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Whole Class Self-Monitoring
What is Whole Class Self-Monitoring?|
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
The language of self-monitoring and introspection
can be taught, modeled, and used in everyday whole
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
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
An operant response to the cue - for example, the
cue, a bell, rings and the students hold up their conduct
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
Self-Monitoring System in an Elementary
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.