Stop Think Do

Motivating children to use STOP THINK DO

If children are going to benefit in their real-life from the social skills we are teaching them, they have to want to use their new skills outside of the training sessions. Strategies to motivate them to do so are built into the program in various ways.

  • Social circle

  • Set aside a specific time each day say, 15 minutes after returning to the classroom from lunch break. Children and teachers sit in a social circle which symbolizes group cohesion and mutual support. This reinforces the idea that "we are all in this together", and "we all want to use our new skills" and "we all help each other". It is a time for practicing and reviewing STOP THINK DO principles, reinforcing goals achieved by students, planning positive activities and projects, and group problem solving using STOP THINK DO for issues that have arisen in the classroom or the yard. Even after completion of the formal social skills training program, the social circle may be continued as a regular classroom activity.

  • Motivating exercises and activities

  • These are outlined in the manuals and presented to students to reinforce the idea of setting goals to improve themselves using STOP THINK DO, and also reinforcing each other towards goal achievement.

  • "Good bits" messages

  • Engineer opportunities to identify and reinforce the "good bits" of each child in the classroom, both in lessons and during the social circle time. This often represents a complete reversal of focus within the group, particularly if the children have been together for a long time, and the "children with problems" or the "problem children" are well known to students and teachers. These children generally receive attention for their negative behaviours and "bad bits". If the STOP THINK DO program is to be successful, these children need a different image for other students and teachers.

    A "good bits" exercise may be used regularly to ensure that this occurs. For example, 4 tissue boxes are stuck on the wall and a name from the roll placed on the top of each box in the morning, with names rotated daily to ensure all the children get good messages regularly. In social circle time after lunch, students write messages about something they like about the children whose names are on the box, and post the messages to them. The teacher's name is also included. For younger children who can't write, the teacher asks students to say what they like about a particular child, and the teacher writes the positive messages on a cardboard poster with a picture of the child on it. These posters are rotated through the roll. The posters may also be taken home to parents so that they can read positive things being said about their child. For older children, messages may be posted in a pizza box with a slit in the top. Students have the choice whether to read their msesages aloud or keep them to themselves. They may choose their favourite "good bits" message and use it for a particular purpose, e.g., building a "good bits" wall or tree or linked chain in the room. Parents and the local community may be involved by providing sponsorship for the "good bits" messages that are received by class members. The money raised may be used for buying resources or given to local charities as decided in a cooperative exercise by the group.

    Initially, a problem with this technique may be that children with negative reputations will receive mostly negative comments from other students. Therefore, teachers/group leaders need to engineer positive messages for these children for example, by setting them up to do positive things prior to the "good bits" exercise, and then they can post a positive messsage to that child, enticing other children to notice these positive changes. In case there are still negative messages posted for some children, the teacher should read all the messages in the tissue or pizza boxes prior to the children reading them, and discard any negative comments, thus giving the writer no attention for making them. Also, children drop the habit of writing negative messages once they realise that other students are giving them positives.

  • Solving big problems

  • Show that STOP THINK DO really works, even for big problems like teasing, swearing, aggressive behaviour or distracting others. Use a designated board in the classroom for group problem solving when issues arise.

  • Peer mediation

  • Peer mediation/support programmes may be run in schools using the STOP THINK DO model to show that this method of relating and problem solving is an important, integral part of the school system and ethos, supported by executive, staff and students. Also, students who have a history of social-behavioural difficulties are often very successful in the role as peer mediators, trained and supported by a peer support coordinator (teacher).

  • Whole school approach

  • Apply STOP THINK DO across the whole school to increase its power and transfer for students. Teachers will initially need to be involved in teacher training (say, for 2 half day sessions prior to implementing the program) with someone familiar with the program. STOP THINK DO may be applied in a lock-step fashion across the whole school with all classes doing the same units at the same time, so they all talk the same language and teachers may support each other. Classes may also join together for these lessons following a cross-age tutoring model. Items and activities related to STOP THINK DO lessons may be presented by different classes at school assembly, with parents invited to observe. It will be necessary to continue to motivate staff to use STOP THINK DO since their commitment to do so will ensure the success of the program in the longer term. For example, at each staff meeting, a teacher may be rostered to find one "good bit" that is happening around the school as a result of STOP THINK DO, and report it back to the staff meeting. This information may be sent to parents in the newsletter, and even reported on a regular basis to the local newspaper to ensure that the community becomes aware of the school's efforts and commitment.

  • School-Family collaboration

  • Encourage parent involvement to show students that Stop Think Do is relevant in the home as well as school, and that it is supported by their parents. Parents often recognise the validity and credibility of the program through its methodological approach and curriculum style of presentation. There are various levels of parent involvement including regular information home to parents about what the children are learning, a parent-teacher meeting to explain to parents the goals of STOP THINK DO, coaching sessions with parents to teach them strategies for reinforcing their children's new skills and ideas about how they can use STOP THINK DO themselves to manage their child's behaviour at home. For children who already have significant difficulties, their parents may need a full parent training program using 'Social Savvy' to address their issues with their children in a therapeutic way.

  • Behaviour management

  • Children are motivated to use STOP THINK DO if their significant adults in their lives also use STOP THINK DO for solving behaviour management problems they are experiencing with the children. In other words, we need to 'practice what we preach' and provide good models to the children we are teaching.