Many of you are beginning Faith Formation classes. Directors, in September, you emailed hundreds of schedules and letters. You met with sacramental prep parents, your priest, teens, faith formation parents, new families, Catechists, volunteers, and assistants. You meticulously planned a faith formation kick-off and you are ready to go!
Catechists and volunteers, you’ve watched your director work tirelessly and you, too, are excited to meet parish children and families.
At God is Good VBS, we are excited about classroom ideas to get your classes off to a shiny beginning. Today we will introduce Behavior Management Incentives. Our next post will focus on ways to add energy to your classroom, and finally we’ll address Prayer Time. Some of these approaches, you may have already tried. Other thoughts may be new to you. So, without further ado:
Behavior Management Incentives Work
Regardless of the following method you choose, prepare expectations for children to follow, as “clear images of God.” We are all made in His image, but in order to be CLEAR images of God, children need to meet the following classroom expectations:
Love One Another
Raise your Hand to be Called upon to Speak
Hands to yourself
Cotton Ball Jars, Chance Slips and Bingo Charts are three fun ways to encourage children to follow the previous expectations and for them to strive to be clear images of God (behave during faith formation classes). When children cooperate during class, that leaves room for learning!
Cotton Ball Jars: An empty jar, a bag of cotton balls and your classroom expectations are great reminders about good behavior. After discussing your expectations for the school year, explain to the children that, often, when you witness them loving one another, being prayerful, keeping their hands to themselves, contributing good answers and taking turns speaking, you will place a cotton ball in a clear jar. You are expecting them to strive to be clear images of God so their faiths can be formed; and you have chosen cotton balls as a reminder because they are quiet and soft.
Once your classroom jar is full of cotton balls, which should take at least a quarter or semester of the school year, celebrate with a Sundae party and a game. I like these rewards better than candy or separate prizes because the children worked to be well behaved together so they should be rewarded as a group. Also, parents prefer a sundae or slice of pizza over candy.
Chance Slips: This idea involves you creating and printing several “Chance Slips,” cutting them apart, and saving a clean ice-cream bucket. Chance Slips were introduced to me over two decades ago by my first cooperating teacher, when I student taught in her Catholic school classroom; and I use them in my classrooms and with my own children. My Chance Slips are about an inch wide and three inches long and they boast cute images and a compliment for the children receiving them.
When Mrs. D. caught her first grade students being clear images of God she handed out simple Chance Slips. They read, “Good Listening!” Or, “I saw you doing something kind.” Or, “You are an Image of God!”
Mrs. D. carried these magical slips in her pocket. And once an excited child received a Chance Slip, they printed their name on the slip (after reading the special message) and slipped it into a bucket before they left class that day. Each month, or every two weeks, Mrs. D. drew five or six names from the bucket. Those lucky children’s parents promptly received news about good behavior and all of the Chance Slips their child had earned, while the named children enjoyed a small treat, Saint Card or other small surprise. By handing in the winners’ Chance Slips, she reduced the number of slips in the bucket. This gave the other children a better opportunity to win, and encouraged the winners to try for more slips, again.
Near the end of the school year, Mrs. D. strategically drew a name that had not been read (she rigged it). But, it wasn’t because there were children who didn’t receive Chance Slips. I guarantee that the children in Mrs. D’s classroom earned plenty of those treasured slips. It just happened that one child’s slip continuously got missed in the draws.
Be sure that by the end of the school year, every child gets their name gets drawn at least once. If there is a child who is not receiving chance slips, that’s a signal that you speak with their parents to encourage better behavior.
Bingo Charts: Finally, to use Bingo Charts, print off a blank bingo chart for every child before they come into your classroom. They are easily found on the internet for free. Then, collect MANY small motivational stickers or stamps and prepare them for the first day.
Children will print their names on their Bingo Sheets as you explain your expectations. Throughout the school year, students will strive to be clear images of God to earn a row of stamps and stickers, and then fill out the entire board. Once a child’s board is full, they will hand it into you so you can report good behavior to their parents, earn a small treat or perhaps spend special time alone for 10-15 minutes in a reading corner (many teachers set up a bean bag or soft chair for reading time).
Focusing on Bingo charts during class distracts the children, so keep mental track of students deserving of a few stamps. Then, stamp charts ,with two or three stamps or stickers, at the end of class. Of course, little ones will love shouting, “Bingo,” as they see their final stamp or sticker placed on their Bingo charts.
I have tried these three incentives with my own students and children many times and they work! At a workshop, I once led, I carefully suggested that Catechists try one of these methods. A focused man raised his hand (he was following my “Clear Images of God Expectations”) and asked me if these games were successful. When I enthusiastically chimed in that they definitely were, he responded by telling me not to “suggest” trying them, but to instruct Catechists to use them. And so, I am instructing you . . . use one of these methods! They work.
Before the end of the month, I’ll discuss methods to energize your classroom, that are fun and helpful. Enjoy fruitful, first weeks of faith formation and if you’ve already started classes, it’s not too late to implement these creative behavior management ideas.