Officials: School program encourages students

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Check In-Check Out rewards positive behavior, high attendance

Finding ways to engage small children in school can become a challenge.

Some children, due to struggles or personal challenges, may struggle more than others.

To reach these children, Monett Elementary School tried a new strategy this past school year that yielded positive results.

The Check In-Check Out program offered a different way to promote cooperative behavior and to enhance attendance. Sarah Garner, instruction coach, and counselor Becky Potter devised the approach as one of the interventions they planned.

"Our goal is to get students to monitor their own behavior," Garner said. "We see children who have difficulty with things like keeping their hands to themselves, using kind words or following directions."

When students in the program arrive for school in the morning, they receive a greeting and a goal sheet from an adult, not their teacher, increasing the number of adult interactions. Garner noted that having a positive relationship alone can become a significant motivator. Students receive a goal sheet and, at the end of the day, they return to the same adult to graph their progress. Students receive stickers for meeting their goals and can earn prizes.

"It's not that these children are naughty," Garner said. "They might talk out all the time, which makes a classroom not function as well as it should. It's especially effective for children seeking attention.

"When we have to correct students, we always say what you should do in a positive way, not 'don't do this.'"

Garner and Potter have found children from all walks of life respond to the approach. No one segment of the population appears more prone to these behaviors.

Students who have less than 90 percent attendance also come into Check In-Check Out.

"You can't be successful in school if you're not here," Garner said. "We use this not for sickness, but for chronic absence, 17 days or more."

In addition to talking to parents, school personnel start the program by having students check in when they arrive and receive a sticker for a Star Chart. They get extras here and there on Bonus Sticker Day.

"We can use this to monitor attendance, and it's a great encouragement to getting these kids to come to school," Garner said.

Garner said Check In-Check Out has been "a great success" and will be used again in the coming year.

"It's building relationships with students and parents," Garner said. "It brings us together as a team. The parents have been wonderful to work with."

"It's about 'someone cares I'm here.' We have rewards, and it's a good reminder for teachers to pay attention to positive behaviors."

According to research, there is a strong relationship between kindergarten attendance and graduation rates. Garner said establishing a good pattern has long-term effects.

"We want kids to be excited about coming to school," Garner said. "If they have a bad attitude about school at an early grade, it will carry over. We have to make sure we light a big spark."

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