Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Expectations & Managing great classroom behavior

If there's one thing that I'm good at, it's developing my behavior expectations immediately and maintaining my expectations throughout the year. I never thought my scary professor in college, the one who dressed to the tee every time we had class but when you came up and asked a realized that there was a thousand little toilets on his tie, would make such a huge impact on me.

I am a very young-looking (I've been asked if I was a 5th grader before) new teacher. Parents would mistakenly think that I wouldn't be able to control my classroom, but little do they know I'm the one the older teachers send their children to.

Here's my tricks:

1. Never yell- if you yell, the student realizes that they can get a reaction out of you and they know you're no longer in control. Besides, you would not want your child's teacher yelling at your baby.
2. Be firm- I don't threaten. I give one warning and if the child continues to misbehave I follow through with a logical consequence. All the while, I'm staying calm.
3. Give the children a voice- ask questions to understand the child's reasoning of doing a particular behavior. My supervising teacher in my student teaching would say, "I....I...." to encourage the students to focus on THEIR behavior (I always thought she sounded like the seagulls in Finding Nemo).
4. Be fair- Set the expectation for the entire class. There's always that one child in class that never gets in trouble, but they need to be held to the same standards as everyone else. A rule is a rule, an expectation is what I expect.
5. Consult- Every year and every child is different. I still find myself shocked when a student displays a behavior I've never encountered before. Asking other teachers who may have had this experience before is a great way to get an outsiders perspective. When talking to the parents, I often inquire about the child's well-being or if this is a behavior seen at home.
6. Be loving- My students have consequences because I love them. I'm sad that they're making bad choices, but even the most difficult student to love probably needs it the most. I try to find something wonderful in each student. If I don't respect them, they won't respect me.

Here's what happened recently:
I had a student who was having an off day. He didn't want to work and it seemed like he was a little frustrated when I did my non-verbal reminders (tap tap on a desk her, pointing to the assignment there). After station time, I called the class over to on the carpet for a story. I noticed that he hadn't picked up his station. He looked like a bomb about to explode when I called his name and pointed to his area.
"Do you need help picking up these things?" he nods and I send a classmate over to help him clean up.
The classmate returns with one of the materials, a white board, stepped on with a big dent in it.
"Oh no," I say, examining the board, "This is such a shame, now other people won't be able to use this!"
The first student looks up sheepishly.
"Do you know what happened to this board?"
"No," he lies and fidgets.
"I hope you'd be honest and tell me the truth."
"Ok, I did it."
I tell the child to go move his clip and we agree to discuss it later, my students were almost finished gathering on the carpet for me by this point.
Four little words, "Go move your clip" is place holder for a classroom interruption. My students know that each time they move their clip, there's a consequence and a loss of privilege. More importantly, they know if they argue or throw a tantrum it'll be another clip move. The discussion later, is a better time to respectfully discuss the situation further.
When the students are back working in a group, I call the student to stand with me outside in the hallway. (Isn't it amazing how your students can tune you out at the important stuff, but perk right up when someone is"getting in trouble"?)
"You told me that you stepped on the white board and broke it, why did you make that choice?" I calmly ask, getting on his level
"I don't know" as he shrugs and looks away
"Were you upset?" offering him an emotion he might have been feeling, knowing that he might not be able to understand how to verbalize this yet
"Yes, you just told us to clean up and I wasn't ready to be done."
"I understand that you must have been upset that you weren't finished, why do you think I asked you to clean up?"
"It was time to move on," he offers.
"You're right, and we have so little time here at school, that it's important that we move on quickly. You'll have an opportunity to go to that station another day. Why do you think it's wrong to break something that isn't yours, even when you're upset?" I ask, hoping to prompt a little self-reflection.
"Because it's not my things and it's not nice."
"You know that when we make a poor choice, we have to move our clips so that we can learn from our mistakes and become big kids who make good choices. I know that you don't want to break my things, just like you wouldn't want me to break your things. It's not fair and it's not right, even if you're upset."
"Yes ma'am."

I try to give my students a voice and a choice. I offer them a consequence but also a chance to redeem themselves, so they feel like they're in control of their own behavior. They know that I'm sad when they slip up, but happy when they prove that they're capable of behaving as expected.

Here's some other tips:

Classroom Management-Teaching Methods
Tips for Managing Behavior
Free Printable Behavior Charts

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