Using Positive Behavior Management to Improve Teamwork

Ultimate Class Champions!

Sara O’Connell, Menasha, WI

I recently had an enlightening experience regarding the way I encourage better teamwork within my student groups.  In past years, I have used a Participation Quiz during lessons to encourage teams to work together.  I set it up using points, with each team starting with three points.  The team lost points if they were not working together well or staying on task.  I raised the score to four if they were showing exemplary teamwork.  The points were organized in a Google Sheets spreadsheet that I would project during class, and I could change points using the Google Sheets app on my phone.

This year, I decided to try a Participation Quiz for the first time with my Algebra classes when they were working on exponent rules.  In my morning class, there was one student who had finished all of the problems, and was talking to a student in another group.  I redirected both students, asking them to talk with their own teammates and help each other check for correct answers.  One of the students questioned why they could not talk since they both had their own work done.  I explained that it is important that the entire team understands the content, and that the ability to work in a team is a lifelong skill.  The student responded that the team got it, they just were not done yet.  I referred back to my Participation Quiz that I was conducting – if they did not work together as a team, they were going to lose points.  This is where my approach backfired.  The student responded that the points did not matter to them, because participation should not even be a part of the grade.  However, as the entire team was losing points, other students in the group voiced concerns about their grades.  I was also concerned about this student’s attitude toward the importance of teamwork.

After class that hour, I consulted with some colleagues about how to approach the situation.  I was looking for some resources that would help me have a better conversation with my student about why we need to be able to contribute effectively to a team.  I received several articles and suggestions, which I did later use to conference with my student, but I also received a suggestion about how to change the atmosphere of my Participation Quiz.  Instead of starting a team with three points, and deducting points for poor teamwork behaviors, I should turn the quiz into a game!  I created another Google Sheets document, this time with a bar graph showing how many points each team had.

I also listed the “rules” of the game – ways that teams could earn points.  Each team started at zero points, and could earn points for things like discussing the math problems, working together on the same problem, asking a question to another teammate, explaining their answer to another teammate, checking work with each other, etc.  The side of the graph was labeled with different levels – 0 points was “Bench Warmers,” 5 points was “Rookies,” 10 points was “Amateur,” 15 points was “Pro,” and 20 points was “Ultimate Class Champions!”  The main difference was that the game would reward positive behaviors, instead of penalizing negative behaviors.

I tried the game out in my afternoon Algebra class, and the transformation was unbelievable!  The first thing I noticed was the increased focus on the task at hand.  My students in the afternoon class also had a better understanding of the content that day than my morning class. I heard some great things being said within groups:  “Are we all on the same problem?”  “Can you help me with this?”  “Let me show you what I did.”   There was a sense of friendly competition within the classroom, but all in a positive way – they all wanted to reach the status of Ultimate Class Champions!  It accomplished the same goal as my original Participation Quiz – to stress the importance of team behaviors – but the game focused on positive behaviors.  It really accomplished two things for me – better class management and better teamwork!  Since trying this game, I have had several students from that hour ask if we can “play the game” again.  To me, that is the mark of success!

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.