The Secret Student

Another ramble through the backstreets of Twitter, last week, led me to a post by @Mr_S_Primary (Sam Stewart). He briefly discussed one of his favourite behaviour management strategies - Secret Student - which involved the random selection of a child who is monitored, throughout the day, in relation to their attitudes and choices in the classroom. Come the end of play, should the student have had a successful day then they are named and rewarded. A bad day, and they remain anonymous. The tweet's author pointed to the powerful onus that this process placed on the children to take the lead in regard to their behaviour, and I liked it! But, with my typical student-led hat on, I began toying with the idea of upping the level of self-autonomy involved. Why did I have to spend my day focusing on a single student when another student could!

I introduced the concept to my class on Monday. The first time around, I would play the role of the watcher, as an example for those students who would take up the role in the coming days. A name was chosen via lolly-pop sticks, but it was not revealed. The students were made aware of what was happening but had no idea if they were in with a chance of profiteering from being generally awesome for the entire six and a half hour school day. The result appeared to produce a group who were on their toes and who, for the most part, began to sit up, focus and show kindness towards one another. I have to admit that the potential of being the 'Secret Student' didn't appeal to all, but for the majority, it seemed to be a positive move. Sadly my test-subject turned out to be one of those who was unbothered and, after a second nag about slouching across the table, I took the decision that the trial run would end without a victor. The children were deflated...

Day two, and the sticks had been picked prior to the children's arrival. I took a moment to carefully whisper into the ear of one un-suspecting student - "You are the watcher! And the secret student is..." Now of course, you would imagine that this would prompt said child to run and tell everyone about their new, important job, but I had made it clear that, should the watcher get through the day without being sussed-out, they would also be rewarded with their name being entered into my prize-draw. They kept stum; carefully and quietly watching the day's proceedings go by. At 3.25pm I settled the class down and revealed the name of the watcher. There were lots of surprised faces. I asked them if their focus-child had had a successful day and they agreed, before explaining the examples of good behaviour that they had witnessed and by who. The group applauded the first winner and their name, along with their watchers, went into the reward jar.

We have continued, in the same vein, over the course of this week and I honestly feel like there has been an uplift in group behaviour. There are individuals who will never play ball and show no-enthusiasm for this whatsoever, but if something so simple can enhance the learning space for the majority, surely it is worth giving it a go. Personally, I have loved seeing individuals reminding one another to keep up the good work because they might be the one being watched. It seems like another small step forward towards that brilliant, resilient, student-led classroom which I am trying to create!

Have you tried playing 'Secret Student' in your classroom? Or do you use any other innovative behaviour management tricks that encourage independent working, leadership and/or confidence? If so, please comment or let me know!

Thanks again to Sam Stewart for sharing the idea - he doesn't claim it as his own, so if you were the inventor of the concept, or know who was, please get in touch.

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