LEWISTON — Before exploring Asian countries online, 6th-grade teacher Sara Hogate asked her class: How many good cards did they get that Wednesday?
Sixteen, her Longley Elementary School students answered.
“Who remembers how many we got the day before?” The answer was 19. “So we went down a bit. I want to get it back up. Yusuf, it's your turn to write the chart.”
The boy went to the board and updated the chart. Hogate passed out good cards.
Ali got one for working quietly, Mohamed for helping to clean. “Ben and Yusuf also got good cards for helping clean,” Hogate said. Mohamed, Kyle, Hussein and Joey got cards for helping or being quiet after lunch.
As the teacher talked, noise from students talking got louder. “Why do I hear people talking when I'm talking?” she asked. “That's not respectful.” The noise subsided.
As part of the first year of a major school improvement plan at Longley, “good cards” and a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program are new ways students are taught and encouraged to behave, allowing more time for learning.
All Lewiston schools this year have adopted the program and three student rules: “safe, respectable and responsible,” said Longley Principal Linda St. Andre. How the rules play out differ from school to school.
At Longley, rules are posted in classes, the cafeteria, the playground, even the water fountain.
When students follow the rules, “they get a good card,” said Hogate, 26, a recent University of Maine graduate. Students get prizes, a cupcake, gum, pencils or erasers for getting good cards. The behavior is discussed in class. When the daily count goes down, “we talk about what we can work on as a class,” Hogate said.
Each week every homeroom teacher holds a raffle drawing one good card. The winning student is sent to the principal's office for a treat and praise. “I talk to them about what they did to get a good card,” St. Andre said. “I thank them for being good Longley lions and encourage them to continue to make good choices.”
There are no cards for bad behavior but there are consequences, like losing recess, Hogate said. When that happens students meet with the teacher to talk about it. The goal is to respectfully correct and empower the student.
Longley has lists that spell out safe, responsible and respectable actions for different settings. At the water fountain, posted rules say: “Form a line. One at a time. Take a drink. Count to three.”
In the cafeteria lunch line, rules include: take turns, wait patiently, say please and thank you, follow cleanup directions, keep voices quiet. “It's all worded in the positive,” St. Andre said.
A group of third-graders eating lunch was asked to give examples of cafeteria rules. A half dozen eager hands shot up. “To use your manners,” Abdikani said. “To follow cleanup,” Miski said. “If you see a paper on the floor you pick it up.”
The federal improvement school program provides Longley with a behavioral specialist for 10 hours a week. That specialist gives group presentations to teachers and follows up with individual teachers in classrooms.
Overall, the program recommends five good cards be given for every one discipline referral. “When you reward kids for doing what you taught them, they'll continue to do it. Others will see it,” St. Andre said.
So far, students are responding, she said. About 80 percent of students are doing well, 20 percent need some intervention. “In that 20 percent some kids are written up once. A very small percentage are repeatedly written up.” Those students receive extra attention, she said.
Teaching students what behavior is expected, then praising them for doing it, means classrooms run smoothly and less instruction is interrupted, St. Andre said. “We can get on with the business of academics.”