Elementary Schools Finding Creative Ways to Encourage Positive Behavior | News
Bibb County elementary schools not only provide a curriculum-based education, but also set the foundation for life skills such as conduct. Throughout the District, faculty and staff have found unique ways to continue encouraging good student behavior with positive reinforcement, such as class parties and activities.
Heritage Elementary established a club program that is available to all of the school's third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. The club program gives upper grade students the opportunity to participate in an activity of their choosing every other Friday for 45 minutes. Heritage has a total of 16 clubs that students can choose from. The clubs the students can choose from include art, flag football, cooking, jewelry making, cheerleading, karaoke and a Wii club. The students must maintain their good behavior by getting no more than two points during a two-week period to attend clubs.
“We were spending so much time focused on the small percentage of our children that are disruptive. It began to seem like the students who were making the right choices and doing what was expected were not getting the recognition they deserve," said Heritage Principal Jennifer Askew. "We honor behavior awards during Honors Day, but in my opinion they needed something for just doing what they are suppose to do.”
Ronny Fuerniss is a special education second and fourth grade teacher, but on alternating Friday afternoons he is a football coach.
“I was worried because how can you tell a student to behave on a Monday if the reward is two weeks away, but it works because they love being able to be on the team for those two weeks. It not only gives the students something to work for, but they bask in the aura with their friends of ‘I am on the football team.’ It makes being good cool,” he said. “That is something everyone struggles with in that age group.”
“The students I have seen the most change in are those who are used to getting negative attention,” said fourth grade teacher and art club sponsor Fran Daniel. “When you reward them with something positive it is as if their whole world changes.”
Heritage has about 800 students schoolwide and 345 between the third, fourth and fifth grade club-goers. Mrs. Askew said a weakness at Heritage is the faculty not knowing all of the students.
“The size of the school is a very transient population. There are students we all know and there are some we don’t know,” she said. “When we can get them in these clubs, teachers get to know children they would not normally be working with.”
Heritage staff would like to connect their club program with the community in the future. They are hoping to receive funds from community sponsors as well as host public guests. The school's faculty and staff hope to find individuals who specialize in areas relating to their clubs to talk to the students, such as a football player or artist from the local museum.
Heritage is not the only example of where positive behavior is being rewarded in the District. Lane Elementary hosts a monthly party for students who make positive choices for the majority of the month. The 30-minute behavior celebration is for all grade levels.
Lane formed a committee to design the positive behavior parties. The committee’s goal is to motivate the students to continue making positive choices. Parties they have conducted in the past include a bouncy house party, an art party, a Zumba party, and a Mardi Gras celebration where students made masks and necklaces. Lane also invites guests to celebrate with the students such as Mike the Magician, a Taekwondo instructor, and a DJ.
The faculty and staff use the monthly parties as an outlet to not only reward their students but to institute hands-on activities the students do not always get an opportunity to do in the classroom, such as art and exercise.
“We try to emphasize a healthy living. We want to show them that exercise and fitness can be fun," said second grade teacher Donna Hutchins, who is also a member of the committee.
Nicole Harrell, fifth grade teacher and committee member, said the entire faculty comes together to make this possible for the students.
“It’s all hands on deck,” she said.
Last year, Lane received a grant from Publix. The faculty and staff have used the grant to provide snacks at the parties for all of the students. They hope to receive more funding in the future.
Riley Elementary School has undergone Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) training and this is their first year on the PBIS system. At Riley, individual classrooms implement their own positive behavior rewards. Grade levels also gather together for behavioral celebrations. For instance, fourth grade has Fun Friday where the students have the opportunity to play kickball, board games and other various games with members of their grade level.
As a group, the teachers choose a Student of the Month, who then gets to have lunch from outside the cafeteria with Principal Kent Sparks. Students who receive the Student of the Month honor also receive a trophy at the end of the school year.
Stacey Moxley uses bucket systems in her second grade classroom. She has buckets for each individual student that determines what student is rewarded Student of the Month by who has the most coins in their bucket. Students also receive an opportunity to draw from the reward bucket if they have 10 or more coins at the end of the month. The reward bucket offers coupons to use the teacher’s chair, a no-homework pass and other treats.
She also has a class bucket, which is filled when other teachers or substitutes pay compliments to the entire class and for exceptional class hallway and classroom behavior. When all of the rocks from the start bucket are placed into the classroom bucket, Mrs. Moxley’s class has earned a game day. On this day, after the class’s morning regiments the students get to spend the rest of the day eating snacks and playing games.
“I really hope to see the continuation of the PBIS plan. I would love to see more whole school rewards and more incentives so the students understand what happens if they are good. It means there is more time in the classroom, which leads to more learning and higher scores,” Mrs. Moxley said. "It is better for them because they are not in the office. They are where they should be and learning what they need to learn to grow up to be productive people.”
- Emily Brunner