The Scoreboard is the fourth piece of the puzzle in the Whole Brain Teaching system known as The Big Seven. This component is referred to as The Motivator because it actively engages the limbic system in our students’ brains. The limbic system is the seat of the emotions. It’s where we register if we’re feeling happy, sad, nervous, angry, etc. I think this part of the brain is often neglected in our classrooms today. As teachers, we feel compelled to concentrate on achieving ever increasing levels of difficulty with the academic standards. This focus is good, but not if it comes at the expense of our students feeling emotionally disconnected from learning. Human beings are emotional creatures. Engaging positive emotions during a lesson further enhances the effectiveness of the instruction. Using the Scoreboard is another way that Whole Brain Teaching lives up to its name.
Simple Yet Effective
The Scoreboard is definitely a routine you want to introduce with your students on the first day of school. It’s Level 1 of your classroom management system. The simplicity of the Scoreboard is without compare – one smiley face and one frowny face. You make tally marks under each face depending on the behavior of the entire class. It’s that simple. When I first started using the Scoreboard with my students last year, I was frankly amazed at how thrilled they were to earn a “smiley face.” It seemed too good to be true, but it wasn’t! I was able to use it successfully with my class through the end of the school year.
3 Important Principles
It’s important that when you use the Scoreboard you follow three principles crucial for its effectiveness:
Use it often.
- Very simply, the more you use the Scoreboard…the more effective it is. If you notice an increasing amount of problem behaviors in your classroom, check the frequency of your Scoreboard. By the end of the first day of school, for example, you should have somewhere around 40 total tally marks on your Scoreboard. This was probably my biggest challenge when first learning to use the Scoreboard. I would get so busy teaching my lesson that I forgot to put tally marks on the Scoreboard. Before I knew it, an hour had passed without a single mark!! Finally, I just had to set a timer to chirp at me every few minutes as a cue to be using my Scoreboard. The good news is that after a while, it did become second nature and I didn’t have to rely on my timer as much.
Follow the +3/-3 Rule.
- In order to keep our students’ emotions engaged in the Scoreboard, keep the score close. Never have more than 3 marks under either side. If you have too many marks under the Smiley face, your students will start to become complacent. After all, they have a comfortable margin of victory. However, if there are too many marks under the Frowny side, then they start to give up. “Why bother?” they think to themselves, “We will never win.” Keeping the score close will maximize the effectiveness of this technique.
Don’t give a Frowny for individual behavior.
- The Scoreboard can be used to reward positive group or individual behavior, but you never want to use it as a punishment for a single student’s behavior. You can unintentionally create divisions within your classroom if one student is the cause of a Frowny mark on the Scoreboard.
Another wonderful feature of the Scoreboard is its effectiveness at reinforcing good behavior outside the classroom. Whenever I walked my students to special area class, the cafeteria or recess they knew I was still monitoring for good behavior. Anything I noticed that earned a Smiley mark was indicated simply with a thumbs-up gesture. A Frowny mark was indicated by holding one finger in the air…or two on really challenging days! I was able to communicate quickly and quietly to the whole class and it insured that they kept their eyes on me. Last month, I downloaded the Scoreboard app onto my smartphone. It costs about $5, but I found it very easy to use and worth the money. It helped me to keep an accurate count whenever we ventured outside our class so the Scoreboard was always right. If you don’t have a smartphone, I did see one teacher create her own version with a small notepad. She tied a piece of string to two corners and draped it around her neck like a large necklace. Whenever she wanted to make a mark of the Scoreboard, she just used her pen to do so on the notepad.
Of course, Coach B has posted a very useful YouTube video about how to use this technique with your students.
I would also recommend that you read Chapter 11 in Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids. It explains the concept in detail. There are 15 variations to use with your students to counteract the habituation process. I have chosen five variations that I plan to introduce to my students as the school year progresses in order to keep my students engaged. Remember – it’s a long school year and you need a lot of strategies in your “back pocket!”