1-2-3 Magic Warnings and Class Dojo: The Best Behavior Management Plan I’ve Ever Used

First, I need to say that this is NOT original to me or my classroom! The 1-2-3- Magic discipline strategy is from the book, “1-2-3 Magic” by Thomas W. Phelan, PhD. It’s a brilliant strategy for parents, classrooms, and any other individual who has the responsibility of helping raise children. The difference is that I have simplified it just a little to work more effectively for my own behavior management style and classroom.

So, here’s the thought behind the plan … our job as teachers, parents, etc. is to teach children appropriate social behavior, and how to make appropriate social behavior decisions on their own, right? Well, that’s how I see it. So if all I do is set the rules and then give out consequences, am I really teaching them to manage their own behavior? No. But, you can’t spend your time giving out warnings and reminders all day without there being a consequence either. That’s where the 1-2-3 magic warnings come in.

The actual plan and process is extremely simple. When your child is making a behavioral decision that is not appropriate you give a simple warning of “1”. This can be a verbal warning, a hand signal, or some other signal. I’ve found that nonverbal signals are the most effective in the classroom because it doesn’t stop your teaching. I use hand signals by raising one, two, or three fingers depending on the stage of warning. After the warning, you immediately go back to teaching or whatever you are doing. If the child corrects the behavior, you’re done. But, if you’ve given a warning of “1” and the behavior doesn’t stop within 10 seconds, you now give the warning of “2”. Again, you allow 10 seconds. The same process applies here. If the behavior stops, you just move on. If the behavior does not stop within 10 seconds, you are now on “3”. What happens at “3” depends on your classroom plan. This could mean a short time out, a clip down on your behavior chart, or a loss of a point on ClassDojo (which is what I use), or any other number of things depending on what you do.

What I love about this process is that it’s quick, doesn’t stop your teaching or activity, and it allows the child to make a better choice, making them more accountable for their behavior choices. I’ve found that it works well for all students, but especially for students who are more impulsive and need a little more guidance and encouragement.

I’ve used the 1-2-3 magic warnings with a clip chart before and found that it worked just fine. However, I definitely prefer ClassDojo because it’s not visual in the classroom and therefore the students are not focused on it all day long, are not viewing other students’ points, and it is also visible to the child’s guardians if you connect families to your account. This means that you can message families about those behaviors the student is frequently choosing to engage in, making their growth more of a team effort.

Now for the next steps … in my classroom, if a child loses three points in a day(which would equal six to nine warnings altogether), my student fills out a Time-Out Form, which is taken home to be signed by the parent. Three of these in a nine weeks results in a behavior referral to the principal. This is actually a school-wide policy at my elementary school and it works really well. Or, if a child fills out a Time-Out Form and then continues to make poor behavioral choices throughout that same day, I immediately go to a phone call home and/or a behavior referral that day. This also works really well as a deterrent to continuing poor choices.

Just like any behavior plan though, it is not a magic fix for all students all the time. I haven’t found anything that is actually. What I have found, though, is that when I am consistent, this behavior/discipline plan works better than anything else I have done in the 15+ years I’ve been teaching. I think that’s true because it’s fair, and it allows the students to feel more in control, than controlled.

As always, if you’d like more information or have questions related to this post, please contact me. I’m always happy to help in anyway that I can. Or, if you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

Happy Teaching!

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