The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Behavior Management In The Classroom

This month there will be three rules while reading my blog entry:

1. NO yawning.

2. NO scratching your head.

3. NO licking your lips.

Now. Repeat each of the rules to yourself at least five times until you have them memorized. Come on, you guys, it’s just three simple rules. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to follow them. Just don’t yawn, even though seeing someone else yawn, or just the thought of yawning, is slightly contagious. Don’t scratch your head. No matter what. Even though it’s probably starting to itch as you read. Oh, and definitely don’t lick your lips, even if they suddenly feel super dry.

Now on to the main topic of this month’s blog: behavior management in the classroom. One of the topics that I felt has been really drilled into my brain since day one of graduate school, was behavior management. Specifically, while focusing on Special Education, behavior management is huge and there is some component of behavior management in every single class I’ve taken. Every. Single. Class.

So I wanted to outline the parts of behavior management that I have found to be most important in my first year of teaching.

1. Have rules/routines ready to go from day one, and make sure they are stated in a positive manner.

Don’t tell students what you DON’T want them to do, tell them what you DO want them to do. So you can forget my original rules, because, surprise, they were only used to illustrate my point. When rules are stated in a negative way (“no this, don’t that, etc), the behavior kind of sticks in your students’ minds. So, from my example, did you suddenly feel sleepy, or did your head begin to itch just a little, or did your lips feel suddenly chap? My point is, make sure your rules or routines are simple, stated in a way that the students know the expectations, and are useful on a daily basis.

The way I’ve used this concept this year is by setting up a daily routine that students get points for. They are expected to participate in three “parts” of the day, respect their peers and teachers, and maintain an orderly classroom. Because I started this behavior management program from the first day, students know exactly what is expected from them.

I’ve also learned, from one day that did not go by the “normal” routine, that my students have the routine down pat and are amazing at transitioning, as long as the day goes by that routine. The one day that was different, due to having an altered schedule for a school wide assembly, my kids were totally confused and transitions were not what they usually were. A shortened class period felt even shorter.

2. Use a system of “rewards,” but begin fading as soon as your students are ready.

Looking at the point sheet, my students know that they must earn four out of their five points in order to gain “yardage” on a football field to earn a touchdown. The touchdown takes two weeks, and they receive a small incentive. They can have one day that they do not get to move up and still earn a touchdown. They can also earn an extra point during the two weeks to make up for a bad day.

At the beginning of the year, I knew that receiving a point immediately when they earned it would be immediate incentive, but that they may need a little more tangible incentives before the two weeks were up. So, I let them know that if they received all five of their points for the day, they would earn a piece of candy. I use Jolly Ranchers. For the first “touchdown” students scored a homework pass. Free prizes work great.

Since they caught on to the point system pretty early on, I have begun fading the use of candy. I now use an online spinner with the choices of “yes/no/maybe” to determine if they earn candy at the end of each class. The kids enjoy using the spinner and being picked to be the person to actually spin it, even if they end up with a “no.” If they get a “maybe,” they get to spin again. The point is, they don’t even realize that their candy earning is being faded, and they are still continuing to work just as hard during class.

3. Let students be as successful as possible during the beginning, but still be firm.

I had one student who decided to test the point system the first week of school. He decided not to participate during class, and therefore got left behind on the football field during the first week. He did, however, work harder the rest of the two-week period and still earned his touchdown. It was a great opportunity for me to show students in class that refusing to participate was not an option, but that one “bad day” would not ruin your week. I have had students since then who did not earn a touchdown due to behaviors during the first week, but had really stellar second week behaviors. For those students, I required them to make-up a work sheet before participating in the touchdown reward, which was playing math games on the computer. Odd how they got really excited about playing math games. Educational, and rewarding. Win/win.

4. Have routines and rules clearly stated somewhere in your classroom.

I use a routine rather than rules in my classroom, and the students know what is expected. Their routine is outlined on their desk daily because of their point sheets. I also link the routine to the curriculum by having an agenda on the board daily. It works as a visual schedule so they know exactly what is happening, what page they need to be on, and how much more they will be required to do before they earn their point.

I also have a traffic light system that I use to let them know when they are allowed to talk and how much they are allowed to talk. They know that being allowed to talk to their peers to increase their learning is a privilege and if they don’t follow the rules (positively stated), the privilege will be taken away. They do pretty well with following the rules.

Even though there are far more technical and detailed behavior management techniques and programs that can be used, these four components are what I have started out using with my small resource class. I have felt very successful and know that my students feel successful when they get to move their football player or cheerleader along the field. Many other strategies exist, but these four components are parts of most behavior management programs, no matter what your school is using. My school is in the process of starting PBIS, so make sure you check with your school to see if there is anything school-wide being used. Also, if you work on a team, check with your teammates to see what kind of programs they use. I have found my teammates to be an amazing source for just about any question I have, and a team approach always promotes solidarity.

You may now go back to yawning, scratching, and licking as normal. Thank you for following my rules. You have earned a very special prize: a sneak peek at baby GIRL Mason, who is due in February!!!

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