With the start of the new calendar year, I have a tradition of reviewing my journal. I take the time to remember the people, events and ideas that shaped the previous year. I review my habit-tracking system and look for victories to celebrate and opportunities for improvement. This year I identified three behaviors I need to turn into habits. It’s not that I don’t do these things; they need to become habits.
There are three phases to building a habit: a cue for the desired behavior, the response to the cue (the behavior) and a reward for the behavior. I have learned what motivates me to stick to a habit: rewards. I use brightly colored stickers (ROYGBV) on a calendar to represent success on three important habits. And when I meet my goal for all three habits, I add a giant smiley face sticker. The process of placing the stickers is a ceremony. I celebrate reaching my goal, reflect on why it matters that I met my goal and identify what I did to reach it. The stickers are silly, the process is not. Here’s a link to Charles’s Duhigg’s website How Habits Work.
Here are the behaviors that I am focusing on in my classroom:
- Daily exit tickets with teacher follow-up. I tend to make exit tickets into a bigger chore than they need to be or I lose track of time and forget to do them or I forget to do something with them to impact learning. I need to use quick and dirty prompts on pre-cut quarter sheets of paper. (I tried Google Forms, but I’m too analog.) Cue: Enlist a student to watch the clock for exit ticket time. Fist bump the student to reward them for providing the cue. Quickly sort responses into three stacks to identify students that got it, need more practice or need a reteach. Start class the next day with three groups of students and a plan for each group. This is “Tier One” differentiation at work. Reward: A sticker in my plan book. Big Reward: when students improve on subsequent formative assessments.
- Number Talks in math every day, period, no excuses. Cue: plan the number talks in my plan book in a cool color of ink and box it in with a complementary color. Reward: a big check mark through the box. Big Reward: when students engage in student-to-student discourse about mathematical ideas.
- Article of the Week a la Dave Stuart Jr. or Graph of the Week. Every class. Every week. This is a more challenging habit to build. It’s weekly. I have to identify the article/graph in advance. I have to fight the urge to turn this learning activity into a bigger deal than it needs to be. I have to work through the days when the process falls flat. Cue: Post the activity on the weekly calendar on the board. Reward: a star-shaped magnet to put on the board with great pomp and ceremony. Big reward: when students engage each other in argument from evidence.
In the comments section, I’ll keep you posted on my celebrations and opportunities to improve. I invite you to be my accountability buddies. Thanks!
Married to Larry, an old Coast Guard salt and amazing man.I get to share Larry with our yellow lab, Sherman.
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