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Whole Class Self-Monitoring
 Fred Roemer
What is Whole Class Self-Monitoring?

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  • Whole class self-monitoring is an adaptation of individual self-monitoring techniques developed to increase self-control in at-risk students. At its simplest, self-monitoring involves a subject keeping a frequency tally of his or her own targeted behavior. The technique was originally used as a data-gathering or assessment method, especially useful for times when a clinician could not be present to observe the behavior of the client. The clinicians taught their clients to observe and record their own behavior. It soon became apparent, however, that the very act of systematically observing one's one behavior had reactive effects - it changed the observed behavior for the better.

    Whole class self-monitoring takes advantage of this reactive effect with the entire population of a classroom. Instead of targeting a few at-risk students, the whole class participates. Whole class self-monitoring employs most of the methods developed for individual self-monitoring - frequent, evenly spaced behavior checks; an operant response to a signal; and an emphasis on honest self-reporting.


    Why Whole Class Self-Monitoring?

  • It helps prevent the problem of targeted at-risk students (who are ideal candidates for self-monitoring techniques) perceiving themselves as different.
  • Even "model" students benefit from learning self-control and constructive introspection.
  • Students more adept at the language and conventions of introspection serve as positive role models for at-risk students.
  • The language of self-monitoring and introspection can be taught, modeled, and used in everyday whole class situations.
  • The bonding in the classroom that results from the discussions and modeled behavior benefits all students, and it especially benefits at-risk students.
  • The classroom structure that develops from the self-monitoring routine benefits all students, especially at-risk students.

    A Model for a Whole Class Self-Monitoring System: Any self-monitoring system - whether individual or entire population - should include:

  • Regular, evenly spaced "behavior checks" during which the students focus on their behavior.
  • An individual tracking sheet for recording behavior observations. I call these sheets conduct cards. Click to see a picture of a conduct card
  • An audible or visual cue to signify the behavior check.
  • An operant response to the cue - for example, the cue, a bell, rings and the students hold up their conduct sheets.
  • A plan for withdrawal from the system.

    In addition, whole class self-monitoring should include a short discussion period in which students have an opportunity to focus on and discuss in objective terms the behavior of themselves and their classmates. The discussion - especially as you are introducing the system the to a class - should concentrate on honest self-reporting and not be overly judgmental of behavior, both positive and negative.

    Self-Monitoring System in an Elementary Classroom:

    I have used self-monitoring in first, third, fourth,and fifth grade classes. We could probably adapt it to any grade. The 96/97 school year, was the last year of "looping" with a class which I had taught for three years, from third to fifth grade. I found that using self-monitoring was no longer necessary. The past school year (97/98), however, I had all new students. There were behaviors during the first month of school, but as I updated this in November, 1997, children are responding very well to self-monitoring.

  • Adjust class schedule: This is perhaps the most intrusive aspect of whole class self-monitoring and the most important. Structure is beneficial, especially for at-risk students, The students should know what activities occur preceding each behavior check and a tight class structure accommodates this. Later, as the students become familiar with the system, you can relax classroom structure. Figure out the length of time between behavior checks and adjust your class schedule as much as possible so that behavior checks occur during transition periods. I begin with 30 minute intervals between checks.

  • cards up!Decide on Cue: A timer with an audible ring is ideal. I use an alarm on a computer set at 30 minute intervals. It plays a sound clip from the movie, "The Wizard of Oz." A kitchen timer also works well, and you can set it manually if your routine changes during the day.
  • Design the Tracking Sheet: The tracking sheet should reflect the class schedule and should be easy for the students to use. I use picture clues for each time slot (see the sample) and a choice of a happy, straight or sad side to describe behavior. I do not require that my students have their sheets signed. On the tracking sheet I use there is a slot for my opinion of each child's total behavior for the day so that students can compare their self-reporting with my judgment.
  • Choose Operant Response: The students in my class raise their conduct card over their heads when they hear the cue.
  • Begin the Program: (See Language of Self Monitoring) The first behavior check can be the first activity of the morning. Continue with behavior checks throughout the day. The language and thinking of self-monitoring and reporting will most likely need to be modeled heavily at first. Parents should be notified.
  • Plan for Extinction: Whole class self-monitoring should not become a permanent conduct system. Once the students become used to honestly examining their behavior, the system becomes unnecessary. Either plan for using self monitoring for a set length of time, or plan for gradually exempt appropriate students from conduct sheet and behavior sheets until the whole class no longer needs them. What will most likely happen is that the students in your class who most need a self-monitoring system (the at-risk kids) will continue to use the self-monitoring system long after the rest of the class has dropped it. Language of Self-Monitoring

    Many students are unfamiliar with the language and concepts of self monitoring and introspection. Teaching and modeling of the language is a very important component of the whole class self-monitoring system. The teaching emphasis should be on talking accurately and specifically about one's own behavior and talking appropriately and specifically about the behavior of others. The focus is on honesty and becoming responsible for one's own behavior.

    Praise accurate self-reporting, not behavior, during behavior checks. "Were you honest about your behavior?" When a student accurately and specifically reports and marks his or her behavior, I talk about the need for the students to become responsible for their own behavior - I don't want to be your baby sitter. I want to be your teacher. When students show some responsibility, I compliment them for growing up. When praising for appropriate behavior, I often reward a students specific statement about their behavior with "Ray is showing responsibility for his behavior." or "Kendra is monitoring her own behavior."

    I introduce the concept of conscience and the ability to heed it as "hearing your little voice" and "being able to listen to your little voice." I give examples of the little voice, such as when a student is alone in the kitchen with a full cookie jar with an opportunity to eat some cookies without getting caught: You know you won't get caught. But still, there is a voice inside your head telling you it's wrong to take a cookie. You know you're growing up when you begin to hear the little voice. You know you're being responsible when you begin to listen to the little voice. Many children can relate little voice and conscience to Jiminy Cricket, who was the little voice for Pinocchio in the Walt Disney film version.

    Hints and Tips

  • Avoid any other conduct systems while you're using whole class self-monitoring. The emphasis is on internal, not external, control.
  • Avoid wholesale stickers and treats when using the self-monitoring system. Intrinsic rewards are what you're after. Praise is the big reward in my class; except for special occasions, the only extrinsic positive consequence is an increase in free time.
  • Rules and consequences should be maintained. Many students can award themselves appropriate consequences on their own once they become used to and adept at self-monitoring.
  • Praise honest self-reporting. At first, de-emphasizing judgment about reported behavior is important, so that the students are not afraid to be honest about their behavior. If a child reports that she or he ran in the halls on a trip to the bathroom, you might say, "Good for you, Nicole, you were honest about your behavior. What should you have been doing?" Even severe behavior gets praise if reported honestly without prompting, "Way to go, Chris, you were honest about your behavior. Now please go to time out." (I use a silent signal for time out; the students set their own time. I instruct students that time out is thinking time and that they may return to the class when they feel able to monitor their own behavior again.)
  • Never change the mark a student has given him/herself. Prompt, instead, for honesty. An important part of whole class self-monitoring in my classroom is input from other students. I might ask another student to give opinion about the behavior of another student, or into the honesty of the students report.
  • Teach appropriate group interaction. Teach students how to give honest, appropriate and polite opinions about each others' self-reports. Teach how to give specific compliments for honesty and appropriate behavior.
  • Gradually let the students take over. At first, I had to mediate all behavior check discussions. Now the students discuss each other's behavior and honesty among their table groups at each check. I circulate to give praise for any honest reports and for specific, appropriate criticism and compliments.
  • Tattle only at behavior checks. (Unless, of course, a student physically harms or threatens.) Before a student can tattle on another student, she or he must give two compliments about that student.
  • Teacher-talk should be at least 3:1 positive to negative throughout the day. This sets the tone for positive talk at behavior checks, and really helps keep the students thinking positively about their behavior. Positive statements should be as specific as possible. Negative statements should be as nonjudgemental and free from emotion as possible. How do you know if you are maintaining a 3:1 ratio? Have someone keep a tally of your statements for a half-hour or so. Some teachers wear a counter on their risk to keep track of their statements. A 3:1 ratio may sound easy, but it really takes some practice for most of us to achieve that ratio. Try going an hour with no negative statements. In addition, the 3:1 ratio should apply to every student in your class. Maintaining 3:1 positive with little Amber is easy, but you may have to work on your statements toward Shawn.
  • Gradually increase the time between behavior checks. This is part of extinction. I usually increase the interval from a half hour to an hour after a few months. At the hourly behavior checks, the students discuss and give themselves marks for behavior in the two preceding time slots. When I first increase the time, we spend a week having a short "behavior thinking time" at the cue to the half-hour slots when the card is not used.
  • Do not increase the time between cues. I keep my timer cue going off at half-hour intervals even when nobody in the class is using a conduct sheet. It often triggers the operant response and signals the class to monitor their behavior.
  • Make a big deal of extinction. I call it "graduation" from the conduct card and give out a special certificate when a student has graduated. With primary grades I have also arranged to have graduations announced to the whole school during the morning announcements. My class knows the criteria for graduation - it is specific and we review it regularly.
  • Apply self-monitoring to work habits and learning. Becoming responsible for one's own learning and work is a big part of the criteria for graduation from the conduct sheet in my classroom.
  • Let parents know what is going on. I have had a very positive response from parents about whole class self-monitoring. In a recent parent survey, many of my responding parents mentioned in the comments section that their children were more aware of and honest about their behavior. One parent in my classroom even used a modified version of the system at home.
  • Give it time. Inappropriate behavior may increase substantially when the system is initiated. Testing its limits is natural for the students. Be consistent, keep praising honesty and in two or three weeks, you should be seeing some pleasant results.
  • It works. Frequent behavior checks seem like a big interruption to the instructional day, and at first they are. However, I found that I had a noticeable increase in teaching time once the system became established. On-task time increased greatly, especially among targeted students. Classroom Interruptions, especially for tattling, decreased. Students need time to adapt to a whole class self-monitoring system and so does a teacher. It takes a good deal of energy and "with-it-ness" to adapt to the behavior checks and to ease initial class discussions. Nevertheless, in my experience, the rewards you receive later - a relaxed, functioning classroom and mature, responsible students - make the extra effort more than worth it.

  • questions? click here to e-mail mr. roemer
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