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Effective learning and effective teaching are the outcome of a classroom and school environment which is orderly. Pupil behaviour is as important as target setting or lesson planning and if discipline is an issue in a classroom, the attainment levels of all will be affected – whether they are misbehaving or not.

Many schools however concentrate too heavily on dealing with poor behaviour management without appreciation for the majority of the positive behaviour of the majority. If four names are called out at assembly to stay behind, the remaining 95% of pupils leave quietly without being thanked for their attention and focus. Instead, the misbehaving 5% have time spent solely on them. An IT class quietly work on their internet project and the teacher ignores this adherence to the task in hand whilst telling off the one pupil who insists that they are not on Facebook. If a school is purely focused on improvement of the behaviour of the minority, they are in fact failing the majority.

However, pupils may not want rewards in the form of financial vouchers for High street stores or to be publically announced onto a stage during assembly or to be asked to attend prize-giving day as they may not attach good behaviour to financial assets and may feel ill at ease among their peers if singled out.

An excellent way to support good behaviour is with a no-fuss but multi-layered and privately awarded reward – the positive note.

Positive notes

A quick, simple and effective way to support good behaviour is the use of positive notes. These are notes written by teachers and in just one gesture, four levels of reward and support are instantly given.

  • Initial presentation
  • Appreciation by parents
  • Visitors
  • Future life

The first reward is simply when the handwritten note is placed in an envelope and handed over in privacy with an explanation. For those who feel embarrassed at the thought of being verbally praised, the slipping of it into their workbook by the teacher will mean they will have the surprise and enjoyment of finding it.

The second level of reward comes when the pupil hands the note to their family. This results in parental appreciation and then a reward with personal meaning; extra pocket money, a trip to the cinema with friends perhaps.

The family will want to show the note to others and it will quickly be affixed to the fridge with a magnet or pinned to a noticeboard. Visitors will see it prominently displayed and congratulate the child – the third level of reward.

At some point, the positive note is removed from the fridge or noticeboard and is carefully filed away in the box or folder everyone has which keeps qualification certificates, special memories and similar items. The positive note can then be kept for using to showing employers at that all important job interview or when looking to secure a place at college. It adds to the personally stored record of achievement archived over the school years.  This is the fourth and final layer of reward and shows that it is one which can last for years. It has value, it is appreciated, and it has lasting power.

The interesting point to take away from this idea though is that very few teachers ever hand out positive notes – less than 1 in 10 awards even one per month, yet we all know that the majority of pupils are good timekeepers, they arrive wearing the correct uniform and hand in their homework on time.

A school should hold dear and show appreciation to the 95% who set the model of values. This way, the 5% will eventually be influenced and will start to behave in the same way when they can see the method of reward.