Sometimes when you’re the teacher of a class it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day running of things and use your tried and tested strategies that have always worked.
But, what happens if something changes in the class, such as a new student arrives, and what you always did in the past no longer works?
The teacher, Miss D, needs your help with some suggestions of how she can assist a student that is presenting challenging behaviors.
How the teacher currently manages student behavior
Miss D is the teacher of a Grade 2 class that has 25 students. Miss D uses positive reinforcement to encourage students. The students are often told they are “fabulous”, “wonderful”, “great” and other positive words.
Miss D uses one main method to manage disruptive behaviors. If the child is being very difficult he/she is asked to put his/her name in the thinking book, located at the front of the classroom. The child must write their name in the book and the reason for their misbehavior. If that student’s name appears in the book three times in one day, a letter is sent home to the parents. A new page starts each day, so every child has the chance to start afresh.
Miss D also manages disruptive behavior by sending the child outside where they must count to one hundred. If the whole class is getting a bit loud or disruptive the teacher will put her hands in the air or clap. The last group to mimic the teacher loses points off their group tally. At the end of the week, the group with the most points gets to select a prize from the prize box.
The challenging behavior
Miss D has been quite happy with her management of the class, but a new student, Jake, has joined the class in the last few weeks, which has disrupted the dynamics of the whole class.
Jake spends most of his time walking around the room and has difficulty completing tasks. He wanders around the room trying to avoid the other children. When Miss D tries to redirect his focus, he gets upset and sometimes cries and does not want to participate in the lesson. The other children from the class are starting to avoid him and he spends most of his time in the playground alone. Jake’s behavior shows some improvement in the afternoon.
Miss D has noticed that Jake enjoys math, drawing and any creative classes. However, whenever there are lessons involving reading or writing, including homework, Jake does not try very hard to complete the lesson. He often does not make any attempt to read, instead, he provokes and disturbs those around him. When asked why he is acting in this manner, he replies with comments such as “it’s boring” or “I don’t want to do it”.
What the teacher has tried
Miss D has tried her usual management techniques, lots of praise to encourage Jake and using the thinking book when Jake is off task and disturbing other students. These do not seem to be working, and nearly every day Miss D is sending a letter home to the parents.
Miss D has asked for our help. She is unsure how to assist Jake with engaging in lessons and also how to help him interact with the other students as well as make friends. So a couple of questions for you:
- What advice would you give Miss D?
- What strategies and techniques can Miss D apply?
- Are there any programs you could recommend that Miss D could implement in her class that could also benefit Jake?
Thank you and a prize
As a thank you for your time and effort in responding I will be offering a free teaching resource from my store to one lucky winner. The winner will be able to pick any item from my store up to the value of $7.00.
Each person that responds will be entered into the draw, and I will randomly choose the winner. The entries for the prize close on Sunday 23 March, 6pm WST (that’s Perth, Western Australia time). The winner will be announced on my Facebook page on Monday and the winner will receive the prize by email.
Thanks for your thoughts.
For more on classroom management and building an effective classroom see these:
- 20 Quotes To Help You Build An Effective Classroom
- How To Take Charge Of Your Unruly Class
- My Most Common Teaching Mistake
- Would You Rather Be A Good Teacher Or An Outstanding Teacher?
Graphic Credits: Alice Smith
In the past I have used sticker charts with my students who have disruptive behaviors. At times when they are behaving and participating appropriately they earn stickers. At the end of the week the amount of stickers they have earned gets them different rewards. Usually I set up goals before hand to determine what these rewards will be. You could use choosing a prize from a treasure chest, but I prefer to use intangible items instead such as free computer time, play time, lunch with the teacher or other adult, etc. This has worked well for me in the past. Good luck and God bless you for working with this child through something that is so very difficult for him!!!
I have used a punch card similar to the sticker chart. This year I am trying a new program in my classroom. I am using the Class Dojo program it allows the teacher to target desired behavior(s). Prizes or rewards can be awarded for desired behavior. This program is free and easy to track and set up. I have also in the past given a student who is having difficulty working an opportunity to sit in a quiet area with a calming bottle. Once it has settled they need to come back to work. Good luck.
I find that although positive reinforcement is really effective, it does need to be very specific. Instead of using terms such as ‘wonderful’ I would name the specific behaviour that I was wanting to encourage. “I am so impressed with the way you stayed in your spot for the whole of carpet time” etc. and then reward him for that. I’d also make sure that Jake understands what exactly it is that he is doing that’s not an appropriate behaviour – if he’s being sent to write in the Thinking Book with no real grasp of what he needs to change this could be confusing for him. I would talk with him about 1 or 2 very specific things that he can improve on, and set achievable goals for him.
I would also try to tap into some of his interests and provide reading tasks that are based on those. Once he experiences some success through this motivation he might be more inclined to try harder with literacy tasks. It also sounds like he doesn’t really feel a part of the ‘team’ (class) – perhaps setting up a buddy to help him join in with activities might help. Set him up for some success as part of a group, a chance for him to be seen in a positive light by his peers and this might help him to feel motivated to contribute as a class member.
Good luck! 🙂
I agree with the previous posted who said that the positive praise isn’t specific enough. She should try and incorporate more specific information in her comments to the kids. I would also do a reading assessment with him. He might be avoiding reading and writing assignments because he can’t read. And I would have the school nurse give him a vision check to rule out any eye issues.
Has Miss D conferenced with the parents yet? That would be one of the first things I would do (after checking what was in his CUM or contacting his last teacher if I could). That way I could see what they think about the behavior, what has been done or has not been done, and if this is a new thing. I agree with a previous commentator about doing assessment to see if Jake is “bored” because he doesn’t really know how to read or write. If that is the case, modification of the work may be called for. I would also set up a specific behavior contract with Jake/parents with the rewards being specific to things Jake likes whether it is something like time on the computer or it’s a prize from me or something to work for at home. I hope one of our ideas helps Jake (and you)!
Try a “First, Then chart” with him. Use visuals. First, you participate in then writing or reading activity, then you can draw or get on the computer. Allow him to have options for the Then as well. You can start with participate for 5min, then 10, then the whole lesson. Ensure you do not allow him to do anything he wants until he has first completed what you asked him to do. He will indeed refuse at first and have a few meldowns. Allow him too without giving in to allowing him to what he wants. Eventually, he will get over it. 🙂
While positive reinforcement is great, i agree that it needs to be very specific. I have also used sticker charts with good results. A behavior contract/checklist is also an excellent option and the teacher would ideally check off the behavior after short intervals (15-20 minutes). Jake’s avoidance of reading and writing could indicate a deficit in these areas and it may be beneficial to do some assessments on Jake and make sure you are teaching him at his instructional level. Intervention from a special ed teacher or reading specialist may be needed.
The question to answer would be as to why he is good at maths but not in reading subjects. The fact that he is good in maths shows that his mental faculty is good. So, why the problem with reading subjects?