Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Classroom Behavior

I know, this is a subject that is widely talked about but last year I was asked to do a presentation for our Special Education team's CPT (Common Planning Time).  I am repeatedly asked how I keep my students so well behaved.  I am not fond of those words so it took me a while to think about it and this is what I came up with.  Managing a class without a behavioral chart.  Here is my presentation.  I did receive very good reviews and applauds for this so I felt it was okay to share with everyone.  I just do what works for me and if it helps anyone just a little bit, then I am grateful that you found my website and read my presentation!  The old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" is so true.  If it wasn't for other teacher blogs, ideas and colleagues, I would have quit years ago! :-)

Balancing A Classroom Without A Behavior Chart

I have been asked over and over by colleagues, “how do I manage my classroom”, “what do I do that works”, “how do you get your students to listen so well”?  These questions always caught me off guard.  I really had to think about it.  I didn’t just have one answer.  So after many showers and my hour long morning commutes, (I do my best thinking in the shower… come on people, confess, you do to!) I came to the conclusion that after trying many “Behavioral” systems that are all over blogs and Pinterest, because I had to keep up with the current trends (all of which were epic fails in my classroom environment), I came back to what has worked for me, for my students, and for the management of the classroom as a whole.  The old saying goes here, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”!

I have tried the “behavior” charts.  (Let it be known that I really do not use the word “Behavior” in my classroom as so many see that as a negative connotation and I like to stay positive in my classroom).  I even went out and bought a whole system at our local Lakeshore store, the pulling the card system.  Epic FAIL!  1.  I was NOT consistent.  2.  My population of students just didn’t get it and 3.  I felt it was more of a negative than a positive.  Then I tried the chart where you move your name up for being “good” or down for being “bad”.  FAIL #2.  Why?  Refer to 1, 2, and 3 above^.  I’ve tried the sticker system.  I have tried the treasure chest system.  I have tried the whole class earning a “special day” system.  After all this, I came to the conclusion that what works for me is; first and foremost, having a relationship with each student as an individual and building on that.

What do I mean “have a relationship with each student?  Being a special education teacher, my students are on IEP’s, Individual Education Plans.  The keyword there is INDIVIDUAL.  I see my students as individuals not as a whole, if that makes sense.  Let me be clear here.  This approach is not just for special needs students.  It can be used in any type of classroom.  Each student has individual educational goals and /or individual social goals.  So my approach to management is based on exactly that, INDIVIDUAL.  I have learned over the years that not every student learns the same way, not every system works for every child.  Therefore, when I tried to implement the above “behavioral systems” they just did not work with every child and it became more of a challenge than a reward, which led my class to chaos.  So, I went back to what truly works, at least for me.

  •       FIRST AND FOREMOST:  I build a relationship with each student as an individual.  I find out what works or does not work for them and base their management plan on that.  I gain their trust and they gain my respect.  I manage my students as individuals.  Just like differentiating instruction (using different learning styles geared for each student), differentiating behavior management styles geared for the individual is a must in order to effectively manage your classroom.

  •       RUNNING A TIGHT SHIP:  Although I am known as “the nice teacher”, the “fun teacher”, the one that “let’s the children learn through play” teacher (don’t start throwing daggers at me yet, keep reading…) I am NOT a passive teacher.  I do not let the students run all over me or run the classroom.  I do run a very tight ship and hold my students to very high expectations in my classroom.  I have a set of rules and we follow them.  I am consistent in my expectations and the students learn this very quickly.  I do allow my students to make choices BUT I stay in control of that choice by giving them the options that are available to them.  This allows them to feel in control by being able to “choose” what they want to do but ultimately I control the environment.

  •       THE THINKING CHAIR:  Although I have mentioned above that I treat each child as an individual, I do have a universal management tool that has truly worked for our classroom.  I use the “Thinking Chair” or Thinking Spot”.  When a student needs to self-regulate, is using inappropriate behaviors or needs to calm down, they go to the “Thinking Chair”  (Orange Chair in my classroom).  My Thinking Chair area is open at all times whether I ask them to go there or if the students feels they need to take a break.  I keep a thinking basket there, which has a fidget, stuffed animal (tattling turtle), white board/marker and play dough in it.  This allows the student to calm down, refocus and come back to the task that is being asked of them.  My thinking spot is not a negative punishment but a positive discipline.  Whether a student chooses to use the thinking chair or if I ask them to go there, I always give them positive reinforcement when they are ready to come back to the group by telling them “Thank you for coming back and joining us.  You have made a good choice”.

  •       DON’T BE CAUGHT IN THE VALLEY, CLIMB THOSE PEAKS:  What I mean by this is; don’t just sit in front of the class and lecture all day.  Climb that peak by motivating your students and keeping your students engaged.  Make learning fun.  A teacher that creates a motivated environment will be less likely to even have “behavioral” issues.  When your students are motivated and engaged, it truly leads to a successful learning environment.  When you have a successful learning environment, undesirable behaviors are less likely to occur.

 I am not saying this is a management system for everyone and that teachers have to truly find what works for them.  These are just my suggestions and ideas that work well for me.  You may use some of them, all of them or none of them but the bottom line is, when it comes to controlling your environment or managing your classroom to reduce undesirable behaviors, find what works for you and stick with it!

Thank you for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your summer!


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