Greenville Elementary School, through a grant provided by the Ohio Department of Education, is teaching positive behavior to all elementary students through a collection of classroom tools called the PAX Good Behavior Game.
The PAX Good Behavior Game is a preventive intervention used by teachers and schools to teach self-regulation, self-management, and self-control in young people.
When teachers are equipped with the strategies to teach these skills to children — in addition to academics — they create a nurturing environment that has an impact on young people with astounding lifetime effects.
These effects have a dramatic impact on children, schools, and communities. Students learn the word “PAX,” which means peace, to describe the good behaviors they want to create, and the word “Spleem” (a made-up word) to describe those behaviors they want to decrease (such as talking out-of-turn, or disrupting other students).
The different tools teachers use help children develop control over their attention, self-regulate their behaviors and cooperate with other students. One of the tools is the use of a harmonica to get the student’s attention that she has instructions for them, or to raise their awareness that their voices are too loud. Students are taught proper behavior and receive rewards in the form of class “games” when they exhibit correct behavior. Playing the PAX Game is building the “brain muscles” for sustained attention, focus, and cooperation with others. Often, these games are an opportunity for teachers and students to be silly and have fun. They are essentially “brain-breaks” for short periods of time. For example, for younger students, a one-minute “Dance Party” gets the students moving and energized for learning. For older students, a short game of Pictionary, done by the teacher on the chalkboard, gives them the break they need.
Students also can write “tootle” messages about other classmates. A tootle is the opposite of a tattle, remarking on a particular good behavior by a student during the day. A classmate can remark about another being helpful, having good behavior or sharing. It becomes contagious because students try to receive a positive message.
Many teachers report they are relieved at not having to buy stickers, trinkets or use candy as rewards for their classes. The added benefit is that students can start to use their imagination rather than depending on getting more “stuff.”
Most of Greenville’s Elementary staff were trained over the summer, and they implemented the PAX Good Behavior Game at the beginning of the school year.
When asked how the program is progressing, teachers responded, “When we play Pax games during the day, good behavior increases and negative behavior decreases,” and “Students become helpful, positive leaders to ensure their teams do not earn spleems. They really look forward to playing a game.”
James Hooper is Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Greenville City Schools.