Good classroom management is critical for success in any setting. One thing all teachers, both general education and special education teachers want, is for our students to learn to manage their own behavior. Even adults sometimes have problems with that. The new challenge will be for students to learn new or "replacement" behaviors, and then to check and see if they are applying what they have learned.
By creating tools for students to record and evaluate their own behavior, you help them to not only learn but take responsibility for both the behavior you want, or the behavior you want to extinguish. Just asking a child to monitor their own behavior will increase the behavior (replacement) that you want and reduce the behavior you do not want to see.
Steps to Creating a Self-Monitoring Program
In order to create a self-monitoring program, you will want to create a few important tools, as well as follow a number of steps.
Operationalize Behaviors You need to be sure that you describe the behavior you want, not the behavior you don't want, and to also be sure the student you are asking to self monitor is clear about the behavior you want.
Avoid Going Negative This is not actually a step, but worth the attention. Too often we are so angry at a student who creates disruption in our classes that we couch our expectations in terms that are denigrating and negative. You also tend to focus on the bad behavior. Don't write "Don't wander around and disrupt the class," write "Stay in your seat." Don't write "Interrupting the teacher by talking out of turn." Write "Raise your hand and wait your turn." Going negative shines the light on the negative, reminds the child of the negative behavior and shakes a finger in their face (to which they say, "I'll show you!")
Model the Behavior You Want: You can't be too explicit. modeling is essential for teaching, especially with students with learning disabilities. When you meet to discuss your self-monitoring contract, show them what "raising your hand" looks like. Show them what "Sitting quietly with quiet hands and feet" looks like.
Create a Self-Monitoring Contract: Ask your student, his or her parent, and any general education teachers who may want the student to "self-monitor" to participate in planning. You should come with an operational definition, as well as an idea of the limits of the plan. What are the criteria for monitoring? Does the teacher check the self-monitoring during class, or only at the end? How long will the student monitor? A month? A quarter? All year? Finally, outcomes: Consequences for not meeting goals? Rewards for making it? See some models for contracts here.
Create Self-Monitoring Tools: You want your self-monitoring tool to be easy for your student to use, and easy to use with different students.
Double monitor when you launch. For the first couple of days, monitor your student as he or she monitors themselves. Sit down and compare. Is the student being accurate? Does the student understand what your behavior criteria really are?
Gather and Review Data. This might even be a great time to help your student discuss how they think they are doing, while you evaluate the data together. Are there days that are worse than others? Do they feel better about themselves or your class, now that their behavior helps them do better in class?
Set an End Point to Celebrate: When you have met certain criteria (reduce speaking out by 90 percent, increasing homework by 80 percent, whatever) prepare to "close 'er down." You may want to set criteria for re-starting the self-monitoring (a definite "negative reinforcer) if the unwanted behavior appears, say two days in a row.
Pay Up I can't think of anything more rewarding to a teacher than to give that student who has improved his or her behavior the consequence/reward/privilege that comes from improved behavior. So, when you're done with the student, buy that new pair of shoes you've been thinking about, or take your beloved out for a nice dinner and pat yourself on the back!