Individual Behavior Strategies
Smile Charts - For one of my lovelies, checking in with behavior frequently is a necessity. I tried a couple of different smile charts before finding one that had an impact. The general plan is to earn 10 smiles in a given time. If the smiles are not learned, something desirable is taken away. If the smiles are earned, participation in that "thing" is allowed. In the case of my lovely, if the smiles are earned by lunchtime, the child gets to eat lunch in the cafeteria with friends. If the smiles have not been earned, the child eats lunch in the principal's office. For the afternoon, the reward is center time. The negative consequence made this plan work for this student. Eating alone and not getting center time is far from desirable, so the student works very hard to earn the smiles. My assistant really helps with this plan. She simply says, "Student, I'm taking a smile. Please stop making those noises." or "Student, I'm giving you a smile for working hard." I love how she states exactly why she is giving or taking smiles; I believe that helps the student learn what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.
Pom-pom Bucket - This one requires pockets everyday! I wore a pair of pants on Wednesday forgetting that the pockets both have holes, and I ended up not following through with this strategy. My goal for this strategy is to keep the student on task. For this one, I have placed a small bucket on the student's name tag. Throughout the day, if the student is working hard I walk by, say, "Thank you for working hard! Keep it up" and drop a pom-pom or two in the bucket. If the bucket is full by the end of the day, the student earns a reward. I like that I can manipulate the frequency I drop the pom-poms to challenge or encourage the student as I see fit. The fact that this strategy is visual is huge too; my student needs to see how close to fill the bucket is.
Hallway Chair - Sometimes attention drives unwanted behavior (as we all know). The best way to stop this behavior is to stop the attention. I've tried many ways to stop this attention, especially at carpet time. Sending students back to their desks didn't really work because their noises and silliness just continued. Sitting them next to the assistant didn't work because they were too close to the group which just provided them with more attention. I had to find a way to get them away from the others. Luckily, I have a big window right next to my door; I can see everything that goes on in the hallway outside my door. I set a chair in the hallway in front of that window and now use this chair to get the students away from the others. If a student acts up on the carpet (or any time during the day), I ask them to stop. If this continues, I give them one more warning and tell them that if the behavior continues they will need to leave. On the third offense, I simply say, "You are stopping us from learning, so you need to leave the room. I'll come talk to you in two minutes." I set a timer (so I don't forget!). My ultimate goal is to get the student back in the classroom as quickly as possible. When the timer goes off, we have a quick conversation about the negative behavior and the desired behavior. I try to have the students communicate these behaviors instead of telling them so I know they understand. Plus, I think it's good for them to verbally recognize what they were doing wrong and how they can fix it.
Exercise Disks - I just started this one a few days ago, and I'm very pleased by the results. Kindergarteners are wriggly; it's the nature of the beast. As an early childhood educator, I work as hard as possible to make sure my demands (in terms of time and participation) for them at the carpet are developmentally appropriate. Naturally, I have a few students who struggle to sit on the carpet more than others. To help them with this, I have three exercise disks similar to these. Before I let students use them, I laid out very specific expectations for them. They need to be sitting (no standing, kneeling, etc.) on the disks, and they have to be facing forward. If they don't follow my expectations, I'll ask them to put the disk back and they can try again the next time we're at the carpet. Since the students really want to use the disks, they are pretty good at following the expectations. The disks are a great way for the students to wiggle without distracting the others (which was happening before I pulled them out).
Positive Check-Ins - This one doesn't have any fancy visual aids or physical objects, but I feel it is the most important. My kiddos thrive on positive feedback, and it is my goal to provide it as often as I can. When I take the time to stop by their tables and comment on their work or behavior, they feel validated and continue to work hard. I noticed this especially last week. As my students were working on their sea animal research, I walked around and complimented the amazing facts they were learning. Two of my little guys who generally rush through their work were especially affected by this. I saw them taking their time and really thinking about what they were doing for the first time this year. It made this teacher's heart smile!
Personal Spaces - Sometimes eliminating problem behaviors is as simple as giving a students their own spaces. I have a few kiddos who are overwhelmed by the chaos of the coatroom. (I don't blame them one bit - I'm often overwhelmed by it too!) When they were in the coatroom, they acted silly, bothered other people, and simply didn't get ready. I gave each one of them their own space in the classroom to keep their materials and to get ready, and this has significantly helped! They get ready faster, and they get in trouble less. I've done similar things in the classroom. I started off the year with all of my students at four tables (five at a table), but it didn't take me long to realize the close proximity to other students was too much for a few of my students. I've now spread them out over six tables (some with four students and some with two students). Making sure I didn't exclude anyone was important to me, so everyone has at least one other tablemate. Our table work time is much more productive than it was at the beginning of the year. During Daily 5, my students choose their own personal spaces. This is when I noticed the benefits to personal spaces the most. My students focus so well when they have their own place to spread out and work.
Throughout all of this, I have to remind myself on a regular basis that I am dealing with some of the youngest learners in my school. This means that part of my job is to teach them how to "do" school. Teaching these behaviors is a challenge and takes patience. I do my very best to remain positive, kind, and understanding in dealing with all of the behaviors in my classroom. Some days I'm more successful than others, but that's all part of the learning process. My job is hard, but I have to remember that I'm not the only person working in my classroom. I have to teach each day with compassion.