While the topic of “color charts” is controversial, one thing that isn’t, is the need for consistent parent communication about behavior. One of the worst things that can happen when it comes time to have a serious conversation about the behavior of someone’s child is hearing them say, “This is news to me. I didn’t know he/she was having any trouble.” Parents deserve to know how they’re children are doing in class, and students need the consistent accountability.
I cannot offer you studies about the effects of using color charts, and I can’t tell you what will work best for your particular students. But what I can offer you is personal observation from my experience with them in my classroom. After several years of using color charts, I learned to make tweaks with each class. Here are two important things I learned:
- Keep It Personal – I’ve seen teachers use small, personal sized color charts on each student’s desk so that they can have a quiet reminder of their choices each day. I think this is a great idea! However, I preferred to keep one larger one so that I could be more involved with it the way I wanted.
I ended up keeping my color chart fairly low behind my desk. While it wasn’t completely hidden, it was not in clear view so that I could avoid embarrassment as much as possible. Having it behind my desk made it a much more intentional tool for me. When a child was struggling, I could invite them to my desk for a conversation in private. We could discuss their current behavior and take care of any color changes without making a scene. Having my color chart in a personal, “teacher” space made me more intentional about addressing behavior.
- Keep It Positive – Keeping it “positive” may sound strange. But there are certainly ways to do this. First off, I tried to avoid condemning or super negative wording on each color. I wouldn’t label the red chart as “bad day” or something hurtful. I tried to stick to terms like, “Pause and Think” or “Try Again”. That way when a student moved their clip to a color, they didn’t see this huge reminder of how “bad” they were being.
The biggest way I kept my color chart positive was by using it as a tool that could go back and forth. I always had plenty of colors above green to reward students for going above and beyond. I also made sure my students knew that moving their clip down didn’t mean it would stay that way all day. I had many students make their way down a few colors in the morning, go to lunch/recess, and come back ready to make better choices. Those students always had the opportunity to move their clips back up a few colors to show them that you can turn your day around. Sometimes we all have rough starts to our day, that’s just life. Our students are no different.
Behavior Charts – What’s Included?
While these are all ways that color charts were useful in the classroom, there were also ways that they were useful for parent communication. Every day I took just a few minutes to color in students’ behavior charts to let their parents know how their day went. Often times, my green, blue and purple students would color their own and I would color anything below. This gave me another chance to discuss student behavior and to brainstorm ways they can have a better day the following day. Students would get to move their clips back to green, giving them the reassurance that the next day would be a brand NEW day.
In my monthly behavior charts set, there is a pre-dated calendar for each month of the 2017-2018 school year. All you have to do is print and put names on them! In addition to a picture to color, I included the code I used to give a super short summary of why a student came home on a particular color. It helped me keep a record of consistent behaviors we needed to work on, and was very handy for parent-teacher conferences.
If you use color charts in your classroom, I hope these ideas and charts help you use them with more intention and help keep your parent communication streamlined!