There are days when I look at myself and wonder how in the world I manage to tie my shoelaces and drive to work. You know--the days you start to wonder just how dense you can be?
Today was one of those days. I realized something and wanted to kick myself. Let me explain.
Last week, my MSM post was about rewarding and reinforcing good behavior rather than trying to change less-desirable actions. And I really believe that. But you have to be careful with what you reward.
Last spring, during March Madness, I came up with an idea I thought was pretty good. You see, the boys in my middle school chorus classes tend to grumble and growl instead of singing. They don't want to sing high notes and so they try to sing everything an octave too low. But their voices don't really go that low. So it ends up in a sort of monotone growl.
We working on a song and I was at my wit's end. Could not get them to sing the right notes. They weren't even high--just higher than the growls they were doing.
In a flash of inspiration, I had them line up in my classroom and take turns shooting foul shots in the basketball hoop I keep there. They each did and then we talked about baskets. Some shots miss completely, so barely make it, and some arc up over the rim drop down through the hoop and swish through--nothing but net.
We talked about singing like that. Singing up and over and landing down on the note. Going high if it needs it, but not shooting too low on our singing. Nothing but note (see what I did there?).
Well, I felt like it worked. We did that exercise and then sang and it got better. I developed a specific conducting motion to remind them of this idea.
The next day things were bad again. So I had them line up and do the same thing. And again it improved a little.
Do you see the problem? Do you see what I did without meaning to?
I rewarded their bad singing. Everytime they did this badly, they get to shoot a basketball.
I stand by the initial idea. It was a good idea, I think. A way to help them translate a concept into something familiar and kinesthetic.
But to be more effective, once we'd had the initial lesson, I should have let them shoot hoops whenever they did it well--not when I wanted to remind them of what to do. Without meaning to, I set up a powerful incentive to not sing the way I wanted them to.
So, I believe in rewarding good behavior and positive actions.
However, you have to be careful with the way you do it!
And now I have learned and will be changing this situation tomorrow.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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