Sunday, July 31, 2016

How I Make the Clip Chart Work in Upper Elementary

A few years ago, my school decided to utilize the clip chart as part of our schoolwide behavior plan.  I was glad to have everyone using the same thing.  If I saw a first grader walking down the hallway with nice procedures, I could give him a clip up.  If I saw a third grader helping a lost kindergartener, I could give her a clip up.  It was nice to have a common reward/discipline plan throughout the building.

However, it didn't take long for the naysayers to take root.  Before long, a few teachers in third and fourth grade complained that their students didn't respond to the clip chart.  They wanted to do something else.  Last year, our PBIS team demanded suggested that we use Classroom Dojo, which was met with a great uproar from a vast majority of our teachers.  I wasn't happy with the switch.  I'd tried Dojo before with very little success and lots of time spent doling out points.  I know some teachers love it, and that's fine.  We're not all the same.  I don't like it.  If you do, I'm glad you found something that works for you.  But when a group of people who have had little experience in the classroom and specials teachers who only have the kids for 25-50 minutes once or twice a week push something down your throat, you're going to want to resist.

I have to say that I love the clip chart.  I actually used a few years before the whole building decided to.  And more importantly than me loving the clip chart, my students respond and flourish with it.  How did I get fifth graders to buy in to the clip chart when younger grades couldn't?  Simple.  Spray painted clips...and lots of clipping up.

My school's clip chart has seven levels.  The bottom of the chart is orange- teacher's choice.  Yellow, a warning, is next.  Green is where everyone starts for the day.  Green is good.  Above green is purple, then silver, and gold is at the top of the chart.  Students can go above and beyond the physical chart by clipping up to the teacher, then, for exceptional behavior, clipping up to the principal.  This is a high honor bestowed upon students with truly fantastic, amazing, wonderful behavior for the day.
As you can see, there are only a few colors that are "bad," and a whole bunch that are good.  I focus on catching students in clip up worthy moments.  Even my naughtiest students enjoy their days clipped up to the principal during the year, and I'm rewarded with a few following days of good behavior out of them, too.  I don't like having students below green, and students don't like it either.  What I love about the clip chart is that students can mess up, get a clip down, but then change their attitude and work towards clipping up.  Sometimes it takes them awhile to accept the clip down, but they'll eventually do things that are clip up worthy.

Aside from lots of clip ups, I use special clips in my room.  At the beginning of the year, every student starts out with a green clip.  When a student ends the day on gold or above, they pick out a jewel to be super glued on to their clip.  When their clip is completely covered, front and back, with jewels (**Pro Tip: write initials or student numbers on the inside of the clip--that way they can figure out whose is whose when their names get covered!), they "level up" to a purple clip.  When their purple clip is covered, they move on to a silver clip, then a gold clip, and finally, a gold clip covered with gold glitter.

My kids love these painted clips.  LOVE THEM.  They work so hard to "level up" their clips.  It's seen as a competition, but is celebrated by everyone.  Every year, there are cheers for people who make it to a purple clip, and envious "oohs" and "aahs" when classmates get their gold clips.  It's a simple reward that fifth graders love.

While I like clipping students up, and tend to focus on that, I'm a bit stingy about my students getting to gold.  They really have to work hard to reach gold on the clip chart each day--it's not something they just get for showing up that day.  Because of this, I have never had a student fill up their sparkly gold clip in a school year.  Last year, one boy was really, really, close, but he just needed a few more days to get those last few jewels.  However, by the end of the year, the only students with green clips are ones that moved in throughout the year, and even my students with "naughty reputations" from third and fourth grade have earned enough days on gold to be on a purple or silver clip.

Seriously, using these spray painted clips works.  I have had several teachers comment on how mature their formerly difficult students have gotten, and that their behavior has improved tremendously.  They think it's just magical maturation that happens over the summer, but I know it's because my behavior management plan focuses on the good and encourages students to stop acting out.  Sure, we have our difficult, pull-your-hair-out, write-a-letter-of-resignation days, but they are truly few and far between.  When students figure out that I'm not out to make their school year miserable by focusing on every little thing they do wrong, they start liking school, and respecting teachers, and trusting me, which is the best a behavior plan can hope for.  


  1. Looking for a "clip" idea for my 5th grade classes. Wondering if you could include a photo of the chart and a jeweled clip?