Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Disception: An Excellent Teaching Tool

To encourage good behavior in my kindergartners, I use sticker charts with both classes. Good behavior gets one sticker added to a child's row on the chart, okay behavior gets one sticker, and bad behavior gets no sticker. If a kid is really terrible, I'll even remove stickers, although this has only happened twice. Usually the kids are good enough to earn two stickers.

Last week, I ran out of the little stickers that I use for the sticker charts. The only stickers I had were the larger ones I occasionally give to my older classes for good work in their books (I have one class that is absolutely nuts for stickers). I decided to attempt a little deception with the older kindies to see if I could get extra good behavior out of them. So, I announced to them on Monday that if they were "extra, extra good and very quiet," I would give them big stickers instead of the little ones. My ploy worked. I had seven little angels that day!

I tried it the next day with the same result. On Wednesday, I decided to add in some bribery, since the kids were having a hard time settling down. I've learned in teaching that rewards are much more effective than punishments, so I told the class that if they earned big stickers for that day and the next, I would bring them candy on Monday. Bingo! Seven little children closed their mouths, folded their hands, and sat silently in their little yellow chairs. You could almost see their halos gleaming in the light. Those kids would face a den of lions if there was candy at the end of it! And of course, they had no idea that the only stickers I had were the big ones!

I forgot the candy on Monday, so I brought it on Tuesday - just one little piece per child, not enough to turn them into crazy demons of destruction. The kids were so delighted with me for giving them candy that when I went around asking each child how they were feeling that day (it's how I like to start class), I got the exact same response from each kid:

"I am VERY S-tep-anie happy today!"

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"