Thursday, February 27, 2014

Using "The Hunger Games" to Manage Behavior

Walk into a Kindergarten class, and you will believe in magic. How one lady manages to get 20 5-year-olds to snake quietly through the halls with only her smile and a charming, "Follow me, boys and girls", will amaze you. Elementary teachers are masters of patience and classroom management. Even the most troublesome of these babies will animately express their love for their mistress of learning.

Some of these teachers get really creative with their classroom management programs. Have lunch in an elementary school, and you will see what I mean. The kids will be all too eager to share with you whose clip was changed to orange, what prize they got out of the treasure box, how many Mrs.-Random-Teacher's Bucks they have, how many days it will be until they are the star student, how they are the luckiest person ever because they got to be the line leader twice in one week because the substitute didn't know...

What happens to all this greatness as the kids get older? When do we shift from positive reinforcement to negative consequences? Why has it become acceptable to yell at children to force their compliance?

I work with a sub-population of students, many of whom exhibit quite challenging behaviors. Piling them all into one room makes for a very interesting environment. One solution I have for this is implementing a more mature version of the elementary classroom management systems.

I introduce my plan as a lesson in probability by showing this clip from The Hunger Games. We discuss experimental vs. theoretical probability, how it was unlikely for Prim to be chosen, and what it means to have 0% chance of being picked.

Then I begin handing out these "Good Job" tickets as a physical reinforcement of their positive choices.

In the beginning, I hand out LOTS and LOTS of these tickets. Students get tickets for: being in their seat when the bell rings, bringing supplies to class, helping other students, answering questions during group discussion. During the first few weeks, I give out tickets every 5-10 minutes for students working independently. The students decide this is an "opposite-reaping", because unlike the movie, they want to get tickets.

I have this really cool bowl where I keep the tickets, and the students love peeking through them to count how many tickets they have. 

Each Friday we list all the students and the number of tickets they earned, and we calculate each student's chance of being "reaped." The kids are eager to learn the math lessons that are tied into this, but I also have an ulterior motive. By listing out all the tickets, I can see which students I have not acknowledged much that week. Those students become my focus the next week.

Finding prizes for weekly drawings can be tricky, as middle schoolers aren't as interested in trinkets and Texas doesn't allow teachers to give candy as prizes. It definitely requires a little more out-of-the-box thinking to find something students will be motivated to earn. Perhaps I should write a post sharing some of my ideas?

Later, as students begin to manage their behavior, the tickets lessen, and I begin giving them out for other accomplishments. Tickets can be earned for getting a 100% on a paper or quiz, for coming in for tutorials, or for posting a homework question on Edmodo. This sign hangs on our classroom door. 

In time my students understand my expectations and they begin to wean themselves off the tickets. The weekly drawings become bi-weekly, then monthly. 

By using a positive motivation system, I model the kindness and patience I expect from my students. I gain their trust and build authentic relationships with them, which will later turn into academic trust. I show students how we can have fun with math. A classroom environment that supports learning is created. 


Gamification One of the newest buzzwords of education is GAMIFICATION. Put shortly, gamification means using game principles to engage and motivate students. Gamification is NOT putting a student in front of a computer all day, every day.

Classroom Management with At-Risk Students The root of the word, “discipline” is “disciple,” meaning, “to teach.” When faced with problem behaviors in the classroom, management strategies should be used rather than punishment.

My Discipline Policy At-risk students can be some of the most difficult and challenging students to work with. They often exhibit very disruptive behavior, and many times these students do not respond well to authority.

The AD/HD Whisperer I have a gift for working with students with AD/HD. I don't say this to boast, but as an expression of humility for the journey that has led me here. I understand my students, I connect with them, and sometimes, though certainly not always, I am able to inspire their learning in a meaningful way. 


  1. really enjoying your blog!!!

  2. Thanks! It's always nice to have a fan!

  3. Could you please list the weekly prizes you chose for rewarding your middle school students.....thank you for your great ideas!

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