Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stars and Stamps

On my recent post about winter camp I talked about my class management style and that I was able to keep the rowdy kids behaved.

Jason commented that it would be a good idea to share how I managed to do that, so here for you is a report of my class management style.

I have been teaching English for almost 2 years now, mostly at public schools. At my last school I was in charge of an afternoon advanced class that met three times a week for 1.5 hours each. Also I was in charge of seasonal camps. It is in these types of classes that I developed my class management style. For the regular classes (the ones with 32 students) the management style is not as developed due to co-teaching.

Stars and Stamps:
When I worked at the hagwon I observed classes for 3 days before I was allowed to teach. During that time I saw that the teachers wrote the kid's names on the board and used a star system to reward or punish kids. Basically you give a kid a star if they are good or answer a question or take it away if they are bad. This worked well at the hagwon and especially in small classes.

At public school I carried over this method when I first started teaching the afterschool classes. But instead of individual names I made groups and the groups got the stars. Kids were motivated to earn stars and have more than other groups. If one kid in the group was goofing off than the whole group lost a star. This last method is great to get a whole group to cooperate with each other.

Stars evolved into stamps when I was getting further into the semester at my old school with the advanced kids. I started to notice that individually they were lacking motivation and a way to tally up their achievements.

The solution I found was to create a stamp award system. After a long break I presented this system to the kids so that they knew it was going to be the new method. First I handed everyone a list of classroom rules with the number of stamps they would receive or get taken away. For example:
  • Talking while teacher is talking = - 2 stamps
  • Doing homework = + 3 stamps
  • Group wins (based on stars) = + 3 stamps
  • Cheating = - 2 stamps
  • Fighting = - 2 stamps
  • A on quiz or test = + 2 stamps
The stamps were placed on a stamp chart which they were to hold on to. The stamp chart was made up of 5 rows with 10 circles in each. The goal was to fill up the rows and you would get a prize.
  • Fill up the first row = sticker prize
  • Fill up the second row = Bag #1 (Bag number one was a grab bag full of pencil case stuff)
  • Fill up the third row = Bag #2 (This was full of snacks)
  • Fill up the fourth row = Homework pass
  • Fill up the fifth row = Big prize (usually a bag of chips...whatever was on sale).
Yes I bought all the prizes with my own money since the English department would not foot the bill. I didn't really care since this was my own method to get them motivated.

So the stars evolved into stamps and so on. But a class management system is only as good as the teacher. Meaning you have to stick with the rules you created. I tended to give out more stickers than take away so the students became too relaxed.

I think it helped for the most part manage the kids and get them motivated to answer questions and participate in activities.

Also this method can be adapted to the regular classes if one creates a stamp chart for each class they teach. The class then earns stamps and competes with the other classes in the school.

Some argue this is a form of bribery and is trickery. I disagree since it works pretty well and is a great method for first time teachers. As time goes on I am sure my methods will involve systems that don't use gimmicks like stars and stamps. Certainly I can imagine that if I worked at a middle or high school this style would not match well with the students.

I am going to use this system for the 2nd graders that I teach since I really need a way to manage them. I will combine it with call and response attention grabbers which work well in the classroom. (The teachers says "ABC" students respond "123"...etc.)

In my opinion, one's class management system is based upon how we survive in the classroom. As we are put into the classroom with no "Teacher's Guide Book" on how to go about teaching Korean kids we end up making our own style. For those lucky enough to come from backgrounds in teaching you must feel lucky.

If you have your own tips and methods let us know. I am sure there are plenty more creative and potent class management styles out there.


  1. Hi....I'm glad you wrote up your classroom behavior management system.

    If I might make a suggestion....perhaps changing the title of your post would make it easier to find when other new foreign teachers do searches on the Net to look for exactly what you've written up.

    The following key words, while lacking in style, are what EFL teachers will use when looking for this kind of info....

    elementary school EFL/ESL classroom behavior management for foreign English teachers

    I tend to use the key words people use when searching the Net, or blogs, in my blog titles so I can try to connect with the readers my blog writing tries to reach.

    Perhaps the following title might work...."EFL/ESL elementary classroom behavior management system for foreign English teachers in Korea -- Stars and Stamps"

    Or something like that....

    I think you'll be surprised at how many more hits this entry gets if the title is also reflective of the content...

    I'm glad you did the write up, I'm sure it will help some newbie teachers, and also some veterans too.


  2. Hey Jason....well for now I like my title. I know this post is helpful....but really I am not looking to get a lot of hits. I am sure if someone googles what you wrote in your comment my post will come up. But I will think about it :)

  3. Thanks for the post, that is helpful. I will have to remember that when I start teaching (assuming I teach an appropriate age group for this technique). I want to try to get a job teaching Elementary kids, I think that would be a good age group to teach.

  4. Hi. I'm a substitute teacher in the states, so I get to see a lot of different classroom management techniques in different classrooms. I like your stamp idea - but how do you take them away on the paper? White out?

    Most often, classrooms seem to use this card system with white, green, yellow, and red cards; the children flip through these as they misbehave, with green being the first warning, yellow meaning they loose a lunch recess, and red resulting in a call or note home to the parents. I find that the regular teachers are not strict enough with this system; many of the students have never been on red. The teachers really have to lay out clear guidelines and follow up with the appropriate reaction. I moved a child to red the other day, and she immediately started crying because no one had ever been on red that entire year - yet the class was completely out of control. Also, it only allows for three misbehaviors before the note home, and after the kids get on red they often continue to act out and there is nothing you can do at that point to further punish them.

  5. Disaster Cat ~ That is an interesting system. Maybe something could be adopted here like that. I took away the stamps by drawing an "X" over them.


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