Thursday, July 3, 2014

Getting Rid of the Clip Chart

{Be warned, this a long post but please bare with me and read to the end. I would appreciate some feedback and food for thought.}
When I first started teaching, my room had the typical red light, green light system. I was not excited about using it at all. However, I got my job right before school started, it was in my room already and lets just be honest I didn't have time to think of something else. So there it was. It stayed there all year. I never liked it. The only reason a child would go to it would be to clip a negative area with a consequence.  I never felt like it solved any problems. I did not like it.

So like any crazy teacher would, I got on Pinterest! :) And low and behold, everywhere I looked I saw the clip chart. A student could move up or down! I loved the idea of having rewards for those kiddos that are always doing right. I had a super cute one. Bright colors, fun clip art and all! You are all probably familiar with a clip chart similar to this that you have seen all over Pinterest...

Image from Pinterest
So, I started that year...and it only took a few months for me to decide something wasn't working. Parents were constantly asking what color their lovely was on. The emphasis was way too much on the color and not what did you learn today. Kids were broken down when they were constantly on a negative color. {no matter how hard I would try to keep them off of it...but to be consistent for the other kids...}

So, the next year (last year) I got rid of sending home daily reports. I loved it. Behavior was handled in the classroom. Kids could make mistakes and we wo
uld move on. (Major problems or repetitive problems, parents were made aware) But, that darn clip chart was still there. The same kids moved up and the same kids moved down. No matter how much I tried to change it.  And let me tell ya...the kids knew where each child was on that chart. Anyone that walked in the room knew. Everyone knew. Talk about a Public Walk of Shame.
Just imagine sitting in that faculty meeting with the super cute clip chart with every one's name hanging from the cutest ribbon  in the front and center of the room. People are being called to pull their clip up for participating and collaborating. Way to Go! But then, your name is called. You hear your principal saying "this is not the time to be Pinteresting, pull your clip down." All eyes on you as you walk to the front to clip down. You walk away defeated, ashamed and just want to go home...

 A changing moment for me was when a sweet little girl said she could no longer play with a certain friend because this friend was always on a bad color. So what was the topic of conversation at home? Obviously not learning. Where was the emphasis put? Something had to change.

Then I read an article that screamed AH-HA to me. I am not crazy. Others feel this way. And I promise you, even if you don't agree with me, this article is great food for thought.

Click HERE to Read It!

So my brain has been turning and I have been doing some research (pinterest and google count right?!). Then I started thinking when I was in school what was the behavior system?  There was no daily behavior report, rewards or bribing. However, I don't remember us acting like zoo animals every day. Something must have kept order. Of course, it was the teacher!

 If we got a treat it was because my teacher wanted to give us a treat...everyone got a treat and just because. They were many days, I talked way too much (hard to believe right?!), didn't listen or follow directions but did I have to do a public walk of shame? NO! And if I did, I honestly think my experience in school would have been different. I never left feeling like my teacher just doesn't think I do anything right, why am I even trying? How do you think those kids feel every day when they are always on a warning or something negative. What about those kids that can't seem to make it past 8 in the morning without messing up? So why am I doing that now? Is it really working?

I know you are probably thinking...When I was growing up my parents expected me to do what the teacher said. The teacher is always right. Parents don't respect teachers in front of their kids anymore. Parents don't care if their kids act up so they do act up. I need something.

 How do you think parents feel if every day they see their child's behavior report and it's yellow or not above green. They just may start thinking, well that teacher just doesn't like my kid. News Flash! Parents know their kid is not perfect. They might talk out of turn, get out of their seat when they are not supposed to, forget to raise their hand but is it necessary to constantly make it seem like a major issue?  So, when you call home about something major, they brush you off. I don't think anyone intentionally does this but I can see how it would elevate to this level. {side note: Yes, I believe parents should be involved in major behavior challenges, repetitive challenges and sometimes you may need to do an individual private behavior goal with a student)

I am going to be the first to admit, I do not have the answers. I just know I do not want the PUBLIC Walk of Shame in my classroom. I am willing to try something new. So, back to Pinterest and searching...

I started looking at youtube and checking out some videos of Whole Brain Teaching. WOW. I was floored. (I actually found it on a board I pinned ages ago...)

Now, we all know our kiddos love to talk and move. This gives them lots of opportunity and have some fun! The scoreboard is a neat idea. It is either a 1 second party or a Mighty Groan. If you have some students off track call the rule number..the whole class repeats the rule...the behavior instantly stops to repeat with class and not one single student is singled out.

I am still looking into WBT and have ordered the book to read some more information on it. I know that I am not a complete fan of the exact rules {Keep your teacher happy just rubs me wrong but  many people like each their own. :)) so I switched mine up a bit.

Rule 1: Listen when someone is talking. I purposefully did not make it say teacher. I want my students to know they are expected to listen no matter who is talking, even their partner. Working on good conversation skills. {motion- cup hand over ear}
Rule 2: Follow directions quickly. {motion-make your hand like it is a fish swimming fast}
Rule 3: Raise your hand to speak. {motion-raise hand to high and making the talking motion}
Rule 4: Make smart choices {motion-point to brain}
Rule 5: Respect others, respect yourself and respect our school. {hands out, point to self, point to the floor}

You can grab a version of my rules {here!}

I plan to use these similarly to WBT. I am not exactly sure how my classroom management will look at this point. I do know that it will not involve a public behavior system.

To make it clear, I am against the public display of behavior. I do believe parents need to be involved. I will not think less of you for using a clip cart. Every classroom is different and each teacher has the power to choose how to run their classroom.

So do you use something other than the clip chart? Do you miss the clip chart? What do you do in your classroom? Please share below. If you still use the clip chart, share below your feelings. But, lets please remember we are all adults and professionals their is no need for negativeness. Nobody's got time for that!:)


This post has become one of my most read posts. WOW! If you don't mind, please take a second a pin a picture to pinterest to bring more awareness to the challenges that surround the clip chart!

ALSO! I have begun my book study of Whole Brain Teaching! WOW what a read! I am LOVIN' it! You will want to be sure you are following my blog and this series. It is full of WBT freebies! You can check out that series {here!}


  1. I LOVE this post! It really got me thinking. I never really thought about the fact that we NEVER had any public system like that growing up. When did red light/green light become a thing anyway?? At my school we use "projet class" which focuses on "social skills". When a student is repeatedly having trouble getting the teacher's attention for example, they are moved to a circle that says "get the teacher's attention". Once they consistently improve their behavior, they get moved back to the "super star circle". I like it better than the color system because it really helps them focus on what they did and let's them know what behaviors I am looking for. I also like it because it's not a "you make one mistake, you are on red all day" type thing. Unless someone has had a HORRIBLE day, usually all my kids go home as super stars.

    I am really interested in whole brain teaching though and plan on learning more about it this summer.

    Thanks for the insightful post and the cute rules!

    1. Thinking back to being in school is what really got me thinking hard about this topic too. Project Class sounds very interesting. Do you feel it takes a lot of classroom management or it runs itself pretty well once taught?


  2. This was a great post. I am torn about using the clip chart. I really love how it recognizes those students who are going above and beyond, but I don't like the "clip chart hall of shame." You have me thinking about taking my chart down. I have been slowly adopting whole brain teaching methods in my classroom. Their rules have been a part of my daily routine for the past 2 years. I do love the idea of reviewing the rules students lead this review after the first couple months of school. I am currently reading the book and hope to incorporate more of the methods this year.
    The Traveling Teacher

    1. I agree. It does a great job of recognizing those students, that is why I fell in love with it to begin with. The purpose of this post was just to get people thinking and get the wheels rolling. After talking to several teachers, most of us agree the clip up part is great but the clipping down is just urgh not what we had hoped for.
      Thanks for reading and posting your thoughts!


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  4. Great post and perfect timing! We recently made the decision to do away with the clip charts, but we haven't really come up with an alternative yet. We already have positive reinforcement rewards in place with a classroom ticket system. What are the consequences for students who consistently make poor choices? I'd love to hear what other teachers do! I'm going to order the WBT book asap!

    1. I think we need to become BFFs and figure this whole thing out together!! I am not completely positive on how I am going to handle the consequences. I do know that I will b using the "your choices are...or I will make a choice for you." I will have to determine consequences after meeting each child and knowing what will and will not work for them.I have a feeling that it is going to be a jump in feet first and see what happens and maybe i

  5. I used Class Dojo the year before last and loved it. It IS a public system, but even my behavior strugglers worked hard to earn points. It helped me recognize more of the positive behaviors in my class and encouraged the "on the fence" students to make better choices. It was on the smart board and I could give and take points without even saying anything. It also lets you choose the reason you are giving points or taking away points. Parents are able to have accounts to see their child's behavior. They can see what their child earned points for and what their child had trouble with each day. It was great for parent conferences too, because it graphs their behavior by day, week, month, etc.

    I was shocked this year when we started school and were told that we were switching to a school-wide behavior system. We were not allowed to use class dojo because our new behavior system used a points system that was private. Students were not supposed to know what other students earned. We also used the CHAMPS expectations school wide.

    I was not a big fan of this when we started because I loved Class Dojo and was planning on using it again. It took a little while to get used to the CHAMPS expectations, but by the end of the year my students knew what the expectations in my classroom were w/o me having to go over them. I always kept them on the board and referred to them when needed. The points were a little hard to keep up with, but since I teach Kindergarten, I was able to have my assistant help me with keeping up with them. Our students worked to "earn" 100 points a day. Each section of my day was worth a specific amount of points. We were not supposed to tell a student if they lost points. We could praise a student that was doing the correct thing and tell that student that they were earning their points. On the clipboard you would "take" points from the child that was not doing the correct thing. It took a really long time to get used to using the wording and not saying that you were taking points from a student.

    At the end of the day, my students had to have 85 points or more to get a sticker in their folder. I also wrote their points for the day in their folder. The parents knew if their child had a sticker, they had a great day. If they had less than 85 I would write a quick note about the behavior. There were many days when all of my students had a sticker.

    Sorry this is such a long comment, but I wanted to share this with you! Feel free to ask me any questions if you want. I am not a pro at the points system or CHAMPS expectations, but I have used it for a year and seen great results.

    1. Thank you for reading and such a great response. I am very familiar with Class DoJo and have used it before. However, when I used it no child knew another student's score. I could not keep my p.board on class dojo all day I use it for way to much and would feel a little odd having it on display. The students would hear the sounds though and know if someone lost or earned a point but they did not know who. At the end of the day, they could check their score. I used this at the end of a school year and have not thought about using it all year.So thank you for reminding me of this!

      WOW, your CHAMPS system seems interesting. Did you feel like you were taking too much instruction time to calculate points? It seems like a lot to keep up with. Were your parents very supportive and enjoyed the points system or did them seem nonchalant about it?

      Thank you for reading and taking time to respond!

  6. Wow! I feel like I could've written this post myself! I have had the same experience with the clip chart and I too while knowing about WBT for awhile am finally making the switch! Am now a new follower!

    Pencils, Plans, and Pinteresting Ideas

    1. Isn't it so great to know we are not alone! I will be following to hear about your WBT transition!


  7. Love your Monday Made its! Such great ideas! I have been researching WBT for my classroom rules and expectations this summer. Looks like fun!
    Kayla in the Classroom

    1. Thank you so much! I have begun reading the book and blogging my way through it! You can find it


  8. I found you while googling around trying to find some data on these clip charts so I can maybe put a stop to it at my child’s school. I'm glad you are reconsidering.

    In “the same kids moved up and the same kids moved down” world, my K kid was always moving down. She doesn't know why. I don’t either. The class rules were very general and don't see what she could have done differently most of the time. (She has weak motor skills and is slow and anxious and has a hard time writing. It caused problems.)

    I do know she dreamed of reaching the coveted pink or purple. She saw that some kids got moved up for coloring well, so she practiced at home (for months) until she decided she was just too bad at it so that wasn’t going to work. She thought maybe just being really nice to the other kids nobody liked would help. That didn’t work either.

    The chart didn’t help her change her behavior. It just taught her (and the rest of the class and many of their parents) that she was bad. Here are “natural consequences” of using a chart like that with kids who can’t figure out how to change their behavior: She was afraid to ask her teacher questions. She was picked on by the "good" kids. She didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to go to school. She takes less risks than she ever has before because she’s really scared of doing something wrong. Most importantly, she didn’t learn the things she needed to learn. She needed HELP, not a thumbs down.

    Maybe that’s how it has to be. Maybe teachers today are too busy to help kids like mine and the best they can do is say “clip down” and hope the kid will figure it out themselves. But yes, the parents with these kids absolutely know their kid is not perfect.” We worry. If we have the insurance or can come up with the $200 an hour for therapies, we have them in them. We are trying to make them “good enough” for you. They want to be “good enough” for you. We know it sucks to teach difficult kids, but what else can we do?

    The cute little phrases are pretty painful. Outstanding! Good work! Please realize that children who never get to outstanding or good work continually have a visual reminder that they are not outstanding and they do not do good work. Maybe everybody can’t get a trophy, but isn’t kindergarten a little young to learn that, compared to the other kids, they really suck?

    I implore teachers, labels STICK. Please try to find a way to get all kids up to the top once or twice a year, even if you have to fake it. Fair is not always equal. After all, if you’re not moving the bad readers down because they’re bad readers why would you move the physically slow kids down because they are slow (i.e., not following directions)? That would be consistent too, right?

    There are a lot of kids that really get messed up because of this stuff. You only have them one year. We have them for life. These charts, when not handled sensitively, cause more damage than you can possibly know.

    1. Thank you so much for a parent's perspective. These reasons and many others is what led me to the decision to not use a clip chart/ public display of behavior in my classroom.


    2. Thank you so much for reading and caring! I came back just to say that yesterday at my child’s occupational therapy session there was a little (husky, not fat) boy that looked 10. He had given up and was sitting on the floor crying and screaming “I’m a fat loser. You can’t help me. I’m just a fat loser.”

      I know being a teacher is almost an impossible task today. There are so many kids, so many standards, so many difficult home situations. How do you do that? But these kids who feel shame often won’t show it in school. They’re just so embarrassed—and confused—because they don’t see themselves as making behavior “choices” at all.

      I just would love for teachers to know that some of those few kids who are always down on the chart—maybe even some of the ones who can stay on green but can never get past it—might be attaching labels to themselves that don’t go back to green at the end of the day, or at the end of the year.

  9. Love your post! We are throwing away our behavior clip charts after many years for the same reasons you listed above. However, most of our school is still doing it, which is fine. But we want to send home a letter explaining our whole brain teaching, natural consequences, and positive reinforcement plan. Did you send anything home to parents to let them know how behavior management would be handled in your classroom? If you have, would you be willing to share? Thanks!

  10. Love your post and they are extremely helpful for cross learning. Clip arts are very beautiful and I go a little graphic designing by myself too. I make creative venn diagrams for teaching and for blogs. I use a venn maker to draw those diagrams. I'm grateful for you for sharing knowledge.

  11. I think you have some valid points and I know your view is not alone…However, I think some of the clip chart problem is implementation. First, the chart…the original clip chart by Rick Morris (the guy who actually came up with this idea) did not have parent contact as red. But, as we know teachers like to create their own stuff, well…I saw the clip chart colors change to the negative associations (red=bad). Second, I truly believe it is a walk of shame if teachers use it in that manner. I use it as a megacognitive tool to make them aware of their behaviors in class whether they be good or bad. What is the difference when teachers make a redirect verbal statement or go ask students to take a break (same shame). I always reinforce to the students that they have the power to change their behaviors and as a result move on the clip chart. Also, my students who make it to outstanding by lunch time I let clip to parent contact and if the rest of the afternoon is just as outstanding, then I call or email home a positive note! Also, the clip chart is not my only behavior management tool in the classroom (just can't be). I use table points for collaborative expectations, responsive classroom techniques, and various others (parts of WBT). Like I said, your post have valid points and ultimately you must do what is right for you and your classroom, but the clip chart bashing I am seeing across blogs and pinterest seems to be just another bandwagon movement. I don't have all the answers either, just my opinion.

    1. I love the way you implement the charts. But actually, it is not a just bandwagon movement. It is a recognition of social-psychology research that is, over the years, building evidence about what tools like these charts do to kids. We're finally realizing that what we do in classrooms with these charts, while it seems helpful to kids learning and behavior, actually has negative effects in several ways. The first group of research is related to the negative effects of shame (self-doubt, increased cortisol, lack of motivation). The second is related to the effects of extrinsic motivation (charts and prizes sometimes work in the classroom, but make the child less likely to make a good choice when the chart is not there.) And relying on the clip charts often takes the place of deeper conversations about why a child is misbehaving. My child clipped down the other day in K. He struggled all day. I talked to him about it - he was so hungry he had a stomach ache. He didn't think of mentioning it. But no one asked him why he was having such a hard day.

  12. I think you have a point, and while I don't want to shame any student either, I need a strong system because I work with Emotional Disturbed students. However, I thought back to my school days, and I believe our public shame was "name on the board", and being "called out" in front of everyone. While there wasn't colors or daily behavior reports, everyone still knew you were in trouble, because there it was, right on the chalk board. As a student who was not a behavior issue, I can still remember the only time my name went up there, and it was in third I think it sticks with you no matter what haha. I am trying out a system where the students earn points and are working towards a reward they want, such as "read a book to the principal". Yes, it is still public if they didn't have a good day, because no points were added to their chart, or very few, but what they do earn is never taken away from them, and it carries over from day to day until they reach their goal.


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