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Positive Points (Literally Saved My Guided Reading Group)

Having trouble with small group management? I sure was. Due to hiring issues at work, I had to tutor a small group of students four days a week. Just coming back from maternity leave, it was a jarring return. When I first got to my group, I have to admit it was absolute chaos. I wasn't prepared for the wide variance of reading levels and behavior issues. Even more basic, I hadn't established any sort of group culture/value system to guide our actions, work, and achievement. The first day, I literally had children under the table, being rude to each other, and disengaged from the reading materials.

This situation WOULD NOT work for me and it wouldn't work for the students. I went home and came up with a simple tool to improve my small group instruction. I had to find a way to encourage students and have them associate their positive achievement with growth.

 There was a large amount of negative in the group. Students would taunt and disrespect each other, snatch things from each other, and engage in other disrupting behaviors. To combat this, I came up with Positive Points as a way to track when the students engaged in positive group behavior.  

Positive Points
-For every positive action, students record 1 tally. When they have 10 tally marks, they receive one sticker. 
-When they have 5 stickers (50 tally marks), they receive one small item 9 (ex. pencils and stickers)
-So simple but it works


1. At first, I was in control of the points. That was a mistake. Keeping up with the points while providing instruction was too distracting. Students were only interested in what points I was putting in their boxes.

What I had to do was give up control. I made the sheets for the students to keep track of their own points. Their investment went up immediately. I had quieter tables, straight lines to the bathroom, and complete engagement during the guided reading portion.

2. I always highlight the positive comment and the connection to the positive points. I have students discuss the things that earn their positive points. 

3. I only award points for tangible items. Helping someone pick up their papers, kind words and compliments, and jobs completed above and beyond receive points. 

4. I emphasize the acts and not the prize. I'm not big on external motivation, but these students CRAVE positive recognition and praise. In time, I hope to end the positive praise sheets, but for now, it is helping my students recognize the behaviors that lead to achievement.

5. Designate one color or specific pen to use for points. This helps curb students' gratuitous distribution of points.

While every day is different, I take this small positive change as encouragement. When my group runs more smoothly, I know students can learn more.  I hope this small change can be a benefit to your groups as well!

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