Where did September take us? Challenging behavior.
This year has offered up some unique challenges! In addition to a larger class size, unique behaviors in some students have caused me to use my whole arsenal of lessons, support materials and discussions on what a responsible, kind student is. So, where did September take us? Immediately to lessons on good choices vs. choices that cause unwanted consequences. That’s where!
In the beginning, students are trying things out. They listen, are curious about others, and generally tow the line. Beginning the year with a good school-wide support plan for rules/behavior can be a good way to help kids internalize rules. This is still working as we go through November for most of our class. However, there are a few students who present daily challenges. Emotions are on a perpetual roller coaster, and the plan for keeping things in check changes daily.
How about October?
Moving into October, patterns in behavior choices began to emerge. I noticed escalating emotional outbursts coincided with the time of day. So for a particular student, mornings are the best time to get quality, focused attention to learning.
Observing how students come down the hall to our classroom during arrival time can be an enormous help in curbing outbursts later in the day. If a child comes without a backpack, forgets our hallway behavior, and is disconnected upon entering the room, it’s time to have a short conference on daily routines (always bring a backpack, use traveling hands, say good morning, put folders, coats and other items away, etc.) If you fail to pick up on this even one day, that day may be a very difficult one for everyone.
My advice to any teacher is to be OBSERVANT. Make mental notes, then document in google docs as soon as possible the things you saw happening. This is how you begin to see patterns in behavior. In kindergarten, every available time is used to modify learning for children who have specific windows of time when learning will “take”. Every classroom has kids like this. It is the most important differentiated act in your classroom.
By now, I have a pretty good handle on what causes escalating behavior in my challenging kiddos. In most instances, their attention can be diverted by having them to take a break from work, offer another choice in how they show learning (write it or draw it on a boogie board or a chalkboard–change up materials used to show work), or by diverting their attention with an audio book or an activity on Seesaw that allows for an alternative response. Love Seesaw’s drawing/recording tools.
There are times that removing students from the immediate situation is the only choice, but it happens less now than at the beginning of the year.
What to try?
Here are a few of the many things I have done to modify or divert unwanted behaviors in students:
- Ask the student what is bothering them. For instance, Student says, “I want to sit on a wobble seat.” I request the student work for five minutes in their spot, then have a volunteer to trade with them for five minutes, as long as they know the wobble will be returned in five minutes to the original student. We talk about how sharing is fair. Being considerate and respectful is fair.
- If a child is tiring of paper/pencil response (which is required with our reading series), I take a photo of the page(s) required, then have the student use the draw/record feature in Seesaw to respond. Other choices could be: chalk, chalkboard or boogie board, then take a picture of the product with the Seesaw app. This doesn’t happen often, but these choices usually work!
- Reward minutes working on a favorite app for every minute spent working without disrupting or stopping work. Use frequent reminders that another minute has been earned. Visual tally marks for minutes help to maintain focus too.
- Remember, the quantity of work is not as important of the quality of work. If you can assess that the student knows how to group 2 and 3 to make 5, etc., the student knows how. Expecting a student who is extremely active to sit and show work five ways will complicate the fine balance you walk. If you must require more practice to internalize learning of a concept, try the one more strategy. Today let’s show it one way. Tomorrow, two ways. Gradually increase the amount of work over time.
Final thought: Important!
Your most challenging students have much going on in their lives. How they choose to respond to things they cannot control hinges on the coping strategies you help them learn when they are at school.
Choose your battles. Students will have short bouts of being difficult throughout the day. If they are not physically harming themselves or others, step back and think about it. Your willingness to let it go, in order to focus on the next important learning opportunity, will make each time they are on task more effective. There are some students who will cycle through the unwanted behaviors constantly some days. It can be exhausting!
Above all, remember you are dealing with a child. Show them love, show them compassion, show them you will begin fresh each day, and that you will not stop trying to help them do better.
Have a great Thanksgiving!