Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 2010: Stephanie Avalos, Nicole Eugenio & Letty Cejo Found an Innovative Way to Motivate Students to Behave and Become Engaged in After School Activities


January 2010 America Learns Strategy of the Month   




  • You’re tutoring a bunch of 6th, 7th and 8th graders afterschool
  • One of the students misbehaves all of the time
  • You and your fellow tutors all have walkie talkies

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Lead the misbehaving student to behave and to become far more engaged in the scheduled after-school activities (academic enrichment, sports, homework help, and more).  Your solution must have short- and long-term impacts on the student’s behavior.

As you think of your solution, check out the video and strategy below from three PUC Schools extended day tutors who hurdled the challenge with flying colors.  You’ll learn how Stephanie Avalos, Nicole Eugenio, and Letty Cejo used walkie talkies to motivate one of their students to behave better over the long run while engaging that student deeper in extended day activities.

The Strategy

Walkie Talkie Cooperation

Created by: Stephanie Avalos, Nicole Eugenio, Letty Cejo, PUC Schools
(America Learns Network member since 2009)
Topics: Behavior
Engagement & Motivation
Grade Levels Used With: Sixth - Eighth
Arrangements: Small Group; Large Group
Materials: - Walkie talkies for each tutor
- Cards or certificates to award students
(sample certificate; sample card 1; sample card 2)

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Situation: One of our students was disruptive and mischievous every single day. Our normal disciplinary actions (e.g., verbal warnings, office referrals, one-on-one intervention) were ineffective.
Step 1:
Offering Specific, Positive Feedback

Watch for and offer specific praise for any signs of good behavior, and praise your student for that good behavior as soon as you see it happen.
Offer specific praise for good behavior, such as "Thanks for sitting quietly!" or “You did a great job of listening to me while I explained the instructions to the game. Your good listening helped everything run really well. Thank you.”

It’s so important to be specific so that students really learn the reasons they’re being recognized. By being specific, you’re also letting them know exactly what’s expected of them and exactly how to receive more feel-good praise. They don’t just hear “good job” and then wonder exactly what the good job was for.

Use Awards and Certificates
For especially great accomplishments, acknowledge the student with “Caught Being Good" or "Great Job!" certificates that recognize their good behavior (again, be specific). Download some sample certificates and cards here (sample certificate; sample card 1;sample card 2).

(A note from America Learns on the importance of offering specific, positive feedback: After being consistently reprimanded, some children become increasingly discouraged. They begin to believe that they are the “bad kid” who can’t do anything right. Why try when everything you do seems to be wrong?)

Step 2:
Using the Walkie Talkies

The steps above weren’t perfectly effective with the student at issue, though they served as an important foundation for the next step: praise over the walkie talkies.

If your staff uses walkie talkies, at the end of the day when the student is next to another tutor with a walkie, have another staff member talk about how well that student behaved today (again, use specifics so that the student knows the exact reason he’s being talked about and celebrated). Be sure the student can hear your conversation.

Our student became so excited because everybody heard over the walkies how awesome he was. Since we began this practice with the student at issue, his behavior has changed dramatically. He’ll sometimes ask us, “Am I being good today? Are you going to talk about it over the walkie?” He loves seeing the impact that his behavior makes on all of the tutors.

This process is all about building the relationship with the student and building his self esteem by allowing him to see you acknowledging his good behavior, and to observe how that good behavior is making an impact on other people around him. The student feels important. He feels affirmed and seen. He learns that his presence makes a difference, and that when he participates and behaves appropriately, his presence is worth talking about.

Step 3:
Connecting with Parents
If possible, share the student’s good behavior with a parent or guardian while the student is around so that the parent becomes aware of their child’s good behavior and so that the student can again hear how his good behavior made a difference today.
Additional Resources:

If you’re an America Learns Network member, here are some additional, relevant strategies for you:

Where Do These Strategies Come From?

The America Learns Performance Measurement and Learning Network

All of the strategies we celebrate here have been contributed by tutors, mentors, coaches or new teachers who are using the America Learns Performance Measurement & Learning Network.   The educators and mentors we serve use the Network to report their progress, reflect on their recent sessions, plan for their upcoming sessions, participate in an incredible learning community of individuals from within their organizations and around the world, and receive weekly, personalized coaching and support to ensure that they are accomplishing their goals and the goals of the students or mentees they’re serving.

All of that happens while making sure that supervisors are getting the information they need to support their educators or mentors in the field and to minimize the time spent on tracking, monitoring, reporting and grant writing.