My new incentive system has worked well in one class and not so well in the other. I wish that I'd kept some data of the "before" and "after" (because I don't have enough data to deal with already) because this data would actually mean something to me. I do know that at least three kids who got fifty-fives in the first marking period now have averages of 75 to 80 because they have been doing all of their homework and classwork. I have fewer kids coming late; there are only a couple of holdouts. And I haven't had to give out a pen or pencil; that situation was really making me want to tear my hair out from frustration.
I am not a fan of teaching after lunch. Usually, it would take me ten minutes to get the kids quiet, at least. Then they would be so hyped up that it was hard to get anything done. Now, it's like walking into a different room. Most of the kids have books out and are reading and it's actually quiet. I began throwing bonus points at the groups who did this on their own because they took it upon themselves to make sure that they all had books and began to read as soon as the previous teacher left. And the behavior is also significantly better. Usually the noise would be coming from all over the place, making it hard to pin down which kids were actually talking. Now, I have entire groups that are completely silent while other groups are noisy, so those noisy groups don't get their conduct point. It's been interesting to see which kids have thrived and which kids haven't done as well as I'd hoped. Some of the kids are really stepping up, leading, organizing, supporting the others, and that's really gratifying to see, that they are getting something out of this that might actually be useful in the real world.
It's not perfect, but it's made a huge difference. In the other class, where the idea was less-than-successful, the math teacher and I had grouped the kids by ability. There are about six kids who are really strong academically and they are well-behaved, so they were sitting together. There is one group of kids who are seriously behind, and we wanted them together to facilitate differentiation. But when I tried to move to the new system, only the strongest group did well; the others were a mess. I think they'd been better behaved before. The math teacher gave them new seats, which are slightly better. I'm doing the reward (a field trip to see The Tale of Despereaux and lunch) with those kids on an individual basis. This allows me to exclude the girl who made a point to say loudly, "Mr. Science is the only cool teacher." Because she knew that I am now emotionally mortally wounded over not being the cool teacher. Tomorrow during lunch, I am going to hurl myself dramatically off the roof for all to see. If I survive, then next month I am going to make another attempt with that class to implement my system.
Of course, it's not perfect. Interestingly, I noticed that the two groups who so far have the most points are single-gender. One group is all girls and the other group is all boys. There are two mixed-gender groups who have both had multiple meetings with me (at their request) and at the heart of the problem in both was boy-girl conflict. So I'm thinking about doing something I've never done before: grouping by gender. I am going to keep the successful groups intact but make some changes to the others.
Overall, I do feel really good about the results. It's helped me stay more on top of grading, because the kids are very eager to know how many points they got. As soon as I have a prep, I check all the classwork and homework and it's not hanging over my head. And a couple of kids in particular have really amazed me. I think that they really don't want the other members of their groups to be upset with them, and that's motivating them to do for themselves, knowing that they are helping the others.
If only I could stay in my much-improved bubble all the time...