Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TAGteacher Tale: Out With the Rules, In With the Tag Points!

By Gwen Hunter

I recently convinced staff at a new program for families with children who present with a gamut of behavioral challenges (ADHD, OD, autism spectrum, etc.) to try TAGteach. After a few telephone conversations they invited me to come and observe their most challenging class of 6 kids. Wow, it was chaotic and, frankly, dangerous. The following week I met with staff after school for a couple of hours, passed out info on TAGteach. They were excited. This class was the following day so I asked them to make a list of the behaviors they didn't like below each student's name. Then we went over each item, added an = sign next to each, and came up with behaviors they'd like instead (what a helpful tool this is! Thanks for teaching it.) These became tag points. I gave them taggers and we decided on tictacs for primary reinforcers. They then split up the kids so that each of us would have two to tag. I was really nervous about this as in the past I'd only tagged when working one-on-one with a student plus I didn't know these kids, but we decided to approach this as a learning experience - which it certainly was!

Only two kids showed up - two were on a camping trip and the other two, twins, were at an appointment with their mom. The boy who showed up had only one 'negative' behavior on his list: "he hates to move," so his tag point was "adventure try." The girl who attended had several behaviors on her list: "launches herself," "unsafe," "interrupts," "loud voice." We did not come up for tag points for unsafe and body launching, but "raise hand to talk" and "level 3 voice" were tag points.

The teacher did a beautiful job of describing TAGteach and tag points. The girl was tagged for raising her hand and darn, it didn't feel right to not tag the boy who was sitting listening, so he was tagged for 'eyes on teacher.' This was a good way to deal with a possible inequity, where the child who has behavior issues gets lots of tags, while the child sitting quietly gets none. After explaining and demonstrating tag, the teacher asked the kids what they wanted to do. The boy was tagged for suggesting setting up an obstacle course (the kid who hates to move!), and he and the girl brainstormed ideas. The girl got lots of tags for "level 3 voice" and together and under their direction, we set up a challenging 10-part course involving pillows, swings, hammocks, a squeeze cow that shoots balls, a target, and a slide. WOW! The boy demonstrated the route first, which involved lots of moving! Tag points for the girl that addressed safety became obvious during this activity: "feet first," "ask adult for help," "warn when starting," "wait until B has finished." At the end of the hour, the boy reached into his pocket, pulled out a large handful of tictacs, looked up and me and said, "Look at all the tags I got!"

There were no behavior problems during this class, and after the kids left the staff was incredibly excited about the effectiveness of TAGteach! I pointed out the 'rules' list on the wall and suggested they change it (it was called Rules and involved lots of 'NO…."). Staff immediately took it down and replaced it with a list called TAG POINTS!

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