Is this the year that you got “that” class? Sometimes it is a matter of personalities that are put together that shouldn’t have been in a class together. At times you feel like they couldn’t get along with their own shadow. There are days when you feel like they shouldn’t be in the same school, let alone one tiny classroom. Individually, these students are very sweet, but as a group, the chemistry is wrong, very wrong.
Other times, the issue is not knowing the students ahead of time when the classes are made. Maybe the students are new to your school this year so they weren’t placed in the right group.
Ask any kindergarten teacher and she or he will tell you that they have anxiety until they meet this year’s class. Teaching kindergarten is one big case of the unknown. These classes are usually made by birthdates and sex of the students. Kindergarten teachers often have to live with the “you get what you get and don’t throw a fit” policy. Rarely are students moved to other classes after school begins to balance out discipline issues.
I taught kindergarten for a number of years. During that time I had classes that were cohesive and others that I knew as soon as I met them that I was going to gain weight that year. Those were the year I stocked up my closet with Coke and my favorite sugary snacks. It took energy to keep up with them. Can you relate?
Early in my career, I learned that it is important to reach out to my colleagues for advice. If this is your year, there are some things you can do.
If possible set up a small cool off zone in your classroom. It usually works best if it is in a corner away from where your other students are working, maybe in a corner near your desk. I usually set it up on the floor. When a student is in an angry state, he or she has a tendency to kick over chairs and desks. I put a couple of pillows (if lice and bed bugs aren't an issue) in a corner along with a small tub of cool down tools like the ones in the picture above. The cool down tools above are all squeeze-able types of things. The egg timer - for whatever reason - seems to help with the calming process.
Once the student has gained control of his or her emotions, you can give your student paper and crayons to write about his or her feelings. I know there are a few of you who are thinking "what about his or her schoolwork, Michelle?" My response is, do you really think your emotional student would have been productive with his or her school work when he or she was feeling these strong emotions? No, I think they have to get their feelings back in control before they can begin to focus on school work.
You will gain valuable insight from what your student draws and writes after one of these episodes. Often times, I was beginning to lose my patience with the student before I read what was upsetting them. I think it is easy to lose sight of fact that some of these children live in some really stressful situations which they bring with them to school.
Every class I think I ever had, had at least one or two students that didn't understand the proper concept of boundaries. They had trouble keeping their hands to themselves, they sat too close to their classmates, they lined up too close to the other students, they walked in line too close to the other students, and the list goes on and on. I'm sure you have a few space invaders yourself this year.
I love to introduce the concept of boundaries by reading the book, Personal Space Camp. It explains boundaries in a way that children can understand. Afterwards we talk about how it makes us feel when people invade our space. Next, I set up some personal space places in our classroom. I put an extra desk in a corner with a book shelf near it to give it a little privacy. I keep a box of school supplies in this extra desk. This desk is the "office". Students who feel like they need some extra space or students who are invading other students' personal space can work in the office. It was interesting to see how the space invaders knew when they were doing it and began to self-regulate. They would quietly get up while I was teaching reading group and go work in the office. The rule was anyone could work in the office, but only one student at a time. There was a timer that students set. Students could work in the office for 20 minutes at a time.
I also used colorful tape to define spaces in other areas. If one of my teams, that sat at tables, had trouble with space, I used the space to divide the table into equal parts. I made 2 colorful boxes near my chair where I taught whole group lessons on the carpet. Sometimes students could choose to sit in the box and other times I invited them to sit in one.
At the beginning of the year, it may look like your class has ants in their pants. No, not every student has caught a case of the wiggles. Some of it could be anxiety about the new school year. Look at the birthdays of your students, if you have a large percentage that were born in the summer, it could be due to immaturity. If those are not the reasons, then you have an energetic class this year. Then it is time for Plan B.
Using exercise balls as chairs have worked wonders with my wigglers. Talk to your local gyms to see if they would be willing to donate their old balls to your class. Be sure to take a tax id. form with you when you go to speak to the manager.
In the pictures are different types of fidgets. These work with students who like to drum on their desk, tap their pencil, or other ways of fidgeting. Ask your O.T. if he or she has some that you could borrow.
Have you run into one of your students at Target or the grocery store and he or she stands there shocked that you don't live at school? I found my students seem to enjoy some of my personal stories. It is a great way to build relationships. I can usually find a way to connect a personal story to current classroom management issues or a lesson.
These monkeys are a example of connecting childhood experiences with classroom management. My mom used the term monkey business to describe my brothers' and my behavior when it was less than the best. I like to use visual cues so I would have a stuffed monkey to sit beside me while I shared my story. Then we would discuss some of the monkey business that was happening in our class. We would then brainstorm strategies to improve our behavior.
In the picture above are bendable sock monkeys. I thought those would be good as fidgets. One of the monkeys has a hook that can hung on a backpack. Maybe it go home with one student a day that was extra helpful that day. Having your students brainstorm for ideas will help them buy into the plan.
Positive and hands-on always seem to work for the majority of my students. Banana bucks could be copied on colorful cardstock or laminated if you want to reuse. It is part of my new Monkey Business packet.
Have you used the traffic light system before? This is a Jungle themed version. I like to set up a dot station so the students are taking ownership for their behavior for the day. At the end of the day, students take their folder to the dot station, take a BINGO dauber, and put a dot of the correct color on their traffic light. Working in partnership with parents is important. Plus it is great documentation for conferences and RTI. I did find that the BINGO daubers at Dollar Store which are a little bit smaller work better than the Dot Art daubers.
A two or three minutes commercial is so effective. Look at all of the stuff in your house that you've purchased that you didn't really need. You can do something similar in your classroom. No, I'm not saying that I want you to get your students or parents to buy stuff that they don't need. A commercial is short which is like most children's attention span and it is trying to get across a message to influence the person's behavior. You can do the same thing by integrating your behavior management with your lessons.
Look at the picture above. This is one of my Trace, Write, Draw writing centers. There are 3 of these included in the Monkey Business packet. Each of the lessons are about rules at school. This one is about hall, in, and walk. Students will use those words to write a sentence. Have your students share their writing, then you can expand upon what they wrote and throw in a little mini-commercial about your expectations for hallway behavior. Little blurps throughout the day, I have found, are more effective, than one long speech.
The best way to start your day is with a mini-commercial about your expectations. There are also 3 Morning Messages about behavior management in the Monkey Business packet.
Every teacher needs a toolbox full of ideas to use for behavior management. I shared a few of the tools I have used through the years. I am going to give away the tools listed above (see graphic) plus my new Monkey Business Behavior Mangement packet that is also integrated with writing and Morning Messages to one lucky teacher.
All you have to do to enter is leave your name and email address in the rafflecopter below. I will choose one winner the evening of September 5th.
Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.