As much as I love the Clip Chart, I don't always recommend that teachers start out using it in September.
For one, you've got your students all year. Don't feel you have to bring out everything immediately. In fact, I always felt it was important to have something new to crack out as the year progressed. Students are almost always motivated by novelty. Newness helps to to keep the classroom fresh and challenging.
Consequently, holding off on introducing the Clip Chart until the students return from winter break might make a bit more sense.
Bonus: And later on, after spring break, I'd roll out Credit Cards and things would really take off.
Another reason for waiting is the fact that the Clip Chart doesn't offer any kind of documentation for the non-compliant students. Put simply: What do you tell the parent at the end of the day when her child's clip is residing in Parent Contact? Without a record of what caused the clip to move down, you're going to be at loss to offer any kind of accurate, detailed insight.
Honestly, "He needs to try harder" just doesn't cut it.
For true success with both mother and child, you've got to be able to share with both of them specific areas of improvement that need to be made.
So, if I'm waiting until January to use the Clip Chart, what do I do until then? Like so many things, it depends.
Just click on the image below to download the translated form of the blackline master.
If I had a class populated with students who have not yet learned how to be independent and self-directed, I'd go with Behavior CODES. It's not only easy to do, it would also provide me with a simple written record of the needs of each and every student in my room. (You can read about this idea in the book, Eight Great Ideas.)
If I was dealing with a class with a more balanced population, I'd start with the Choices program. And by "balanced population" I mean I've got an equal number of limit testers, self-directed learners, and fence sitters.
Note: The fence sitters--neither positive nor negative but easily influenced by their peers--are the ones who aren't yet sure which way they're going to go. Left unattended, they will most likely follow the knuckleheads. With the right approach, though, you can almost always get them heading in a better direction.
If you'd like to read a bit about the Choices program so that you can try it out in your classroom, you can download the PDF here.