Promoting A Climate of Positive Peer Pressure

    This page contains ideas that bring about cooperation on the part of your class and promote "positive peer pressure" (students motivating others to behave appropriately).

Devise a system of group rewards

1st way:
 Use a kitchen timer (the type on which you twist the dial to a certain time interval and a bell sounds when it finishes the timing).  Tell the students that you will be evaluating their behavior at the very moment that the bell sounds.  Set the timer for any time between one minute and twenty minutes (shorter times for classes that misbehave more often).  Do not let the students see the timer.  You want the sounding of the bell to be a surprise.  In this way, they are never sure when the "ding" will occur, and must stay on task and behave well at all times for fear that they might be off task or misbehaving when the bell sounds.

Upon hearing the bell, assess the behavior of the youngsters at that very moment.  You can give each well behaved, on-task student (when the bell sounded) a point toward some prize, or give the whole group zero to 3 points depending on the percentage of students who were attentive, compliant, hardworking, and otherwise well behaved.  A predetermined prize/priviledge is earned when the group attains a certain preset number of points (make the amount to be earned a low total at first to give them success and encourage more compliance).

2nd way:
  When the bell sounds, evaluate the group's behavior during the interval between bells.  Award 0-3 points depending on their performance during that time period.

3rd way:
    Use two kitchen timers set randomly.  Have two different types so that the sounds of the bells are different.  Use one to assess group behavior at the very instant that the bell rings.  Use the other timer to assess behavior between bells.  This double bell procedure provides double the incentive to behave well.

4th way:
    Obtain a jelly jar and a large bag of marbles.  Drop a marble into the jar whenever your class pleases you.  Drop marbles when they are attending well, being helpful and polite, after having walked quietly in the hallway, etc.  When you can run a ruler across the top of the jar and knock a marble onto the floor, your class has earned a predetermined prize or priviledge.  Increase the size of the jar as the year progresses until you are trying to fill one of those big pickle jars from the cafeteria.

5th way:
    Obtain a scale and some light weights (e.g., washers, bottle caps).  Designate one side of the scale to be for the recognition of positive behavior.  Designate the other side to be for emphasizing your disappointment with the group.  Students attempt to keep the scale in balance or weighted to the positive side.  Weights can be added spontaneously (remember to focus on the positive), or whenever a bell sounds or period/activity is nearly over.

The following is a graduate class assignment submitted by Elizabeth Harty  (used with her permission).  It describes the use of choice to promote positive peer pressure.

“The Use of Personal Choice in Classrooms:

     The principle teachings of  Thomas Gordon, Discipline as Self-Control focuses on the idea that students must have ownership of their problems so that they may create the solution.  According to C.M. Charles in Building Classroom Discipline, he states that Gordon believes, “When an individual is troubled by a condition, event, or situation, that individual is said to ‘own’ the problem.  How problems are resolved depends in part upon who owns the problem" (pg. 87).  I decided to employ this technique while substitute teaching in a 6th grade Social Studies class.  Each class had the same assignment to complete.  They were to read pages from the textbook, complete a map, and answer questions about the reading and map.  Whatever they did not finish was to be completed for homework.  Therefore, I saw the students as having a critical choice.  They could spend the period working on their assignment, or they could have more work to do at home.

    When the students entered the classroom at the beginning of the period, I explained the assignment and directions that the teacher had left.  I also stated that we would read the two pages from the textbook together.  After we finished reading, the students would have an opportunity to complete the assignment.  After I had finished explaining the directions, I would tell the class that I saw them as having a choice.  Either they could spend the period working on their assignment and have very little or no homework, or they could talk to their friends and have more to do for homework.  This was their choice.  I would then ask the class, “What do you think is a good choice to make?”  In each of the three classes that I asked this question to, the students would respond enthusiastically saying that they thought the best choice would be to do their work now.  After reviewing the choice for the class, I would then need to take attendance.  If the students were talking and generally disrupting the class, I would stop, look directly at the students who were talking and say, “Remember, this is your choice.”  The other students would then ask the class to quiet down, because they didn’t want more homework.

    I found this technique to work extremely well.  Each student in the class was then responsible for his or her own behavior, as well as the behavior of their peers.  The class didn’t want more homework; so it made sense that they would want to quiet down to complete the assignment in class.  Hence, I placed the ownership of the problem or situation upon the students in the class, rather than myself.  In reality, I wanted them to complete the assignment so that I could leave a favorable report for the teacher.  At the same time, I did not want to scream and plead with the students to do their work.  In this instance, the students exhibited self-control and restraint in order to complete the assignment.  Additionally, I utilized non-controlling methods to promote behavior changes.  By saying that the class time was their choice, they students were receptive to completing their work.  If I had entered the classroom stating that the students needed to finish the assignment or else, I don’t believe that the students would have been as receptive to my request.

    In conclusion, when students believe that they have ownership of a problem or situation, they are more likely to comply with your wants or needs.  This technique not only makes teaching a more enjoyable profession, but it also creates a student centered learning environment.  The students did not become angry at me when they misbehaved, they were angry at each other, because it prevented them from completing the assignment.  I was thoroughly pleased with the results of this experiment and will incorporate this approach into my teaching style.

Charles, C.M. (2002).  Building Classroom Discipline(7th ed.)  Boston: Allyn and Bacon. (see lesson titled "The art of teaching: Put a spin on peer pressure")

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