I finally realized that of all the resources, tips, advice and information that I have written and posted about, I have yet to share my number one strategy for successful classroom management. For over 15 years, I have anchored every elementary inclusive classroom I have ever been in on this simple, yet effective, positive reinforcement technique. It was passed on to me by a good friend two days before I started my first job and I am forever grateful!
"The Bubblegum Machine", based on the concept of positive reinforcement, is my secret to classroom management success. I have used it in all kinds of elementary inclusive classrooms, in all kinds of schools, without fail. If you are struggling to gain, maintain or even change your classroom management skills, this is a simple yet extremely effective way of creating an environment where all students can learn.
To begin, group the student desks (by 2, 3 or 4) and assign each group a color. Create a picture of a bubblegum machine and place it in a prominent place in the classroom. Gather your students and together, identify ways in which a bubblegum (corresponding colored circle) can be earned and put in the bubblegum machine. Then, set out to to reinforce positive behavior, acknowledge achievement, and celebrate the success you see in all your students! Keep in mind that bubblegums are never taken away. And, as with any positive reinforcement plan, praise and recognition should be frequent during the first few weeks that the program is initiated. Finally, at the end each week, count the bubblegums up and the group with the most can earn a small reward. Be sure to mix the groups often enough so that every student has a chance to earn a reward.
There, you have it! Let me know if you give this classroom management strategy a try and how it works for you.