Classroom Management: 3 ideas to encourage student ownership, self-reflection, and positive peer encouragement

This is probably the first year that I have been excited about classroom management. I guess seven years is long enough?  At any rate, I had to retire my color-coded card system.  With 4th graders, I wanted them to take responsibility by pulling their own cards… but they’d pull everyone else’s to get back.  As a result, a discipline routine that should have been 15 seconds and without incident was almost as disruptive as the original misbehavior.  So, here are three routines I implemented for individual and whole class behavior.

1.) Good Behavior Bingo

behavior bingo

I found this chart on teacherspayteachers from Miss Kindergarten Love. It is editable so that I can change the categories to fit the class dynamics and the classroom space. This year’s categories were Popcorn (usually with a fun video… Bill Nye or Dojo), Read-a-thon (with flashlights and pillows), Inside Games, Surprise (aka Takis… but could be other things), Experiment (because I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like science as much as I do…)

In the past I have used this with the card/clip system so that if no one had pulled more than one card/clip, we could get a sticker on our bingo board. When we got a BINGO, we got our behavior reward on the next Friday.

This year, however, as I mentioned, the card/clip system was ineffective at best. Also, the method I had been using would too often single out the one student who cost us the sticker.

So, this year I implemented a “mystery student” strategy I saw recommended from a co-worker. The mystery student was responsible for earning us the sticker that day. If the mystery student earned the sticker, they would draw the paper to reveal the square on the BINGO board and then choose another student who they thought did a good job in class to put the sticker on the board.

2.) Checks and Consequences


The card/clip system was replaced by logical consequences from Teacher Trap on TPT. Admittedly, I had trouble keeping up with this one as much as I would have liked.

Students would get checks for specific behaviors and each check would have a consequence that they would have to complete during recess. The consequences are tailored to the offense and focus on restoration and future goals, rather than punishment. For example, if the student was disruptive during small group times, after a reminder they received a check. During recess, they would need to apologize to the students in their group members individually or write a note setting goals for how to be a better group member. This allows for student ownership of behavior and self-reflection.

This could work on it’s own, but I used it with the Behavior Bingo and Mystery Student. If the mystery student did not get any checks, they would earn us the Bingo sticker. This way, if several students had checks — or the one who usually gets checks — we could still be working toward a class reward.

3.) Mystery Student (Secret Student)

secret student 2

This is one of my favorite classroom management strategies. I was afraid the students would get tired of it, but they never did. I didn’t either. At the beginning of class, I would pull a name stick to see who the mystery student was without telling the class. The students were so excited about it that they would try to peek, so I had to be extra sneaky. It made the class start with a light-hearted mood.

During lessons and group work, I could just generally remind the students that “I hope my mystery student is helping us earn our sticker.”

secret student

This would cause all the students to check themselves. They realized they could be the one the class was depending on to get our sticker. The mystery student would get to draw the bingo card at the end of class, pick a fellow student to put the sticker on the board, and get in the treasure box.

If the mystery student didn’t earn the sticker, I would not reveal who the mystery student was. I would simply tell the students that I couldn’t share the secret because the mystery student hadn’t been on task or exhibiting excellent behavior. Later, I could tell the student in private the consequences of the choices he or she had made.

Also, if the mystery student had exhibited excellent behavior, but most of the class had not (there are those days), I would reveal the mystery student, but tell the class that since they hadn’t been helping the mystery student out, we didn’t earn the sticker. However, the mystery student would still earn treasure box for their behavior.

Why I like this so much:

  • It helped create team spirit –students would encourage each other to act like the mystery student and to help each other earn a sticker. They then congratulate the mystery student and sticker student for a job well done.
  • Students realize more that their actions affect the class.
  • Students recognize the good efforts of their classmates when the mystery student picks someone to place the sticker on the board.
  • Confession: sometimes I fudge about who the mystery student is… and the kids never know. For example… the “behavior problem” student is actually having a good day and I’ve been looking for ways to celebrate him conquering his anger management or her for holding her tongue. You can bet that that no matter what name I pull, they are going to be the mystery student that day.
  • Instead of a list of rules to adhere to — which we do have — my students focus on how a model student would act and strive for that goal.
  • No matter what kind of day the students had before, each day is a new chance for them to be the mystery student.
  • So many positive vibes.

For more ideas about how to use mystery student, check out this post from Minds in Bloom.

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