July 26, 2018

Flip Problems to Positives

Do you spend more time correcting or celebrating students' behaviors? Check out our tips on how to switch from reprimand to reinforcement
LiveSchool 101: Happy Teachers, Engaged Students, and Better Data

It’s all too easy to spend more time correcting negative behaviors than rewarding positive ones. If a student routinely leaves a flurry of papers in her wake, chances are she will be chastised for making a mess. Meanwhile, the student who walks over to clean up someone else’s desk is rarely acknowledged for his efforts.

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But classroom behavior management doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on negative behaviors. In fact, it should be the opposite. There are ways to flip those negative actions into positive ones. The trick is to set meaningful, positive behavior expectations before the problems start.

There are a few ways your school might go about that task. An administrator could take their best guess at creating a list of positive behavior expectations, given what they know about the student body and school values. Better yet, a committee might come up with expectations together.

But both of these methods are imperfect, since they rely on a limited number of perspectives. Instead, we recommend coming up with your school-wide behavior expectations using stakeholder feedback. This tactic will ensure all stakeholders will likely be invested in the final behavior rubric, since they were given a chance to bring up the problems they’re already facing. Everyone appreciates an opportunity to not only vent, but also be a part of the solution!

There are three basic steps to flip your behavior problems to positives:

  1. If you haven’t already done so, gather feedback on common negative behaviors from your stakeholders. You can read our tips for getting that feedback here.
  2. Now, choose the common negative behaviors identified by your stakeholders. Combine similar behaviors, like “calling out” and “disrupting class” into umbrella terms that include all the examples provided by your team.
  3. Now flip those behaviors! For instance, you might flip shouting out answers during classengaging in class discussion. Flip bullyingencouraging classmates. Flip not cleaning up → making spaces better.
An illustration with a student in class shouting out an answer, then an alternate example of the teacher saying "thanks for raising your hands!"
An illustration showing a student giving a presentation in class and other students talking. The illustration then shows the opposite, with students clapping as the other student is presenting
An illustration showing students leaving the cafeteria messy and a cafeteria worker upset, and another illustration showing the opposite: a clean table with the cafeteria worker saying "thank you, students!"

This is effective for a few important reasons. For one, it helps educators avoid the common conundrum of spending more time on disruptive students than their well-behaved peers. Many of the students who shout out jokes during a poetry reading are looking for attention – and often they get it, which exacerbates the problem.

Instead, a positive behavior rubric encourages educators and administrators to recognize students who do the right thing. By setting a positive example and spending less time focusing on disruptions, this system will eventually block those negative behaviors in the first place. Students no longer get attention by acting out in class, but they will if they quietly help their neighbor prepare for their presentation.

LiveSchool makes the flip from problems to positives even smoother. With the LiveSchool app, teachers can recognize positive behavior in an instant, and even reflect on their ratio of positive reinforcement to behavior correction. The point system is easy to use, and allows instructors to provide comments and feedback that will be immediately visible to parents.

By implementing a system that focuses on positive behaviors, your school can initiate an overall shift toward behavior reinforcement, and away from punishments and reprimands. There will still be cases that need more intensive behavior supports, but teachers will find that they spend less time managing difficult behavior issues, and more time recognizing all the positive things their students have been doing all along!

Let us know which problems you flipped into positives by tweeting us @whyliveschool, or sharing your experience on our Facebook page, @liveschool!

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Let's chat about how LiveSchool supports your positive school culture.

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