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Dancing with the EQ Stars

Image: Students at EQ dance

Every classroom has its rules for behaviors and consequences. Motivation is the key to encouraging students to follow the rules. This fall at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES), the school psychologist, counselor, social worker, and teachers presented the middle school students with a challenge. If the students collectively earned 520 stars for using positive behaviors, they would be rewarded with a dance!

The KDES middle school teachers and staff called their plan "Dancing with the EQ Stars" and shared it with the parents. Students earned stars on a daily basis for positive behavior such as helping a classmate, cooperating with teachers or staff, and being tolerant of inappropriate behavior by other students.

"We learned how to be nice to each other," said Juwan Blackwell (grade seven). "We showed each other how to behave; if a student was bothering me, I found out ways to ask them to stop."

Progress was charted on a bulletin board located in a place visible to everyone. "We were really motivated by the dance," said Wendy Brehm (grade eight). "We didn't want to cause trouble and miss having the dance, so we encouraged and helped each other. We listened to the teachers more and cooperated more."

The teachers, for their part, shifted their focus from attending primarily to inappropriate behaviors and honed in on positive ones. "The students really responded well," said school psychologist Robert Whitaker. "They started motivating and helping their classmates to earn more stars. The teachers noticed a significant and positive change in classroom behavior."

By mid-January, the students had exceeded their target goal of 520 stars. On February 19, they all spruced up in fine dress and took the dance floor in the KDES gym in style. There was music-some students brought their iPods-and snacks, and dances like the Limbo and the Cha-cha-cha. Both teachers and students made the most of the celebration and enjoyed reaping the rewards of their hard work.

Students and teachers are now busy setting up a new goal for the spring-maybe a class camping trip?