More than half of the teachers I've subbed for have overestimated the likelihood that their students will apply the hard-earned, relationship-based respect they themselves enjoy to me. In order to be effective, I've put together some strategies that work in concert with the routines already in place in the classroom.
Sometimes a teacher will leave me instructions about a signal she uses to quiet her class. In that event, I always try using it first. It might be a "quiet coyote" hand gesture, a rhyme ("One, two, three, eyes on me," "One, two, eyes on you!"), or some sort of chime. If it works, great! If not, though, I start using the countdown method. Depending on how much stuff they need to put away, how far away they are from their seats, and how quiet the room is to begin with, I'll countdown from 10, 5, or 3 (whatever I think they need to be successful). They should be quiet by the time I get to "zero" (unless I've given them instructions about cleaning up and returning to their seats--in that case, they shoud do all those things AND get quiet by the time I get to "zero"). If there is a chime or hand signal, I use it, too. If they haven't gotten quiet by zero, I keep counting into negative numbers. I keep track of the negative numbers on the board and teach a mini-lesson about negative number addition just before lunch/recess/dismissal (only if all students walk home!). With one class, the total was -37! We sit with our heads down for whatever that total number of seconds is and are late to lunch/recess/dismissal by that amount of time.
Some caveats? Under no circumstances should a student miss the bus home because of this strategy. If the school in which you're subbing doesn't allow recess to be taken away from students in whole or in part, you'll have to come up with another plan, too. Be aware of who you might be inadvertently affecting, also. If the lunch schedule "rolls" (meaning that each homeroom starts lunch at their own time--Mr. Aungst starts at 11:15, Ms. Seibert starts at 11:20, and Ms. Rearick starts at 11:25, for example), then you may be putting undue strain on the cafeteria workers and the teacher and class that follow yours. If that seems to be the case, check with those people in advance to assess how inconvenient this system might be for them. In my experience, though, the average length of the lunch line and/or other staff's desire for a substitute to have a good experience usually make this a realistic and supported strategy. Sometimes this works great before lunch/recess, but not so well afterward (let's face it, most kids have a bus to catch, making this a less viable option for the afternoon). After paying me back the seconds they took from me before recess, usually kids do a better job of getting quiet by zero in the second half of the day. In other classes, one student will screech, "She'll tell Ms. Smith to take us late to recess tomorrow!" In those cases, you probably don't even have to ask Ms. Smith to follow through. Usually just the idea that she might is enough to deter the students. Also? Pay attention to who the offenders are that are causing you to count into negative numbers. If it is just one or two students, take away their Crewe Cash (see below!) instead of holding the whole group responsible.
Individual Behavior Accountability
Some classes have systems in place to help students monitor their own behavior. Consequences might include flipping a card or moving a clip on a chart. If that is the case in the room in which you're subbing, great! You might just be in for an easy day! However, some teachers only acknowledge the behavior of small groups or the whole group. I wholeheartedly disagree with this strategy. I vehemently oppose holding a group totally responsible for the actions of a few without providing any sort of recognition for those students who make good choices. In other instances, there's a system in place, but no information about it in the sub notes.
If I can't determine an in-place system for acknowledging individual behavior in the classroom I'm joining for the day, I use a Crewe Cash* system. Each student gets two Crewe Cash tickets first thing in the morning. They must write first and last names on both tickets. These tickets can be actual tickets, a small computer-generated coupon, or just a difficult-to-counterfeit piece of paper (I usually chop up any colored paper I find in a recycling bin into rectangles of about 1.5"x2". In a pinch, I use notebook paper or white copy paper and draw some squiggles with a pen or marker I brought from home that doesn't seem to match any of the supplies in the classroom before chopping the paper up. If all else fails, use common paper and chop, but sign your initials to each one before passing them out). Students are told to leave them out in plain sight all day long (bonus? They work as a nametag since kids have them out on their desk all day!). Then I figure out a way to make the tickets work with whatever the teacher has in place. See examples below. When I catch kids being good, I toss another ticket on their pile or hand them one for walking quietly in the hallway. When students misbehave, though, I give them a verbal warning the first time, but start wordlessly taking away tickets for each subsequent misbehavior.
Classroom A: Teacher has a system of team points and the school participates in PBIS. At the end of the day, each student who has ANY Crewe Cash leftover gets a school PBIS token. If everyone in a team has tickets, they total them and the team gets that number of team points for the day, if the teacher seems to give team points lavishly. If team points seem to be hard to come by, you might want to promise to award the team the average number of Crewe Cash per kid. If any member of the team has lost all their tickets, the team gets zero team points for the day (but the kids with tickets still get a PBIS token).
Classroom B: Teacher has a system of class points and the school participates in PBIS. At the end of the day, each student who has ANY Crewe Cash leftover gets a school PBIS token. We total the number of Crewe Cash for the whole class and average it by dividing by the number of students in the room and the class gets that many class points for the day.
Classroom C: Teacher has no classroom point system. School participates in PBIS. At the end of the day, each student who has ANY Crewe Cash leftover gets a school PBIS token. Consider giving a prize or a second PBIS token to the student with the most Crewe Cash or doing a drawing with all the Crewe Cash tickets students amassed throughout the day (they have names on them, remember!).
Classroom D: No classroom- or school-based rewards system in place. At the end of the day, all the tickets go into a drawing and you provide a small prize for the winner(s).
Classroom E: Teacher has a classroom- or team-based points system, but students trade classes and you can't figure out how he reconciles the behavior system with the switching of classes. Every student--even those who aren't in your homeroom--gets two Crewe Cash when he/she enters the classroom. If students rotate out of your room before the end of the day, they turn in their Crewe Cash. At the end of the day, put all the (positive) Crewe Cash into a drawing for a small prize. If you have to hunt down the winner because they're somewhere else, do it!
No matter which system you choose (or if you invent your own), be sure to explain the ins and outs to students at the beginning of the day.
Another perk of this system is the fact that, at the end of the day, you have a pile of tickets to help you remember who to write about in your end-of-day notes. If there was a student who lost their tickets, you'll have no problem remembering their name! If a student was exceptionally helpful, you can go back through your other ticket pile and remember to write a nice note about the kid who earned 6! Just be sure to keep the two piles separate!
Students who make good choices get something. It might be a school token, it might be a chance at a prize, but they don't just have to settle for the same consequences as those students who made poor choices. If students make poor choices beyond the number of tickets they have, you can use that as a stepping stone to other consequences. If you feel it would be supported in the school you're in, you can start tallying negative Crewe Cash on the board or on a clipboard you carry with you. An example consequence? Each negative Crewe Cash equals one minute off of the individual student's recess. You could have a discussion when you take away the second ticket like, "I will be keeping track of the additional tickets you lose. If that number is greater than five, you'll have to eat lunch by yourself. Keep in mind that you can earn tickets back, though, if you start making good choices." You may have to set a number that would equal an office referral.
In any event, you'll have a temporary economy you can use to discuss rewards and consequences. It helps homeroom teachers gauge degrees of compliance, too, if you can tell him/her that most students ended the day with three, Blair had 6, and Susie had -12. Do be sure to keep in mind any information the teacher gave you regarding IEPs, 504s, or other situations that might influence a student's ability to earn/keep Crewe Cash. Certainly don't use this system INSTEAD of any individualized behavior plan that certain students use that might be an accommodation of their IEP/504.
What has worked for you? Would you share your best tips in the Comments below?
*Obviously, I don't expect you to call yours Crewe Cash! It's just easier to differentiate between "my" tickets and PBIS tokens if I have an official name by which to call them!
Speaking of PBIS Tokens--if you often find yourself subbing at schools that use PBIS tokens, but you can never seem to find any, check these out!