVING YOUR NOTEBOOK OUT!" Then watch as half the class scurries to do the same. Move slowly so most students can earn a ticket. But if this first day only yields a few ticket-earners, that's ok. At the end, just tell students they can all get another chance tomorrow.

Repeat that for a few days, but each day, walk a little faster around the room. For the kids who didn't get a ticket and complain, tell them that they have a new chance tomorrow. If that doesn't appear to motivate them, do a second round of cards for some other insignificant activity like, "Look who's writing QUIETLY right now! GOOD JOB!"

After most students are reliably sitting in their seats (for me it takes about 5 days of class consecutively) and are conditioned to like getting reward tickets, I start varying the reinforcement as well as ramping up the expectations. Here's the next step:

Stand at door: Today, I want to see you starting the warm-up when the bell rings (which assumes that they're sitting with notebook out).
When bell rings: walk around and say, "THANK YOU ANTHONY for FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS! GOOD JOB!" Walk briskly. The goal is to only reward kids who have it done without a reminder. Again, remind them that they can earn one tomorrow.

The next day, do the same. The next day, don't say anything but walk around and reward kids who are doing what you've asked.

When that behaviour is automatic, you can start easing off on reward tickets. They don't need them once they can do what you ask without much trouble. Think about it as raising the bar each time for what behaviour gets a ticket. Now, I only give them for exceptional answers/insights, or when the routine is faltering a little. I also have started switching them over to being more academic than behavioural, because what I'm really trying to reward is them being engaged in learning, rather than just appearing to be engaged.

The purpose behind this is also to stop acknowledging bad behaviour and start seeing good behaviour. If you are constantly telling them what NOT to do, that sets a very different tone than if you're always praising them for the behaviour they should be showing. It also affects my mood. On days where I'm not consistent with this, it shows, and they struggle to stay focused. I make the weather in my classroom. And my messages will become internalised to them, so I need to watch carefully the words that come out of my mouth so I can control the message they hear. I want them to see that 1) they can do this, 2) they should do this, 3) that I believe in them, and 4) if they get stuck, they can get through it and I'm there to help.

It totally works.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:39 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

guster4lovers's great techniques reminded me of Teach Like a Champion, which also focuses on positive reinforcement and has a lot of very specific advice.
posted by kristi at 2:53 PM on December 15, 2011

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