Thursday, February 25, 2016

Brag Tags

During my first student teaching placement, I developed a Positive Behavior Support system called “Brag Tags” for use with my fourth-grade students. The target behaviors selected for the Brag Tag system were homework completion and appropriate class participation. Initially, my students struggled with turning in homework on time, as well as maintaining on-task behavior during classroom instruction.

I designed three types of tags: academic tags, behavior tags, and a birthday tag. The academic tags promoted homework completion and participation during instruction. The behavior tags reinforced positive behavior throughout the school day. The birthday tag was a formal and fun way of recognizing students on their special day. The tags were printed, cut out, laminated, and hole-punched. When a student earned one, they were provided a tag to put on their necklace. Earned tags would hang on the bulletin board for all to see throughout the day.

With the assistance of my cooperating teacher, we established clear expectations for earning a Brag Tag. We often reviewed classroom expectations with the students. This was necessary for both students and teachers to ensure the students’ behavior was worthy of a tag. Students could not request a tag nor point out behaviors of others that they deem to be worthy of a tag.

At the end of the month, students could take their necklaces and the Brag Tags they earned home to show to their families.

The Brag Tag bulletin board was set up in front of the classroom so students could monitor their progress throughout the day. The board was the first thing they could see when they walked in the classroom. It was big, visual and accessible for students to use. Each student had his or her own classroom number, by which they identified their necklace.

Students could earn a tag at any point during the day, but they could only put tags on their necklaces during transition times (i.e. between classes, before lunch or recess).

By the second week of the system’s implementation, most of my students turned in their homework assignments. Students demonstrated an increase in active engagement and on-task behavior by volunteering in class, completing assignments, and minimizing chatter.  Because it was concrete and visual, it was easy for students and teachers to get a sense of student progress on the targeted behaviors.  This also became a major boost to classroom climate.  I especially liked that even students who were usually withdrawn and never raised their hand began to interact more readily.  In my classroom, the Brag Tags were a huge success!

— Kori McManus, Student Teacher

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Benefits of Play on Whole Child Development

Today, many decisions impacting children focus exclusively on their cognitive development or development from the neck up. However, developmental experts Patricia Weissman and Joanne Hendrick endorse a whole child perspective that pictures the child as being made up of five distinct selves – cognitive, creative, emotional, physical, and social. This developmental domain approach underscores essential elements across multiple environments that children need in order to thrive. One of these essential elements is play, and recent research supports the benefits of play on whole child development.

Interactive exploratory experience, both features of play in unstructured social environments, enhance cognitive understandings. According to Anthony Pellegrini, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, different types of play foster social competence. That includes respect for rules, self discipline, aggression control, problem-solving skills, leadership development, conflict resolution, and playing by the rules.

When provided with frequent opportunities to play, children develop self-determination, self-esteem, and the ability to self regulate – all vital elements of emotional development. Active physical play builds strength, coordination and cardiovascular fitness and moderates childhood obesity and its associated health complications. Children engaging in pretend play exhibit a greater capacity for cognitive flexibility and creativity across the lifespan. 

In Bloomsburg University’s College of Education, we value these play interactions. We are lucky to have on staff Dr. Michael Patte, who has a number of publications which focus on play. Most recently, Dr. Patte and some colleagues published the book International Perspectives on Children's Play with Open University Press. Dr. Patte also recently penned a piece on the decline of unstructured play for the National Toy Industry.

Weissman and Hendrick (2013)
Action for Healthy Kids (2008)
Pellegrini (2009)
Barros et al. (2009)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010)
Russ & Fiorelli (2010)