The Good Behavior Game

By Christina A. Samuels — September 02, 2008 1 min read
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Happy back-to-school! I know many of you may have been back for a week or two, but Labor Day seems to be a true sign that the lazy days of summer have come to a close.

I recently learned about a classroom management technique with younger kids that is quite successful, but so simple I can hardly believe that it shows such positive results: the “good behavior game.” From the summer 2008 newsletter from the American Institutes for Research:

To play the game, the teacher breaks the classroom into teams of between four and seven students. The game is played while children are working individually. When a rule is broken, the teacher immediately identifies the behavior--such as a child leaving his or her seat without permission. The student's team receives a checkmark, while members of the other teams are praised for "working quietly." At the end of the game, each team with four or few checkmarks receives a reward.

Easy, right? Well, researchers with AIR followed a study of 1,200 19-to-21-year-olds who were in first and second grades in Baltimore in the mid-to-late 1980s. Some of their teachers were using the behavior game, some were not. The kids whose teachers used this method of controlling classroom behavior were much more successful than their counterparts in several facets of life: 19 percent of the “behavior game” kids used illicit drugs, compared to 38 percent in the standard classroom. When it comes to comparing use of school-based support services related to behavior, drugs, or alcohol, 17 percent of the behavior game kids did, compared to 33 percent of youth in standard classrooms.

AIR researcher Sheppard Kellam, who began studying the results of the good behavior game when he was at Johns Hopkins University, say it’s critically important for young kids to be able to “learn to learn.” Good behavior isn’t innate, and positive peer pressure does work.

Apparently the good behavior game is well-known enough to have a great deal of research behind it. I’m curious to know if teachers have used it and how it works for them.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.