Rosemary McQuade

Catch Them Being Good

 Darron is an eight year old boy in Ms. Gallo’s third grade inclusion class. Darron does not

receive special education services at this time. However, according his teacher, he demonstrates

many disruptive behaviors in the classroom. Darron seems to have problems maintaining his

focus during Ms. Gallo’s lessons. He often calls out, plays with items on his desk, doodles on

his desk, sneaks gum and blows bubbles, makes loud disruptive noises while others are speaking

and throws things at his peers. These behaviors are also evident during independent work time at

his desk.

 Upon my first day observing Ms. Gallo’s class, Darron engaged in all of the above

mentioned behaviors. On the second day, Ms. Gallo and I decided to make an attempt at

eliminating this behavior by the “catch em being good” technique. This strategy is something that

Ms. Gallo regularly employs in her classroom. She will often go around the classroom

those students demonstrating appropriate classroom behavior. She will often say things like

“Way to go Robert. You are reading quietly at your desk.” Or, she may make an announcement

like, “Let’s give Joy a thumbs up for working so hard on her assignment.” Occasionally, Ms.

Gallo will crown her students for their diligent work efforts. Those who wear this crown are

referred to as the “King or Queen of Good Work Habits.” This crown is considered a privilege to

wear in class, and therefore, the kids often compete to be crowned. While Ms. Gallo often uses

the “catch em being good” technique with Darron, we chose to really focus on him together for

the few days that I was there to see if it would result in any major behavioral change.

 For three days, I sat next to Darron, on the watch for any positive behavior that I would

immediately tackle with a compliment. Ms Gallo and I went through all behaviors that would be

followed by a praise. They included about ten different items. For example, after Darron sat for

three minutes without any problematic behaviors, I would praise him, saying something like,

“Darron, you are sitting very nicely in your seat today, I’m impressed.” If Darron sat without

fidgeting with papers and pens, I’d immediately say “Wow, I’m happy to see that you’re focusing

on what Ms. Gallo is teaching.” When he raised his hand, Ms. Gallo often called on him

immediately to reinforce the behavior. I would follow her with a subtle note to Darron saying

“Yippy, you’re learning to be patient and wait for your turn. I’m really proud of you!” These

phrases would be followed by stars and smiley faces. Darron really appreciated these notes, and

so we made a section in his notebook where we would tape the notes. After the first day, Darron

had five pages covered with my notes to him.

 We noted that while I was in the classroom these behaviors basically became extinct.

However, it was hard to tell whether the “catch em being good” technique really worked or if my

mere presence in the classroom was enough for Darron to behave appropriately in class. Ms.

Gallo and I concurred that it was probably a combination of both factors resulting in such

exemplary behavior.
 One week later, I contacted Ms. Gallo to follow up on Darron’s behavior in the

classroom. I asked Ms. Gallo if the behavior reoccurred or if the behavior remained extinct in my

absence. To my surprise, Ms. Gallo reported that Darron continued to be significantly more

attentive during lessons. She stated that Darron no longer engaged in his disruptive behavior

during independent study time as well. She did acknowledge that she continued to focus on

him during the lessons and during quiet study and continued to praise efforts toward being an

exemplary student. On the Friday following the week I had visited, Darron was awarded the

“King of Good Work Habits” crown. Ms. Gallo reported that Darron had asked her to please

report this award to me.
 In conclusion, it was obvious that my experiment resulted in an increase in Darron’s

positive classroom behavior. It is reasonable to conclude that since Darron’s good behavior

continued in my absence, it was a direct result of the “catch em being good” behavior change

technique. However, I can not be certain that had Ms. Gallo discontinued her praise, that

Darron’s inappropriate behavior would not occur again. It seems that this should be a technique

used continually whether there are behavior problems present or not in the classroom. It seems

like there is an infectious will to do well when this technique is employed among children in


Thanks Rosemary!