Ditch the clips: Create a behavior management system that works

Guest Blog

Guest Blog | Monday, April 29, 2019

Ditch the clips: Create a behavior management system that works

Most behavior management systems rely on external motivation. How do we move away from these types of systems? Here are some ways to Ditch the clips!

This post is written by Elizabeth Merce, a Kindergarten teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia Beach, VA. You can connect with her on Twitter, and Instagram, Facebook as @EMercedLearning or through her blog EmercedLearning.com.

Think back to your time in elementary school. Did you have one of those systems where your teacher rated your day using colored cards, moving clips, or some other form of points? Do you remember having to move that clip? Do you remember having it marked in your folder? What about a prize box? Did you ever miss out on that fun little reward?

If you don’t remember any of that I am so thrilled for you! As an early childhood educator, focused on teaching kindergarten and teachers who service littles birth to eight, I’ve seen my fair share of management “systems”. Unfortunately, many of these systems focus on external motivators.

I say it is time to #DitchTheClips and find a better way!

What’s the big deal anyway?

When we rely on an external motivator to correct behavior we are not teaching a replacement skill. I don’t know about you but I went into education to TEACH, not PUNISH. When we continuously punish or reward for behavior instead of teaching new skills and build relationships with students we miss out on the chance to change behavior for the long term. Punishment works. In that particular situation and that’s it. I don’t know about you, but I want something that is going to last long term.

What is your WHY?

Have you ever truly thought about your why? I mean down to your core. I like to look at the overlapping whys of my life. What legacy do I want to leave as a teacher, a friend, a parent, a spouse, a human? What I want to leave behind matches seamlessly with why I do everything I do. It gives every action you take more meaning. If you haven’t seen Michael Jr’s video on why finding your why is important then stop reading right now and go watch!

What is my why?

  • I want others to know someone cares about them.
  • I want to put Maslow before Blooms.
  • I want to develop the WHOLE CHILD.
  • I want to make the world I’m leaving to my child a little better.

Share out your why on social media to help keep you accountable. I’d love it if you tag me or add #DitchTheClips so I can follow your journey!

What are other options?

So here I am telling you to get rid of clip charts, cards, colors, and points. I hate telling kids what they can’t do. When you leave them with the nots that’s all they think about- it ties their brains in knots! Instead, I focus on scaffolding those social-emotional skills just like I would do for any content area.

  1. Know the developmental stages- you don’t need to know everything about every domain, but have a basic understanding of what you should “typically” see in your age group. For example, in Kindergarten they are just moving out of the “world is all about me” stage and are still firmly in concrete operations.
  2. Observe your class- while scanning to see who is on task take mental notes on how they are interacting. Listen in on peer-peer conversations. The more intentional you are in your observations the more you will observe. Just like when you get a new car and suddenly see them everywhere.
  3. Notice overarching patterns- when do you typically see the need for support? Are they the same skills (do many of your kiddos need help with emotional identification? Regulation?)
  4. Provide big picture lessons- use morning meeting time or integrate topics into your content level for those skills that many in the class are lacking. Provide one on one coaching for skills when just a few are struggling with them.
    Feedback- should be given regularly. Try to stick to factual feedback over evaluative feedback. Teaching your littles to self-evaluate is even better!


Parents want the information- yes, but how much information is really communicated using colors or points? How do parents know what you are doing to support their child? How do parents know what they can do to help support their child? That’s where the home-school relationship comes into play.

Building relationships with parents takes time. It takes communication. You can build that relationship by communicating the child’s strengths regularly with the parents. Communicate your expectations and how you plan on supporting your students in meeting those expectations.

I guarantee parents will appreciate consistent, positive, strength-based communication.

Additional Resources:

Your Challenge

I challenge you to find your WHY. I challenge you to begin to reflect on your management philosophy just as much as your content pedagogy. I challenge you to be intentional in supporting student’s social-emotional development at least as much as your academic domains, if not more. Most content can be found online. Strong social-emotional skills will follow our children for life.

Don’t continue with charts, clips, colors, points, or punishment just because that’s how it has always been done. Let’s #DitchTheClips!

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